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An In-House Evening

On September 18th 2017, the McGill Business Law Association (MBLA) was thrilled to welcome a panel of three of Canada's top in-house lawyers: David Shapiro of Air Canada (Senior Vice President, International and Regulatory Affairs and Chief Legal Officer), Josée Kouri of Dollarama Inc. (Vice President, Legal Affairs and Corporate Secretary), and Darren Baccus of PSP Investments (Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer). The panel was moderated by Sophie Lamonde, a partner at Stikeman Elliot and the Head of its Mergers & Acquisitions Group.

In his introductory remarks, Dean Robert Leckey spoke about the increasingly diverse career paths open to young lawyers, and encouraged students to stay attuned to these varied career opportunities as they enter the professional workforce.

The panelists began their conversation by charting their professional experiences, with each having worked for varying lengths of time in major law firms before transitioning to the world of in-house counsel. Each panelist then offered their perspectives on the role of in-house lawyers within today's evolving legal market. Panelists elaborated on lessons they have learned running large corporate legal departments, and the unique role they take on within their organisations' senior management.

Of particular interest to practicing lawyers - and to students looking to begin their careers in full-service firms - were the panelists' reflections on how working with external counsel has reshaped their views on effective firm lawyering. It was noted that good firm lawyers must be able to balance technical expertise with effective communication skills and big-picture thinking, and that mastering this balance would prove valuable for lawyers choosing to shift gears towards in-house legal counsel.

The conversation concluded with general advice to students in the audience, which emphasized the importance of defining one’s professional values and seeking excellent law firm training, the centrality of building robust professional networks, and the necessity of taking deliberate steps to further one’s own professional development. These goals can be advanced, it was noted, by keeping an outward-looking perspective throughout one's legal career, while resisting the temptation to become overly-comfortable within a narrow practice-specific silo.

After the discussion, students connected with the panelists and professional attendees at a networking cocktail sponsored by Stikeman Elliott.

Thank you to our panellists and moderator, who each brought valuable, unique and complimentary insight to the discussion. Thanks also to Stikeman Elliott, whose generous cocktail sponsorship provided an ideal opportunity for students to interact with the panellists and other lawyers in attendance.

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