Precedent Setter Awards 2015: Jason Woycheshyn

Jason Woycheshyn

Partner, Bennett Jones LLP
Called to the bar in 2007
Law school: University of Calgary

Former elite decathlete and, by his own admission, a “jock.” Co-founder of the Ukrainian Canadian Bar Association. Awesome commercial litigator at Bennett Jones. Ten or so associates under his wing at any given time. So he’s a Harvey Specter-esque hotshot with a metric ton of swagger, right? Nope. Despite every reason to be cocky as hell, Jason Woycheshyn, 37, is a mildly spoken Albertan mensch.

Woycheshyn grew up in Vegreville, Alberta, a proudly Ukrainian-Canadian town (he’s fifth-generation on both sides), and speaks fluent Ukrainian. This connection to his heritage compelled him to spend part of May 2014 in Ukraine as a volunteer international election observer. “This was a legitimate grassroots revolution,” Woycheshyn says of the movement that saw Petro Poroshenko voted into power.

His wife Melanie and their two small children (a third was born in May) stayed home while he made the journey. “Being a father, I knew I had to contribute and preserve the Ukrainian identity.” By the time he travelled home to Oakville, “I felt an obligation to help preserve the culture here in Canada,” he says, in his quiet way. That was the catalyst to spearhead the Ukrainian Canadian Bar Association in October, now 200 members strong.

Jason WoycheshynAt work, he’s an innovator in alternate fee arrangements (AFAs). “Jason is a great lawyer, and a great partner in rethinking the way we approach litigation,” says Adrian Lang, associate general counsel at BMO Financial Group, with whom Woycheshyn negotiated an AFA for small claims. “Jason provides us with great service, at a low cost, with effective results.”

“The billable hour isn’t going to disappear anytime soon,” Woycheshyn says. “But AFAs force you to work with the client. It’s risk-sharing. Historically, there has been almost no risk to the lawyer.”

His greatest professional pride is mentoring the associates and students he oversees, helping with not just legal but work-life balance issues and career guidance. There’s no one single file he’s most proud of. “It’s helping young lawyers develop,” he says. “This profession is one of mentorship. Clients come and go.”

 

 

 


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

 

 


Photography by Jaime Hogge; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Spin Toronto

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Ronan Levy

Ronan Levy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ronan Levy

Corporate counsel, Cognition LLP
Called to the bar in 2005

One evening, at a networking event, Ronan Levy met an entrepreneur involved in a law- suit and walked away with a life-changing business idea. “He had no idea if he’d been getting sound advice from his lawyer,” recalls Levy. “Or if he even had a good lawyer.”

Levy made an astute observation: entrepreneurs need someone to guide them through the minefield that is the law. “Most lawyers tell entrepreneurs, ‘Here is what you can and cannot do,’” Levy explains. “But to grow a business, you need your lawyer to say, ‘What do you want to achieve? Let’s find a way to do that.’”

So, last year, Levy founded Mayfair Seven, where he provides strategic legal consulting for entrepreneurs, drawing on his experience in commercial law. If they need a lawyer — say, to apply for a patent — Levy finds them the best lawyer, at the best price, act- ing as a legal concierge service. If they just want a referral, they can visit AbeLegal.com, another one of Levy’s babies. The website — named after Abraham Lincoln, who Levy calls “the most well-respected lawyer who ever lived” — connects entrepreneurs to lawyers who come recommended by other business owners.

Levy also has innovative business solutions in mind in his work at Cognition. The fact that all of Cognition’s lawyers have in-house experience — Levy has worked at CTV and Avid Life Media, parent company to the infamous Ashley Madison cheating website — is, according to Levy, the firm’s competitive advantage: “We know what it’s like to run a business.”

In the future, Levy expects Mayfair Seven and AbeLegal to merge into a one-stop shop for entrepreneurial legal services. As a serial-entrepreneur himself, he’s found the right niche. Indeed, his fiancée has seen him start four businesses, including Toronto Gold, a precious metals brokerage. “I think like an entrepreneur,” he says. “So I can relate to my clients who, like me, think big.”


Precedent Setter Award Winners

Don’t forget to read about our other spectacular winnersand have a look at our behind-the-scenes pics from the cover shoot.

 

 

 

 


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Paul-Erik Veel

Paul-Erik Veel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul-Erik Veel

Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP

Called to the bar in 2010

Paul-Erik Veel is a nerd and proud of it. He loved law school, where he spent day after day in the library immersed in legal theory. In the end, his hard work paid off: he graduated with the gold medal from the University of Toronto and went on to clerk for Justice Louise Charron at the Supreme Court.

After that, Veel, also known as Dash 
— a nickname bestowed on him during his undergrad by a pal on the McGill debate team — looked for a job that would allow him to continue his legal education outside the classroom. At Lenczner Slaght, one of Toronto’s top litigation boutiques, he found one: Veel works on cases across a range 
of practice areas, each one offering a new intellectual challenge. “If a case is black and white, it’s going to settle quickly,”
 he says. “So litigators spend most of their time in the grey area where both sides have a reasonable argument. Litigation affords 
a lot of space to think through interesting questions.”

In just four years since being called to the bar, he’s already served as counsel
 on homicides and a competition law trial. He also spearheaded a pro bono case that led to charges against two Toronto city councillors for violating elections law. But Veel’s favourite case is still his first: a successful challenge to exclude unconstitutionally obtained evidence from a perjury trial. A scholar at heart, he enjoyed the case because it reminded him of a “law school exam problem.”

These days, Veel gets to think up exam questions of his own: he’s an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of law. And his talent for teaching extends to his work at Lenczner Slaght, where he mentors articling students. “Paul-Erik’s experience in court has made him a role model. His mentoring is thoughtful, constructive and effective,” says Peter Griffin, the managing partner of the firm. Plus, it’s not hard to convince Veel to make time for students. “I like helping people find answers to tough questions.”


Precedent Setter Award Winners

Don’t forget to read about our other spectacular winnersand have a look at our behind-the-scenes pics from the cover shoot.

 

 

 

 


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Alexi Wood

Alexi Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexi Wood

Associate, Davis LLP
Called to the bar in 2007

For Alexi Wood, advocating for social justice wasn’t so much a calling as a compulsion. “It’s something that’s just ingrained in my fabric,” she says.

Consider her current case. Almost three years ago, Clare Endicott filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, saying the police violated her privacy when they misled her neighbour to believe she was about to commit suicide. Endicott’s complaint was dismissed, so she asked the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to appeal. The CCLA asked Wood to seek a judicial review, pro bono, as lead counsel. But before the case was heard, something strange happened: the director refused to disclose any information — emails, meeting notes — related to the decision.

So, Wood had to convince the court she had a right to that information. She won. And then won again at the Ontario Court of Appeal, triggering a decision that will have sweeping implications. “On the surface, it seems like a dry, picky case of administrative law,” says Wood. “But at its core, this case is about the public interest and accountability of our regulatory bodies.”

Wood has a hard time not lending her support to a worthy cause. While earning her undergrad (a BA in history), she volunteered with Planned Parenthood. In law school at the University of Cincinnati, she interned
 at the United Nations’ High Commission
 for Human Rights. She’s also on the board of directors for the Starfish Greenhearts Foundation, a non-profit that helps children impacted by AIDS in South Africa.

Now an associate at Davis, Wood remains passionate about social justice, but is equally passionate about litigation. “I love the law and love what I do,” she says. Her contributions to the profession are many, including teaching, mentoring and judging moot courts.
And if her arsenal of experience weren’t intimidating enough, consider the leisure-time activity she recently took up with
her partner: fencing. “It’s a great cardio workout,” she says. “Plus, it’s just cool to have swords in your house.”


Precedent Setter Award Winners

Don’t forget to read about our other spectacular winnersand have a look at our behind-the-scenes pics from the cover shoot.

 

 

 

 


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Andrea Gonsalves

Andrea Gonsalves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea Gonsalves

Partner, Stockwoods LLP Barristers
Called to the bar in 2006

Andrea Gonsalves walks into a Starbucks in midtown Toronto with her four-week-old daughter snuggled against her chest. As she did with her now-three-year-old son, she’s taking nearly a year of maternity leave.

She misses work intensely — she used to read her son Supreme Court rulings in lieu of Dr. Seuss, and sent work-related emails within hours of delivering her daughter — but she is determined to show younger lawyers at Stockwoods that it’s possible to be a successful litigator and spend time at home, too. “I’m usually out of the office at 5 p.m. to have dinner with my family,” says Gonsalves, whose husband works for an IT company from home. “I want other lawyers to know that if they choose to do that, it’s okay.”

When Gonsalves joined Stockwoods in 2007 — after clerking at both the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada — she was part of the team representing the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, who claimed they had a right to 35 percent of net profits generated by Casino Rama. “My role was primarily pulling up documents and scrolling to the right place,” says Gonsalves, but it didn’t sting any less when they lost. “You feel really shitty for the first few days, but you have to learn to bounce back.”

Gonsalves doesn’t shy away from tough cases. She was on the team that received the 2012 National Public Health Hero Award for successfully intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada after the federal government chose not to renew a legal exemption that would allow employees at the Insite safe injection facility in Vancouver to legally handle narcotics. Now, she’s acting for three Canadians seeking compensation from the federal government for torture they suffered in Syria.

She’s drawn to tough cases where the stakes are high. “I’d really like to be on my feet at the Supreme Court,” she says. But that will have to wait. A tiny cry comes from the blanket on Gonsalves’s lap. It’s time to head home.


Precedent Setter Award Winners

Don’t forget to read about our other spectacular winnersand have a look at our behind-the-scenes pics from the cover shoot.

 

 

 

 


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Nikiforos Iatrou

Niki Iatrou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikiforos Iatrou

Partner, WeirFoulds LLP
Called to the bar in 2005

Thirty-six hours straight. That’s how long Niki Iatrou stayed awake, prepping materials for his first appearance before the federal Competition Tribunal. It was 2007, and Iatrou was a “baby junior” at WeirFoulds LLP. The firm had been retained by the Competition Bureau to seek a last-minute injunction against Labatt’s $200-million acquisition of Lakeport Brewing Co. He lost, but 18 months later, the Bureau offered him a two-year secondment in Ottawa. Incoming Commissioner Melanie Aitken wanted an aggressive young litigator. “Niki was someone with terrific common sense and very good intuition,” says Aitken. “He had wisdom beyond his years.”

When the Bureau launched its first full-fledged merger challenge in six years, Iatrou got the file. It was a gruelling year. At the month-long hearing, Iatrou argued that Tervita, owner of two hazardous-waste landfills in northeastern British Columbia, had launched a $6-million bid for a would- be rival to head off future competition. He and his equally junior co-counsel, Jonathan Hood, won. And then they won again on appeal, setting a legal precedent. “Niki didn’t just do an okay job,” says Aitken, now a partner with Bennett Jones LLP in Washington, D.C. “He did a spectacular job.”

Iatrou, who serves as the president of the Hellenic Canadian Lawyers’ Association, returned to WeirFoulds as a partner in 2012 and began building a competition law group. Now, he represents high-profile companies such as Kobo and eBay.

Last summer, Iatrou and his spouse had a baby girl. “It’s so much fun,” he says. “I’m a happier person, and that infects my spirit at work as much as it does at home.” Though he’s now unreachable between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. for family time, he still pulls his share of non-baby-related all-nighters. “I don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room, but I strive to be the hardest-working guy in the room,” he says. “I don’t take any of this for granted.”


Precedent Setter Award Winners

Don’t forget to read about our other spectacular winnersand have a look at our behind-the-scenes pics from the cover shoot.

 

 

 

 


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto