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The Advocates’ Society<br />

<strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2022</strong>

What the TWEET is this?<br />

When you see this icon, throughout the publication,<br />

click on it to see what members are tweeting about.<br />


05<br />

07<br />

12<br />

14<br />

Chair Chat<br />

Chloe Snider, Dentons Canada LLP<br />

Mindful Moments: “Yes, you are in a very<br />

difficult stage.”<br />

Erin H. Durant, Durant Barristers<br />

Word to the Wise: Ending the Dread of<br />

Performance Reviews<br />

Megan Keenberg, Van Kralingen & Keenberg LLP<br />

The Wrong Stuff Revisited - Pronouns and<br />

Non-Discriminatory Language<br />

Tamara Ramsey, Dale & Lessmann LLP<br />

Did you know TAS Members can choose how they wish to receive and<br />

read their copy of The Advocates’ Journal? All qualified members are automatically<br />

subscribed to receive the print version of The Advocates’ Journal<br />

but can opt out of the paper mailing with the tick of a box. Simply go<br />

to your member profile at www.advocates.ca and scroll down to Journal<br />

Preferences. Click ‘YES’ to be an online Journal Subscriber. Voila! You<br />

have gone GREEN! Need help? Contact membership@advocates.ca and<br />

we can set you up!<br />

19<br />

20<br />

Editor: Tamara Ramsey, Dale & Lessmann LLP | tramsey@dalelessmann.com<br />

Deputy Editor: Megan Keenberg, Van Kralingen & Keenberg LLP | mkeenberg@vklaw.ca<br />

The opinions expressed by individual authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Advocates’ Society.<br />

<strong>Advocacy</strong> <strong>Matters</strong> Editorial Team: Michelle Alton, Ministry of the Attorney General, Nadia Chiesa, WeirFoulds LLP, Erin Durant, Durant Barristers, and Joe Thorne,<br />

Stewart McKelvey<br />

4e Gala Annuel de La Société des Plaideurs<br />

Daniel Baum, Langlois avocats, S.E.N.C.R.L.<br />

Interview with <strong>2022</strong> Award Winner Neha Chugh<br />

Nadia Chiesa, WeirFoulds LLP<br />

2 3


Chair Chat<br />

Chloe Snider, Dentons Canada LLP<br />

Free<br />

Member<br />

Resource<br />

Library<br />


www.advocates.ca<br />

Welcome to the fall edition of <strong>Advocacy</strong> <strong>Matters</strong>.<br />

The 10+ Standing Committee has hosted<br />

two virtual events so far this year – an October<br />

event on mentoring and a November<br />

event on biz dev – two topics that I think are<br />

near and dear to the hearts of mid-career<br />

advocates. We also hosted our first in-person<br />

event on November 23, <strong>2022</strong> – a Cinq<br />

à Sept cocktail reception at Leña Restaurante.<br />

Through these events, we look to foster<br />

community and provide support to mid-career<br />

advocates broadly speaking. Please<br />

reach out with questions or feedback about<br />

our work.<br />

The articles in this quarter’s publication<br />

provide inspiration and suggestions on practise<br />

management (life management?!) and<br />

mentoring topics. First, congratulations to<br />

Neha Chugh on receiving the <strong>2022</strong> Catzman<br />

Award for Professionalism and Civility. This is<br />

the first time that the award has been granted<br />

to a mid-career lawyer. Proof of the power<br />

of younger lawyers to lead the charge on<br />

civility and on changing the practice for the<br />

better, all while juggling busy family commitments.<br />

It’s inspiring to see those managing<br />

busy practices and home lives being celebrated<br />

by our profession. We are honoured<br />

to interview Neha in this issue. If you are<br />

looking for some pro tips on how to juggle<br />

everything at this “very difficult stage” of our<br />

careers – check out Erin Durant’s Mindful<br />

Moments piece. Erin provides her thoughts on<br />

how to handle the stress of a busy practice with<br />

limited time and without burning out. Megan<br />

Keenberg’s Word to the Wise covers the evergreen<br />

topic of mentoring and performance reviews.<br />

No need to dread performance reviews.<br />

Read Megan’s article.<br />

Finally, Tamara Ramsey covers how to use<br />

pronouns in a non-discriminatory way in The<br />

Wrong Stuff Revisited. While the topic (use of<br />

pronouns in legal writing) might sound dry, the<br />

article is not. It provides thoughtful suggestions<br />

about using gender-neutral words and examples<br />

of how to rephrase sentences to avoid using<br />

gendered pronouns. This article provides<br />

some helpful suggestions to avoid this.<br />

Before I go, I want to share my own takeaway<br />

from The Advocates’ Society’s <strong>Fall</strong> Forum - the<br />

first in-person young advocates’ retreat since<br />

2018 - where I had the privilege of serving as<br />

a facilitator during the mentoring roundtable<br />

discussion. The theme that emerged during our<br />

discussions was the importance of vulnerability<br />

and honesty – as a mentee, opening oneself up<br />

to seek advice or input from a mentor, and as<br />

a mentor, being honest in response. Many of<br />

these young lawyers have only practiced during<br />

the pandemic so they are keen to form connections<br />

and receive candid mentorship. Mentoring<br />

and connection are key priorities for The<br />

Advocates’ Society in the coming year.<br />

4 5


Mindful Moments:<br />

“Yes, you are in a very difficult stage.”<br />

Erin H. Durant, Durant Barristers<br />

I joined <strong>Advocacy</strong> <strong>Matters</strong> this term and am<br />

pleased to have a regular outlet to discuss mental<br />

health for litigators. I will contribute a “Mindful<br />

Moment” to keep the discussion about mental<br />

health in the profession top of mind. As the<br />

recently retired Chief Justice of Ontario George<br />

R. Strathy wrote in his article “The Litigator<br />

and Mental Health”: “People have been talking<br />

about mental health in an unprecedented way:<br />

openly, compassionately, and practically.” We<br />

hope to continue that trend in this space.<br />

At our initial meeting of the 10+ Standing<br />

Committee for the <strong>2022</strong>-23 term, I spent some<br />

time speaking with a small group of committee<br />

members from across Canada about what it is<br />

like to be a mid-career advocate. For many of<br />

us the feeling could be described as follows: it<br />

sucks.<br />

A former colleague of mine put it slightly<br />

more eloquently. Around the time that I was<br />

struggling with my own mental health, a colleague<br />

who was trying to help commented as<br />

follows: “you are in a very difficult stage” and<br />

that things do get better. At the time I found<br />

the comment unhelpful. Maybe even a bit triggering.<br />

When you are in the middle of a crisis,<br />

having someone generalize your experience as<br />

being part of some stage that everyone must go<br />

through can be quite hurtful. Surely not everyone<br />

takes weeks off work, gets medicated, and<br />

considers upending their career?<br />

At the time I saw the comment as a lack of<br />

6 7

understanding of my situation. Now, many months removed from the situation, I do wonder if<br />

there is a lot of truth to it.<br />

Mid-career advocates are in a difficult stage. Our practices are growing after years of marketing<br />

and networking efforts. We are becoming the go-to person for clients. We are responsible for<br />

mentoring younger lawyers, students and new staff. We often do not have the same dedicated<br />

firm resources or influence as the senior partners. Many of us have young children plus aging<br />

parents, and have to manage the associated time constraints and burdens those realities have on<br />

a person. We may be new partners in a law firm, or still grinding away chasing partnership or the<br />

next level within a partnership. None of this is easy. And it can happen all at once. So, what can<br />

mid-career advocates do to navigate this challenging stage? I have some thoughts:<br />

Delegate, delegate, delegate.<br />

You do not have to do everything,<br />

and probably shouldn’t.<br />

One thing that even the largest firms are bad at teaching lawyers is how to delegate. As a result,<br />

many of us hang on to too many small tasks that could easily be handled by someone else. My<br />

quality of life has improved significantly since founding Durant Barristers and I attribute much<br />

of it to having hired support staff and lawyers who I trust and who I delegate to relentlessly. I<br />

now have the time, and space, to focus on the files that I most enjoy and to focus on building the<br />

practice that I want. You cannot get to that space if you are doing everything yourself.<br />

Many of us grew up as lawyers in a “never say no” culture. Every new file was a chance to learn and to<br />

grow. Eventually, and likely sooner than later, you need to know when to turn away work and other<br />

non-billable commitments. I am terrible at this skill and so are most others in my firm. One way to combat<br />

this has been to create an incentive program. Every time we say no to a potential new mandate, a<br />

committee or a speaking appearance we get a stamp on a card towards free ice cream. It takes 5 “no’s”<br />

to get an ice cream. It may be silly (especially since I pay for the ice cream), but it works for me.<br />

Advocate for yourself.<br />

Put your own oxygen mask on first.<br />

It can be very hard to find time to care for yourself. As advocates, we give so much of ourselves to others.<br />

As parents, caring friends and family members, the mid-level advocate is often the fortress that protects<br />

everyone from the ills of the world. That may be the case in your life but know that if you do not do standard<br />

maintenance to your walls, even you will crumble. You cannot and do not give the best service to<br />

others if you are not well. Build in time for relaxation, vacation, therapy, and to do what you need to do<br />

to relax.<br />

As good an advocate as I am for others, I was a terrible advocate for myself in a large firm environment.<br />

I was not good at the politics or how to explain my deteriorating mental health to<br />

others. Perhaps I did not want them to know. If I were to go through my situation again, the<br />

number one thing I would have changed was to carefully make a plan when asking for additional<br />

resources to assist with my practice. I would have assembled the statistics about my value to the<br />

firm and volume of new work and I would have better communicated the impact that the work<br />

was having on me. Instead of just communicating that “I have too much work” and “I cannot keep<br />

up”, I would have added that “I am not getting any sleep at night”, “I am too anxious to focus” and<br />

“I am crying frequently.” If I had the courage to utter those additional descriptors, I am certain<br />

that a lot of decisions would have been made differently.<br />

8 9

Get Help!<br />

The best thing that occurred to me as a<br />

result of my difficult situation was my decision<br />

to start therapy. I utilized the resources<br />

available to all Ontario lawyers<br />

and law students through the Members<br />

Assistance Program (similar programs<br />

exist in all Canadian jurisdictions). I met<br />

with a therapist who had extensive experience<br />

working with high-performing,<br />

overachieving, type ‘A’ lawyers. He understood<br />

me almost immediately. Making<br />

time for therapy allowed me the time<br />

to consider what I liked about my career,<br />

what I hated, and how best to build a<br />

long and healthy career around those<br />

goal posts. I recently spoke with a lawyer<br />

who has seen a therapist for many years.<br />

She is not in any sort of ongoing crisis.<br />

She considers those appointments as<br />

necessary as getting her hair cut or going<br />

to the dentist. It is a time, once every<br />

month, to check in on herself. I am adopting<br />

the same practice.<br />

I hope to use this regular column to<br />

focus on mid-career advocates and our<br />

mental health. I will be inviting guest columnists<br />

to join in the discussion and allow<br />

space to really focus on how we can<br />

keep ourselves well. If you are interested<br />

in contributing a column, feel free to<br />

reach out to me. We can all get through<br />

this “difficult stage” together.<br />

Now Live! Friends Who Argue - TAS podcast is jointly hosted by<br />

our Young Advocates and 10+ Standing Committees. Segments<br />

feature dialogue with the people who get what you do, as we<br />

delve into both the serious and lighthearted aspects of life as<br />

an advocate in Canada. Know a TAS member we should talk<br />

to? Contact Christopher Horkins at chorkins@cassels.com and<br />

Karen Bernofsky at KarenB@stockwoods.ca<br />

Friends Who Argue is sponsored by<br />

10 11

Be kind, not “nice”<br />

Telling people what they want to hear is “nice” but it’s not terribly instructive. It is “nice” to give associates<br />

A+ reviews lightly side-stepping any discussion of their shortcomings. It’s not so nice when those<br />

associates are lulled into a false sense of security for their partnership bids and blindsided when they<br />

are passed over. Telling people what they need to know is kind. Have frank discussions with associates<br />

about their realistic prospects for partnership, areas for improvement, and any interpersonal baggage<br />

that may be weighing them down. Straight talk goes a long way, especially if it is delivered calmly and<br />

respectfully, and if it is rooted in good intentions. Candour is an act of care.<br />


Word to the Wise: Ending<br />

the Dread of Performance<br />

Reviews<br />

Megan Keenberg, Van Kralingen & Keenberg LLP<br />

Performance review season is upon us: the most dreaded hour of an associate’s year. Historically,<br />

our profession has been bad at giving and receiving constructive feedback. Even our toughest<br />

litigators balk at the prospect of providing frank critiques or (gulp!) receiving them. What drives<br />

the dread? For the most part, it stems from focusing with tunnel vision on the unchangeable<br />

past, without providing opportunities for progressive development. Five simple tweaks in how<br />

we approach reviews can put an end to the dread.<br />

Provide real-time feedback<br />

Associates feel ambushed by critiques of work that they submitted into a silent void, months prior.<br />

Providing feedback, especially critical feedback, on work performance months after it was completed<br />

does not achieve the purpose feedback is designed to meet, namely, teaching. Late feedback deprives<br />

the associate of the opportunity to learn from the critique, to correct mistakes or explain their thinking.<br />

Without the opportunity to learn, negative feedback is merely punitive and unproductive. Contemporaneous<br />

feedback - both positive and negative – short-circuits dread (because there is no time<br />

for it to materialize!) and provides meaningful opportunities for learning and connection.<br />

Focus on the future<br />

Use the time in annual meetings to co-create a plan for the upcoming year. Reflections on lessons<br />

learned from the prior year will be instructive and empowering when viewed as part of a<br />

prospective plan, rather than disheartening or demoralizing when viewed solely in retrospect. The<br />

past is static, but the future is pliable. A forward focus will help associates build resilience and<br />

confidence.<br />

Private critique/public praise<br />

Respect your mentees’ dignity by providing constructive or corrective feedback<br />

privately, but feel free to shout praise from the rooftops! Give credit where<br />

credit is due, and make sure that all decision-makers know about significant<br />

milestone achievements and wins.<br />

Get as good as you give<br />

Invite associates to provide you with their own feedback about how you might<br />

improve your mentorship, training and relationship with them. Not only will their<br />

feedback help you continuously develop your own skill sets, but it will also permit<br />

your associates to develop their own skills in critically assessing others’ work<br />

performance and conveying feedback with kindness and candour.<br />

12 13


The Wrong Stuff Revisited –<br />

Pronouns and Non-Discriminatory Language<br />

Tamara Ramsey, Dale & Lessmann LLP<br />

In the Summer 2002 Issue of The Advocates’ Journal, the Honourable Marvin Catzman provided his “Losing<br />

Tip No. 12: Fling their own words back at them”, which was part of an entertaining and insightful<br />

series of losings tips that started with his piece: “The Wrong Stuff: How to Lose in the Court of Appeal.” I am<br />

revisiting “The Wrong Stuff” to see what holds true and share some of the new ways you can lose in the<br />

electronic era.<br />

With reference to an unnamed judge in a hypothetical scenario about how judges’ words are recorded,<br />

Justice Catzman used the pronoun “she” and in his notes stated: “I wrestled with this pronoun. As you<br />

recall, I use “she” and “her” when referring to nice people, and “he” and “him” when referring to the other<br />

kind. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out whether adjournments and washroom breaks fall on the<br />

nice or the not-nice side of the line. So I flipped a coin, and it came down “her.” If anyone takes offence,<br />

please read it as if it said “him” instead.”<br />

Twenty years later, we still struggle with pronouns<br />

in legal writing (and in society more broadly).<br />

This struggle is not limited to an unidentified judge<br />

in a hypothetical scenario. Pronouns confound the<br />

grammar nerds among us who hate using “his or<br />

her” but struggle with using the plural “their” 1 in<br />

place of the singular. “They went to the washroom”<br />

may be jarring, but it is no more jarring than “He<br />

or she went to the washroom.” 2 While we can use<br />

“she” for nice things and “he” for not-nice things like<br />

Justice Catzman satirically suggested, we all need to<br />

use the washroom at some point.<br />

Historically, the masculine pronoun was used in<br />

the English language to signify the non-specific “he<br />

or she”. While we generally recognize that it is no<br />

longer acceptable to use the masculine pronoun<br />

universally, we still struggle with writing acceptable<br />

alternatives. Together with using non-discriminatory<br />

language, 3 one important tool to address this<br />

struggle is to not make gender visible when it is not<br />

relevant for communication. 4<br />

Below are some helpful tips on how to tweak<br />

your language to make gender invisible when it is<br />

irrelevant:<br />

14 15

0 Substitute gendered words for gender-neutral<br />

words. 5<br />

0 Use plural pronouns and adjectives, they or<br />

them, in place of the singular. This is completely<br />

acceptable informally and becoming<br />

more and more commonplace in formal writing.<br />

0 Use the pronoun “one” instead of using he,<br />

she, or they. Change “When he needs a washroom<br />

break” to “When one needs a washroom<br />

break.”<br />

0 Rephrase the sentence to use the relative<br />

pronoun “who” instead of using he, she, or<br />

they. Change “If a judge needs to use the washroom,<br />

she should take a recess” to “A judge<br />

who needs to use the washroom should take<br />

a recess.”<br />

0 Use plural antecedents. Change “A judge<br />

must announce that he is taking a recess before<br />

excusing himself from the Court” to “Judges<br />

must announce that they are taking recesses<br />

before excusing themselves from the Court.”<br />

0 Omit the gendered word. Change “A Judge<br />

may take a recess to address his personal business”<br />

to “A judge may take a recess to address<br />

personal business”.<br />

0 Use a neutral word or phrase. In these examples,<br />

“judge” or “judges” is neutral.<br />

0 Repeat the noun. Change “A judge must announce<br />

that he is taking a recess” to “The judge<br />

must announce that the judge is taking a recess”<br />

Sometimes, gender is important to the communication<br />

and to the individuals to whom the<br />

communication is addressed. Using the correct<br />

prefixes and pronouns is respectful. 6 As an example,<br />

in an update to incorporate more accessible<br />

and inclusive language in court proceedings in Ontario,<br />

in collaboration with the Court of Appeal for<br />

Ontario, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and<br />

the Ontario Court of Justice, Court Services Division<br />

(“CSD”) provided notice that:<br />

0 CSD staff may invite parties, representatives<br />

and others to share their prefix (also known as<br />

a title or salutation) and pronouns.<br />

0 Participants, including lawyers, litigants and witnesses,<br />

are encouraged to proactively provide<br />

their first name, last name, prefix (e.g., Mr./Ms./<br />

Mrs./Mx., etc.) and/or pronouns (e.g., he/him,<br />

she/her, they/them, etc.) when stating their<br />

name or by updating their screen name during<br />

a virtual proceeding. 7<br />

As a further example, TAS developed guidance<br />

to TAS leadership, committee members, and staff<br />

about the use of gender-inclusive language, including<br />

pronouns, within the day-to-day work of the<br />

Society. 8 In the Guide for TAS Leadership About<br />

the Use of Gender-Inclusive Language and Pronouns<br />

Within the Society, TAS recognizes that the<br />

use of gender-inclusive language, including a person’s<br />

correct name and pronouns, is fundamentally<br />

about respect, human dignity, and equality.<br />

When it comes to the use of pronouns, TAS generally adopts a “lead by example” or “encouragement”<br />

approach. Where someone offers their pronouns, we should respect and use them.<br />

Avoid<br />

Dear Sirs, Dear Mesdames or Dear Sirs and Mesdames<br />

(in a letter or email to colleagues) 9<br />

Use<br />

Dear Counsel or Dear Colleagues or Dear All<br />

Businessman Business executive / entrepreneur /<br />

business person<br />

Workman<br />

Waiter/waitress<br />

Policeman<br />

Finally, use gender-neutral terms<br />

Worker<br />

Server<br />

Police Officer<br />

16 17

Wife / husband<br />

Partner / life partner / spouse / significant other<br />

Father / mother<br />

Parent<br />

Maternal / paternal<br />

Parental<br />

Secretary / girl<br />

Assistant / Legal assistant<br />

While many still wrestle with pronouns, the English language and social norms continue to evolve.<br />

Remember to (1) avoid gendered terms where gender is irrelevant, (2) use the correct pronouns and<br />

prefixes when gender is relevant, and (3) always opt for gender-inclusive language.<br />

Notes<br />

1. I mean “their” and not its oft-confused homophones “there” and “they’re”<br />

2. Let’s not get started on the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms<br />

3. As a useful starting point, see the Government of Canada resource on Gender-neutral<br />

Language at: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/legis-redact/legistics/p1p15.<br />

html<br />

4. The United Nations Guidelines for gender-inclusive language in English at: https://<br />

www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml<br />

5. More on this below<br />

6. See, for example, A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth published<br />

by The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/guide/aguide-to-being-an-ally-to-transgender-and-nonbinary-youth/;<br />

University of Victoria,<br />

What we all can do to support trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary people: https://www.<br />

uvic.ca/equity/education/transinclusion/ally/; Egale, Pronoun Usage Guide: https://<br />

egale.ca/awareness/pronoun-usage-guide/<br />

7. Ministry of the Attorney General, Notice to the Legal Profession and the Public,<br />

Inclusive Language and Procedures in Courts: http://ontariocourtforms.<br />

on.ca/static/media/uploads/courtforms/civil/notices/notice-updates-to-inclusive-language-en.pdf;<br />

B.C. Provincial Court: https://www.provincialcourt.<br />

bc.ca/downloads/Practice%20Directions/NP%2024%20Form%20of%20<br />

Address%20for%20Parties%20and%20Lawyers.pdf; B.C. Supreme Court:<br />

https://www.cbabc.org/CBAMediaLibrary/cba_bc/pdf/Resources/PD-59-<br />

Forms-of-Address-for-Parties-and-Counsel-in-Proceedings.pdf; B.C. Court of<br />

Appeal, https://www.bccourts.ca/Court_of_Appeal/practice_and_procedure/<br />

civil_and_criminal_practice_directives/PDF/(CandC)Appearing_before_the_<br />

Court.pdf<br />

8. Guide for TAS Leadership About the Use of Gender-Inclusive Language at:<br />

https://www.advocates.ca/Upload/Files/PDF/About/Diversity_and_Inclusion/2021_<strong>2022</strong>/Guide_for_TAS_Leadership_About_the_Use_of_Gender_Inclusive_Language.pdf<br />

9. This author will occasionally use “Dear Sirs” when writing to bunch of old<br />

men.<br />

Event Report<br />

4e Gala Annuel de La Société des plaideurs<br />

Daniel Baum, Langlois avocats, S.E.N.C.R.L.<br />

Le 22 septembre dernier, la Société des plaideurs tenait son quatrième gala annuel à Montréal.<br />

Celui-ci a été présidé avec brio par Me Suzanne Pringle, qui a présenté plusieurs invités<br />

d’honneur et a remis le Prix Excellence en mentorat <strong>2022</strong> à Me Claude Marseille.<br />

Les participants à cette soirée enrichissante ont aussi eu l’opportunité d’entendre un récit en<br />

quatre chapitres sur la nomination de l’honorable Mahmud Jamal à la Cour suprême du Canada.<br />

Avec humour et candeur, monsieur le juge Jamal a d’abord décrit les différentes étapes qui ont<br />

précédé sa nomination, puis l’accueil chaleureux de ses nouveaux collègues au plus haut tribunal<br />

du pays, incluant diverses traditions cocasses et parfois méconnues du public. La soirée s’est<br />

conclue avec un cocktail riche en retrouvailles.<br />

18 19

I chose to set up my own firm because I could see the writing on the wall: in small towns where<br />

there is a small bar, it is unlikely that a criminal lawyer would hire an associate. I also had a toddler and<br />

a 6-month-old when I opened Chugh Law, and I wanted a practice that would work with having two<br />

babies at home.<br />

I think I was more confident when I opened the firm than I was two years into running it. Solo practice<br />

is a very lonely existence. The bar in Cornwall is older, and I was – and still am – the only woman<br />

of colour in criminal law. I felt excluded and isolated, and despite working here for 8 years, I still face<br />

exclusionary tactics by the bar.<br />

I really struggled to find my people, but I have found them, often in places I never expected. These<br />

aren’t necessarily people in law but people I identified with in other silos of my life. And that’s when I<br />

started to feel more comfortable and able to find security and happiness.<br />


Interview with <strong>2022</strong><br />

Catzman Award Winner<br />

Neha Chugh<br />

Nadia Chiesa, WeirFoulds LLP<br />

Neha Chugh is a criminal lawyer and the founder of Chugh Law in Cornwall, Ontario, which focuses<br />

on criminal law, family law and child protection law. Neha is the <strong>2022</strong> recipient of the Catzman Award<br />

for Professionalism and Civility.<br />

Q. You founded Chugh Law in 2014. What was your path to opening your own law firm, and<br />

how did you come to serve the Cornwall area?<br />

A. After I graduated from Osgoode Hall in 2011, my husband got a post-doctoral position in Ottawa.<br />

I was a “trailing spouse” in academic terms. I spent my first two years of practise in Ottawa. When he<br />

was offered jobs at either Concordia or in Manitoba, I had already been practising in Eastern Ontario<br />

and looking at a map, I figured that if we lived in Western Quebec, I could easily drive into Cornwall and<br />

work in that area of Ontario.<br />

Q. You have grown Chugh Law from a solo criminal law practice into a firm with more lawyers<br />

and a broader practice area. Tell us about how you built your firm.<br />

A. I first reached out to Yashar Tahmassebipour, now my law partner, and invited him to join me. I<br />

had already been referring work to him, and I was overwhelmed with work. He was facing the same<br />

issues that I was facing – he was new to the Cornwall bar and was balancing practice with two young<br />

kids. As we slowly started to build the family law practice, I proposed that Robert Vitulano, another<br />

local lawyer, join the firm. I had seen him at court and was impressed. I later hired Chandler Thomas,<br />

who had driven out to our firm to drop off her resume twice, first for an articling position and later<br />

for an associateship. I was honoured and excited that she would seek us out, as a rural law firm. I was<br />

pregnant with my third child at the time, and she became indispensable as she covered my practice.<br />

In building the firm, I have learned how “scoopable” mid-level lawyers can be in this market. I hired my<br />

brother as an articling student and he later left the firm when he was headhunted, despite his name<br />

being over the door!<br />

Q. What are the top benefits of running your own firm?<br />

A. One of the biggest benefits of running your own firm is that you get to set the tone. I decided<br />

that I wanted to create a fun, loving, community-oriented place to work. I wanted to bring a mental<br />

health and rehabilitative approach to criminal law practice. I also wanted to create a firm where<br />

parents of young children, both lawyers and staff, could find their place, and be able to manage<br />

their schedules while hitting billing targets. Because I set the tone, I have been able to attract<br />

amazing people who are looking for the same thing.<br />

My favourite thing about having my own firm is that I don’t have to answer to anyone except my<br />

clients. If I finish court at noon, I can call my husband and meet up to split a poutine!<br />

Q. What are some of the challenges of running your own firm?<br />

A. Money is always a challenge. We have to fight with Legal Aid, and I am concerned about making sure<br />

that we hit our billing targets.<br />

It can be tricky to manage sick days and vacation days as there isn’t anyone who can cover. While<br />

clients are understanding, it is hard to reschedule with the Courts.<br />

I have so many checklists running through my mind, figuring out priorities between my family and<br />

my clients and my firm. I do struggle with the guilt of not completely disconnecting when I’m with my<br />

kids or on vacation, but I have figured out what works for me. It’s the trade-off for not punching a clock.<br />

20 21

Q. The legal profession is slowly recognizing that lawyers are human, and to be the best<br />

lawyers, we need to take care of our health – physical, mental and emotional. How do you<br />

take care of yourself?<br />

A. It’s about letting yourself off the hook. Lost a trial? Grieve for a few days, then let yourself off the<br />

hook. Feeling angry? We don’t let ourselves bring our emotions to the forefront. You need to find a<br />

place to let yourself be angry and hurt, and then let yourself off the hook.<br />

In terms of mental and emotional health, you have to feel through your feelings. If you just bury<br />

them, they will still be there. I try to allow these feelings to come to the surface and get to a place<br />

where I’m at peace with them.<br />

Tricks of the Trade 2023<br />

January 27, 2023 | 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (ET) | Live at the Carlu<br />

Tricks of the Trade is “THE” annual conference for the personal injury bar, addressing current challenges for both plaintiff and<br />

defence counsel. Esteemed faculty from across Ontario will provide key updates on recent decisions, timely advocacy tips, and<br />

the latest guidance on practice and procedure for personal injury litigators. We are excited to be back in person!<br />

Keynote speaker<br />

Marie Henein,<br />

Henein Hutchison LLP<br />

Program highlights include:<br />

A fireside chat with The Hon. Justice<br />

Katherine van Rensburg,<br />

Court of Appeal for Ontario.<br />

Q. Congratulations on the Catzman Award! What does this award mean to you?<br />

A. I was surprised when I got the award because I’m a non-traditional nominee. And because the traditional<br />

notion of civility doesn’t serve our generation of lawyers. Civility goes far beyond being nice or<br />

sending a polite “thank you for your email” and then screaming internally in response to an email that<br />

reinforces the systemic discrimination and exclusion in our profession.<br />

We need a new model of civility where it’s okay to stand up to systemic discrimination and to say,<br />

“I’m not going to allow this”.<br />

I have been on the receiving end of exclusionary practices in the profession. I’ve been called names,<br />

told to be quiet, told not to speak out. My first reaction is usually frustration. Then I realize that this is<br />

not how I want to practise law. And that’s not what I want to carry forward to future generations.<br />

As I said to young lawyers when I accepted the Catzman Award: “You are enough for this job. You<br />

belong. Your advocacy matters. To the young lawyers, the Black lawyers, the Indigenous lawyers, the<br />

brown lawyers in rural Ontario – there will be so many days where you will be reminded that you do<br />

not belong. It is uncomfortable. It is exhausting. It is okay to be tired. It is okay to be angry. But don’t<br />

dwell in that space. You may not feel like you are resilient, strong, or tough, but give yourself grace first.<br />

You are enough and you will be able to navigate these situations to make our whole profession more<br />

equitable and inclusive.”<br />

Tricks of the Trade:<br />

A 30+ Year Tradition for Leaders<br />

of the Personal Injury Bar.<br />

Views from the bench on the new rules<br />

for delivery of expert reports.<br />

The annual updates you need on tort law, damage<br />

assessments, accident benefits, crown liability,<br />

and much more!<br />

Win an Apple Watch!<br />

Early bird contest deadline:<br />

December 15, <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

For a full agenda visit<br />

Tricks of the Trade<br />

22 23


4e Gala Annuel de La Société des plaideurs<br />

Le Jeudi 22 septembre <strong>2022</strong> |Le Windsor, Montréal<br />

10+ Standing Committee - Cinq à Sept<br />

Wednesday, November 23, <strong>2022</strong> | Bar Lala, Leña Restaurante<br />

Class Actions Bench & Bar Reception<br />

24 25<br />

Thursday, November 24, <strong>2022</strong> |The Advocates’ Society

26<br />


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