Insight

Advice from Canada’s “Lawyer of the Year” Honorees

With the nomination period for the 2022 Editions of The Best Lawyers in Canada and Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in full swing, we asked "Lawyer of the Year" recipients from the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada to share what advice they would give to their younger selves.

Best Lawyers Ones to Watch Canada
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

February 9, 2021 03:26 PM

Originally launched in the United States in 2020, Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch awards are expanding internationally! This year Canada will have Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch awards published alongside the traditional Best Lawyers™ rankings. Ones to Watch recognitions are awarded to lawyers who are earlier in their careers for outstanding professional excellence in private practice. Learn more about Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch here.

With the nomination period for the 2022 Editions of The Best Lawyers in Canada and Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in full swing, we asked "Lawyer of the Year" recipients from the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada to share what advice they would give to their younger selves.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self at the start of your career, what would it be?

"Law leads to many paths. I have worked at a few jobs in my time as teacher, bureaucrat and lawyering at a big firm. My advice is to grab as much experience as you can. Seize the opportunities offered to you. Also, volunteer helping with groups that may interest you, such as charities, local government, coaching, legal aid. You name it. This experience helps you understand how your community really works and helps to improve your ability to work with others as members of a team.

Above all, take care to organize your time: efficiency is the key to a successful practice and to provide responsiveness to clients. Finally: never, ever, forget life balance. Give top priority to your family and your loved ones and to mental and physical health. Your success as a lawyer ultimately depends on the support you get on the home front and you have to pay that back many times over."
-Brian A. Crane QC, Ottawa, Aboriginal Law "Lawyer of the Year"

Erin O'Brien Edmonds, Q.C. TEP, Halifax, Real Estate Law Lawyer of the Year

"Your success as a lawyer ultimately depends on the support you get on the home front and you have to pay that back many times over."

"If I could give advice to my younger self at the start of my career, I would say find an area of law that you are passionate about and like-minded peers. Lawyers work hard. The work can be so much more rewarding if you truly care about what you are doing and you are doing it with people who are supportive and collaborative. I am very fortunate to have found a firm of people who I enjoy working with and an area of law with such a collegial bar."
-Linda J. Godel, Toronto, Charities / Non-profits Law "Lawyer of the Year"

"A litigator needs to find and use their authentic voice to be themselves. Ergo, I offer the following from Hamlet, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’.”
- Paul J. Pape, Toronto, Legal Malpractice Law "Lawyer of the Year"

"My early vision was to practice law in a way that allowed me to interact with the public beyond those I was representing. At the time, this was not common. There were no social media, and the internet was just beginning, but I found a way. With social media and other platforms, communicating broadly outside the courtroom or boardroom is evolving. No matter the format, it is critical. It leads to enriching exchanges, better awareness, self-learning and empowerment. A fuller understanding of diversity, inclusiveness and issues outside your door soon follow. This has perpetually fueled my passion for immigration law.”
- Mario D. Bellissimo, LL.B. C.S., Toronto, Immigration Law "Lawyer of the Year"

James (Jamie) G. Knight, Hamilton, Labour and Employment Law Lawyer of the Year

"With social media and other platforms, communicating broadly outside the courtroom or boardroom is evolving. No matter the format, it is critical."

"Early in one’s career, it is important to learn the importance of having difficult conversations, providing direct answers, and common-sense advice. Learning these skills helps to develop a reputation as a straight shooter, someone whose word may be relied upon, and who will employ a pragmatic approach to problem solving whenever possible. These skills will place you in good stead with your clients, courts, tribunals, and members of the bar.”
- Murray L. Murphy, Q.C., CPHR, Charlottetown, Labour and Employment Law "Lawyer of the Year"

"Identify one or two areas of practice in which to specialize, preferably early in your career. Being a generalist is challenging in the current environment. A specialty not only helps to distinguish you from your peers from a marketing perspective, it can be a platform to advance within your own firm."
- Matthew Ghikas, FCIArb, Vancouver, Energy Regulatory Law "Lawyer of the Year"

"The best advice that I was fortunate to have received early in my career (and what I pass on to young lawyers just starting out in litigation) was from Gordon Henderson, the pre-eminent leader in the IP Bar at the time, who advised me that in all court appearances you should do your very best but then leave it to the judge to do his or her best and thereafter, do not bemoan your losses nor gloat over your victories, just get on to the next case.”
-Ronald E. Dimock, Toronto, Intellectual Property Law "Lawyer of the Year"

Neil Jacobs, QC, St. John’s, Insolvency and Financial Restructuring Law Lawyer of the Year

"There are actually two things that I would have advised my younger self. First, never underestimate the importance of making and maintaining your network throughout your career. You never know who will land where in your later life and which connections will prove most important and rewarding. Different facets of our lives intersect in unexpected ways! Second, never compare yourself unfavorably to the senior lawyers/mentors with whom you work. Be inspired by and learn from their examples but focus instead on doing your best work with the experience and skills that you have, and the rest will come!”
-Delayne M. Sartison, Q.C., Vancouver, Education Law "Lawyer of the Year"

"Do what makes you uncomfortable. It took many years in practice for me to be confident enough to step out of my comfort zone, only to find that doing so made me a better and more flexible advocate.”
- Tara M. Sweeney, Ottawa, Professional Malpractice Law "Lawyer of the Year"

Nominate a Lawyer in Canada

Nominations for the 16th Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada and the First Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch are open through 19 February. Do you know a lawyer in Canada who deserves to be recognized? Nominate them today!

Headline Image: iStock/Prostock-Studio

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