The 2018 Precedent Setter Awards

It’s a strange phenomenon: the best lawyers seem to prefer doing things the hard way. It’s not enough to learn their practice area. They have to master it. And they somehow also make time to sit on boards, found organizations and teach future lawyers.

The winners of this year’s Precedent Setter Awards are all like that. All in their first 10 years of practice, they’ve emerged as leaders in law and in their communities. And they make it look easy. So when you scroll down and check out the results of our photo shoot at the design-forward Assembly Chef’s Hall, don’t be surprised when you see them posing for the camera like old pros. They’ve mastered that, too.


The Winners

Ren Bucholz-icon

Ren Bucholz
Associate, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Read Ren’s profile

Marianne Salih-icon

Marianne Salih
Associate, Edward H. Royle & Partners LLP
Read Marianne’s profile

Daniel Naymark icon

Daniel Naymark
Principal, Naymark Law
Read Daniel’s profile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atrisha Lewis icon

Atrisha Lewis
Associate, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Read Atrisha’s profile

Mariam Moktar-icon

Mariam Moktar
Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Read Mariam’s profile

Ron Podolny-icon

Ron Podolny
Partner, Rochon Genova LLP
Read Ron’s profile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Judges

Peter Aprile, Founder, Counter Tax Lawyers

Emily Lam, Partner, Greenwood Lam LLP

Chris Burkett, Partner, Baker & McKenzie LLP

Kerry O’Reilly Wilks, Head of legal (North America and the U.K.), Vale


Behind-the-scenes photos

Check out these behind-the-scenes that we snapped during our photo shoot with the winners:
Behind-the-scenes photos from the 2018 Precedent Setter Awards photo shoot


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Marianne Salih

Marianne Salih

Associate, Edward H. Royle & Partners LLP
Called to the bar in 2015

It’s because of defence counsel like Marianne Salih that the poor have any representation in the criminal-justice system at all. As an associate at Edward H. Royle & Partners, Salih works primarily on legal-aid cases. But since the number of hours she can bill on each case is capped, she has to take on a large volume of files. And, on top of that, she has to work fast: that’s the only way for the business model to work.

Marianne Salih“I genuinely believe in what I’m doing,” says the 28-year-old. “By making sure the system works properly, I hope to contribute to the betterment of society.”

Her courtroom record is intimidating. Out of 14 trials, Salih has won 12. This spring, she took charge of her firm’s appeals department — an impressive appointment for a lawyer so junior.

Salih was born in Sudan. When she was one year old, her family moved to Ireland. And when she was 16, the family arrived in Toronto. After completing her undergrad in political science, she enrolled in law school at the University of Toronto. After her first year, she went to Geneva to summer at the International Bridges to Justice, where she helped train criminal-defence counsel in developing countries. That marked a significant turning point. “I decided to become a defence lawyer,” she recalls. “And since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”

In her free time, she’s trying to master vegan cooking. And she’s recently taken up bowling. But her main concern is her clients. “I firmly believe in every case I do,” she says, “either for the individual or for the system.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Mariam Moktar

Mariam Moktar

Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

Mariam Moktar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during a time of peace and political stability. But in 1991, rebels toppled the state government, plunging the country into a civil war that still rages today. When her father, a police officer, died in the violence, the family fled to Egypt. In 1994, they arrived in Toronto.

Mariam Moktar

Moktar grew up in Weston, a neighbourhood with a large Somali population that was sometimes a target for police brutality. These childhood experiences informed her worldview. “I came to value political structures that are held to the highest levels of accountability,” says Moktar, now 31. “I’ve seen what life is like when that doesn’t exist.”

This sparked an early interest in law. Today, she’s an associate at Lenczner Slaght, one of Canada’s top litigation boutiques. Tom Curry, the managing partner, is impressed by how she excels on her feet. He remembers watching one motion that, at first, he thought was a long shot — until Moktar stood up to argue. “There was a noticeable shift,” he recalls. “Our side breathed easier. She has a natural gift of persuasion.”

Despite an all-consuming career and the demands of planning a wedding — this summer, she will marry her fiancé, Daren Wagar, a web coordinator and screenwriter — Moktar still finds time to volunteer. In 2015, she co-founded the Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers, which advocates for diversity in the profession and against police misconduct and racial profiling. “Growing up, I didn’t see Somali lawyers,” she says. “There wasn’t someone I could look up to and learn from.” She has become the role model she wishes she’d had.


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Ren Bucholz

Ren Bucholz

Associate, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Called to the bar in 2011

Ren Bucholz works in the future
. Before you start protesting, consider his track record. He’s in the midst of defending the right Canadians have to parody companies online. And when a Toronto accountant was the victim of an online smear campaign, Bucholz helped win him $700,000 in damages. He’s also represented Google twice, once on a case that reached the Supreme Court of Canada. He is, quite simply, one of the country’s top technology litigators.

Ren Bucholz-2

He often confronts a unique challenge: explaining social media and the internet to judges. “I try to simplify the concepts,” says the 37-year-old associate at Paliare Roland. “Most of the people I appear before didn’t grow up with this technology.”

Bucholz, by contrast, has been submerged in tech his whole working life. During his undergrad, he interned in San Francisco at the Electronic Frontier Foundation — a non-profit that, through pro bono cases, defends civil liberties in the digital world. Upon graduation, he worked there for five years before he decided to become a lawyer. That led him, in 2007, to Osgoode Hall — and, nine years later, to Paliare Roland. Today, he lives in the West End with his wife, theatre professor Laura Levin, and life is busy taking their two young sons to rock climbing and swimming lessons.

His caseload never lets up, but neither does his cool demeanor. “He has a mature presence,” says Rob Centa, the firm’s managing partner. “He’s always calm.” Meanwhile, tech law never stops evolving. “I can rarely find a precedent that is clearly analogous to my case,” says Bucholz. “But getting decision-makers to do something novel is exciting.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Atrisha Lewis

Atrisha Lewis

Associate, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

As a racialized woman in law, Atrisha Lewis is used to standing out. But the litigation associate at McCarthys has never stood out quite so brightly as when she wrote an article last year that articulated what it’s like to work as one of the few racialized lawyers on Bay Street.

Atrisha Lewis

The piece went viral. Lewis, age 30, received hundreds of supportive emails from members of the legal community. McCarthys has also launched a diversity initiative and tapped Lewis to be a part of it. Given that she’s the only associate on the team, it’s a noteworthy nod. “One of Atrisha’s strengths is that she knows what she wants,” says Geoff Hall, a partner at McCarthys who works with Lewis. “She’s made sure diversity issues are on the agenda.”

Lewis’s advocacy streak dates back to her childhood in Ottawa, when she wrote letters on behalf of her parents, recent immigrants from the Seychelles who lacked advanced English skills. By seven, she wanted to be a lawyer. But as she grew older, she realized it would be a hard road. “I always felt that, as a woman of colour, I would never be taken seriously unless I had top-notch credentials,” she says. “That’s the only way to have standing.” So when she went to law school, at the University of Toronto, she studied hard. It paid off: when she graduated, Lewis won the Dean’s Key, in recognition of her academic and extracurricular work.

In her first five years at McCarthys, her caseload has ranged from medical malpractice to patent litigation. Lewis has unbridled ambition. “In the way that people think Marie Henein when they think, I want the best criminal lawyer, I want them to think Atrisha Lewis when they want the best civil litigator.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Ron Podolny

Ron Podolny

Partner, Rochon Genova LLP
Called to the bar in 2009

Two years after he was called to the bar, Ron Podolny joined McCarthys as an associate, with a focus on class-action defence. But he envied lawyers on the opposite side. “I felt like they were having more fun,” he says. The plaintiff-side litigators built cases from scratch. They had to figure out what went wrong and craft novel arguments. “The process seemed fascinating.”

Ron Podolny

He decided to make a change. Three years later, he joined Siskinds LLP, a plaintiff-side class-action firm. He spearheaded lawsuits in areas like securities, price fixing and product liability. Best of all, the work was creative. “Ron has a keen analytical mind,” says Paul Steep, a partner at McCarthys who once worked alongside Podolny but now battles him in court. “He can take in a lot of case-law and marshal it into an argument.”

Podolny, now 36, sees class actions as a way to make justice accessible. He has represented beekeepers against big agribusiness and everyday investors against banks. “Not many people can afford a lawyer on a billable basis,” says Podolny. “Without class actions, a lot of wrongs would never be remedied.”

Podolny and his wife, Shari Bai-Podolny, a staff physician at CAMH, are classical-music buffs. He sat for six years on the Young Leadership Committee of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He’s also an adjunct law professor at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall.

In March, he moved to Rochon Genova. He’s now representing the shareholders of an engineering firm that allegedly misrepresented parts of its securities disclosure. “To make this vocation meaningful,” he says, “every lawyer must combine their skill set with their idealism.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Daniel Naymark

Daniel Naymark

Principal, Naymark Law
Called to the bar in 2009

In 2011, as a second-year associate at Lax O’Sullivan LLP, Daniel Naymark got his first chance to deliver a closing argument (in an investor-fraud case). The night before, he perfected his dramatic opening, but a minute into the address, the judge cut him off: “Mr. Naymark, there’s no jury here. Just skip to the facts.”

Daniel NaymarkNaymark has since dropped the theatrical style, but he remains passionate about the courtroom. In 2015, he started a solo practice, specializing in civil, commercial and regulatory disputes. “I don’t like having a boss,” says the 35-year-old. “Now, I can do whatever cases I want.”

When he told Clifford Lax, of Lax O’Sullivan, that he was leaving, Lax supported the decision. “I thought he’d have a brighter future starting his own firm,” he says. “I knew he had the kind of personality that would attract people to him.”

“I want to help people,” says Naymark, who is married to Joanna Lambert, a high-school drama teacher, and has two young kids. “If they trust me with their problems, I take that responsibility seriously.”

One case stands out. He recently represented a lawyer suffering from depression, whose conduct was investigated by the Law Society of Ontario. When investigators contacted the lawyer with questions, he would, as a result of his depression, freeze and fail to respond. For that, the lawyer faced disciplinary charges. Naymark argued that the Law Society should allow lawyers with a mental illness to respond to investigators with, say, a phone call instead of written communication. In May, the Law Society Tribunal ruled in his favour. He hopes the case leads to lasting reform. “I’m trying to change things for the better through litigation.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall