SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – RICHA SANDILL

SABA Spotlight Series – Richa Sandill

Richa is an employment, human rights and litigation lawyer, who currently practices exclusively in Applicant-side human rights law as Legal Counsel at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. She became a lawyer in Toronto after completing her law degree in England and undergoing the National Committee on Accreditation (“NCA”) process. Richa’s parents moved to Canada from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This year marks Richa’s fifth year with the SABA board. She has proudly served on SABA’s Women’s Committee, including as this year’s Co-Chair for the Women’s Committee, as well as the Advocacy Committee, Social Media and Website Committee and the Gala Committee since her election to the Board. 

In her spare time, Richa enjoys watching Bollywood movies, baking desserts, and training in classical Indian dance. Despite the pandemic, Richa has continued her dance training via Zoom. In addition to English, Richa speaks Hindi and Urdu. Her favourite South Asian food is seekh kebab and naan, with paneer tikka coming a close second.

 

1) Is your current career path as you originally intended?

I’m honestly happy to say it now is, but that definitely hasn’t come without its twists and turns. I entered law with a passion for social justice, and in particular for low income and racialized communities. I even remember naïvely telling a friend during the NCA process in 2013 that I wanted to be a “human rights lawyer” without actually knowing fully what that entailed. I’ll never forget that friend’s quizzical look when they told me, very gently, that based on their experience this would be a very hard career to pursue given that there aren’t a lot of opportunities to practice exclusively in human rights law. That turned out to be helpful advice since it really made me think practically about my aspirations. I realized that human rights law is a very big part of employment law, another area that I have since become very passionate about. As such, I threw myself into trying to get into employment law while completing my NCA exams. I went on loads of informational coffees and attended every networking event I could find at the time. It took a while, but that’s what led me to both my first job in a boutique employment law firm, as well as to SABA. Even then, it took a few years in private practice before my practice could become completely about serving and advocating for marginalized communities. 

I took a leap of faith in my third year of practice and moved from private practice to the legal clinic system. I practiced employment and human rights law at Scarborough Community Legal Services for almost two years, getting to do some amazing work along the way while serving a vibrant and incredible community. When my contract there ended, the wonderful opportunity arose to join the Human Rights Legal Support Centre last year. And now, I am a full-time human rights lawyer after all these years!  I still pinch myself sometimes. 

2) What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

I recently won a case at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario dealing with discrimination on the basis of family status discrimination – knowing that that case is going to hopefully be helpful for so many other working parents that are stuck during the pandemic reinforces for me why I do what I do. Beyond that though, I just feel proud to be able to do the work that I do every single day. My job involves a lot of emotional, high stakes situations where clients can often be vulnerable due to disabilities, language barriers, or even toxic situations like harassment in the workplace. I am proud when I’m able to get someone out of that type of difficult workplace situation or help them understand that they have rights at work or under the Human Rights Code that they might not have even realized or enforced. 

The big wins matter, sure, but it’s the small moments that stay with you the most – like how a non-English speaking, South Asian client for example once insisted that they wanted their young children to come and meet me so that they could see what someone that looks like them could do one day. Or when survivors of sexual harassment in the workplace have thanked me for believing their story and representing them with dignity after employers had repeatedly dismissed their accounts. 

3) What’s your favourite memory from being part of SABA?

There’s so many! From getting to speak with Jasmine Singh, my amazing Co-Chair of the Women’s Committee, at a roundtable with the Prime Minister this past November, to the late nights spent planning our galas before COVID, to my first SABA North America conference in Atlanta in 2019, and the wonderful relationships I’ve built with many former and current Board members and SABA members over the years. It’s been such a journey and has become a big part of who I am as a lawyer. Perhaps what I’ll always remember most is the first gala I was part of planning in 2017 on my first year on the Board. I had been part of the planning committee and had seen for the first time the amount of work that goes into getting everything right. Seeing that come to fruition that night was an amazing feeling. I’ll never forget the energy in the room in between speeches – the whole room was buzzing! No one could stay at their table. Everyone simply had to get up to greet their colleagues and network. It was a testament to the amount of work that the Board puts into the gala every year, and the way that SABA can bring together the legal community.

 

4) If you weren’t a lawyer, what else would you be?

I have idolized Bollywood actresses like Madhuri Dixit since before I could remember, so if I could, I would say I’d want to be her! She’s been my direct inspiration for wanting to learn kathak. If not, I could see myself as a filmmaker. In my non-lawyer life, I’m very passionate about movies, particularly given how much I grew up watching Bollywood movies (and admittedly still watch). I also think that there still aren’t enough films or TV shows in the mainstream that realistically reflect or represent the lives that we grew up with as South Asians or children of immigrants. So, if I could have been a filmmaker, that’s probably what my focus would have been. But I’m very much happy as a lawyer!

5) What advice do you have for young lawyers? 

Make sure the path you take is authentic to you. In your early years, and especially in this job market, it can be tough to feel like you have control over your career and where you feel like you can go. But I promise you that if you do have an area of law or a kind of practice that you really want, it’s worth going for. Same goes for if you want a specific kind of work environment or you know that things like work-life balance are important to you. I’ve found that there’s no such thing as a generic “right” path in law. There’s as many people who are happy on Bay Street as there are in places like government or the clinics – if one way feels more authentic to you and what you want, then that’s the “right” path. You can make it happen even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. The happiness that you’ll get from getting there and getting to do what you love is worth it all. 

Written by: Vipal Jain

SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – DEVIN PERSAUD

SABA Spotlight Series – Devin Persaud

Devin is a first-generation Canadian lawyer, born to parents who moved to Canada from Guyana. Devin’s family has traced the roots of his great-grand parents to Varanasi in India. Devin practices competition and foreign investment law at Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) LLP – Toronto, the largest full-service firm in Canada.

When he is not busy helping his clients, Devin is an active member giving back to the community through pro-bono and diversity related initiatives. Devin has been a leading member of SABA-Toronto for many years and currently serves as its Treasurer. Devin is also the Vice- President of Membership for the national chapter, SABA North America. Devin has been recognized for his advocacy efforts as one of the youngest recipients of the 2019 Lexpert Zenith Award – celebrating Change Agents in Law and as the 2020 recipient of the FACL Young Lawyer of the Year Award.

1) Is your current career path as you originally intended?

Growing up, I loved shows like Law & Order and J.A.G. So I always thought I would be a criminal litigator. However, when I started articling at BLG in 2014, I was lucky enough to spend several rotations in the Corporate Commercial group and found myself drawn to competition and foreign investment law, which had a perfect blend of litigation and corporate work. I can honestly say that everyday I come into the office (albeit a virtual one these days), I’m always working on something different and always learning. The practice of competition law is so varied, so it’s been great acting on files that involve: misleading advertising and marketing law, merger control, foreign investment and national security law, class actions and also criminal price-fixing and bid rigging. So I guess I’ve worked the criminal law aspect into my practice after all.


2) What characteristics do you think successful lawyers share?

I think the best lawyers are great communicators. They make their clients feel comforted and make them feel that they have all the answers. Speaking with confidence is such an underrated skill in this profession; I think all of the successful lawyers I know have that unshakeable cadence to go along with an in-depth and nuanced knowledge of the law.


3) What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

Professionally, I feel lucky to have worked on a number of large and exciting files that are constantly making news headlines. I was lucky when I was articling that the Loblaw’s and Shoppers Drug Mart merger was occurring and I had first-hand experience of being part of a high-functioning legal team. Honestly, the best moments for me though have been the relationships I’ve cultivated along the way. I’ve had such amazing mentors, both in the Competition Group at BLG and through SABA who have really molded my legal experience thus
far.

4) Can you share some moments from your time at SABA that brought you great satisfaction?

There’s so many. One of my favourite moments that introduced me to SABA was being presented the Student of the Year award by then Premier Kathleen Wynne in 2014. It was such an amazing experience being at a 400 person banquet with lawyers who all looked liked me. That experience gave me great confidence entering the profession. I have to say that every year the Gala is a highlight – it’s the one time of year where the entire South Asian legal community comes together and celebrates/reflects/shares on all of our great achievements. Through the Gala, I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many accomplished lawyers and pillars of our community. Being able to host the Gala in 2018 was a real dream come true.

As Board Member, some of the most rewarding experiences have come from the creation of the SABA Liaison program and the SABA Student Recognition Award, which provide guidance and financial aid to students who are new to the profession. We’ve had amazing feedback on how much these programs have helped aspiring lawyers and legal professionals.
Another big highlight for me is always attending the annual SABA North America conference. I’ve attended the conference in New York and in Atlanta in 2018 and in 2019 before the pandemic hit. The programming and the networking opportunities at the conference are amazing! Toronto has been selected to host the SABA North America conference in 2024, so we are very much looking  forward to showcasing our city.


5) What advice do you have for young lawyers?

Young lawyers may hesitate to join organizations that are diversity-based because they may not want that to be seen as all that defines them. However, in my experience being part of the SABA family has only brought me amazing memories, recognition, and opportunities to work on interesting and fulfilling mandates. Don’t be afraid to join organizations like SABA, FACL, or CABL. Don’t think that it’s going to impact how others see or perceive you. It’s only a positive thing for your legal career.

By: Vipal Jain

SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – ANNIE TAYYAB

SABA Spotlight Series – Annie Tayyab

Annie is a litigator at Orr Taylor LLP, a commercial and competition litigation boutique in Toronto. She has been litigating for almost 6 years. She specializes in complex high-stakes litigation, including multi-jurisdictional class actions, contractual disputes, competition law, shareholder disputes, and regulatory proceedings. Born in Pakistan, she moved to Canada at the age of 10. She received her undergraduate degree from McGill University and her law and masters degrees from the University of Toronto. In her spare time, Annie volunteers with Pro Bono Ontario and is an active participant in several mentorship programs. In addition to English, she speaks fluent Urdu and is learning French.

1) What initially attracted you to become a lawyer?
Growing up, I always thought I would become a teacher. In high school, I picked up a John Grisham book called The Street Lawyer and that opened my eyes to the idea of being a lawyer. I didn’t personally know any lawyers so the thought had simply never crossed my mind. After reading The Street Lawyer, I started researching what it would take to become a lawyer, and I realized that I could do what was necessary to be good at this job. I never looked back.

2) Why did you choose to become a litigation lawyer?
I like the idea of advocating for people; going to court and ensuring that someone’s rights are well vindicated appeals to me.

3) What is your favourite memory from being part of SABA?
We recently organized a conference about anti-Black racism and allyship. This was the first time we had hosted a conference, let alone over a short period of time in the middle of a pandemic. We had great attendance. The conference included engaging speakers, a workshop, as well as recorded remarks from the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Ontario and the Mayor of Toronto. The Chief Justice of Ontario was in attendance for part of the day. I was proud to see how well the conference came together. We received great feedback from the attendees and were able to raise money to donate to two community initiatives that focus on building up Black youth. It was an absolute pleasure to work on something like this.

4) In your spare time during the pandemic, what do you enjoy doing?
I’ve been enjoying spending more time with my husband. Like many, we are thinking of moving out of the city. Home hunting is fun but stressful. We also picked up hiking. I was not a hiker or an outdoor person at all pre-pandemic, but I picked up some hiking boots and we have been exploring Ontario, which has been great. Some of our more fun hiking adventures have been in Killarney and Lion’s Head in Bruce Peninsula (which took six hours – my longest hike to date!). We’ve also been exploring trails in Toronto, which provide a nice escape without having to travel
far.

5) What advice do you have for young advocates?
Being a lawyer is a lot of work. Be prepared for that. To help get through it, find people who will
support you and guide you, whether it’s with work-life balance, legal or ethical issues on a file, or something else. Whether you find these people through friends, bar associations, or networking, surrounding yourself with a supportive community really helps.

Written by: Vipal Jain

SABA Toronto International Women’s Day Spotlight Interview with Minister Anita Anand

Happy International Women’s Day 2021!
#choosethechallenge

In honour of International Women’s Day, SABA presents a SABA Spotlight interview profiling the career of The Honourable Anita Anand.
 

Minister Anita Anand was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Oakville in 2019.

Minister Anand is a scholar, lawyer, researcher, and mother of four children. Born and raised in rural Nova Scotia, she moved to Ontario in 1985.

Minister Anand is a devoted leader with a proven record of service. In her Oakville community, she has served on the Board of Directors of the Lighthouse Foundation for Grieving Children, the Oakville Hospital Foundation, and Oakville Hydro Electricity Distribution Inc.

For the past two decades, Minister Anand has been a legal academic, employed most recently as a Professor of Law at the University of Toronto where she held the J.R. Kimber Chair in Investor Protection and Corporate Governance. She served as Associate Dean and was a member of the Governing Board of Massey College and the Director of Policy and Research at the Capital Markets Research Institute, Rotman School of Management. She has also taught law at Yale Law School, Queen’s University, and Western University.

Minister Anand has completed extensive research on the regulation of financial markets, corporate governance, and shareholder rights, and has appeared regularly in the media to discuss these topics. In 2015, she was appointed to the Government of Ontario’s Expert Committee to Consider Financial Advisory and Financial Planning Policy Alternatives. She has conducted research for Ontario’s Five-Year Review Committee, the federal Wise Person’s Committee, and the Task Force to Modernize Securities Legislation in Canada. In 2019, the Royal Society of Canada awarded her the Yvan Allaire medal for outstanding contributions in governance relating to private and public organizations.

Minister Anand holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Studies from Queen’s University, a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Jurisprudence from the University of Oxford, a Bachelor of Laws from Dalhousie University, and a Master of Laws from the University of Toronto. She was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1994.

Minister Anand and her husband, John, raised their four children in Oakville.

Interviewed by:

Jasmine Singh

SABA Toronto Vice President & CO-Chair of SABA's Women's Committee

Richa Sandill

Co-Chair of SABA's Women's Committee

SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – JASMINE SINGH

SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – JASMINE K. SINGH

Jasmine is a Legal Counsel for BMO Financial Group. She is a derivatives lawyer based in Toronto. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from York University and Juris Doctor from Bond University. She has been a SABA member and volunteer for many years. Prior to being appointed to her current position as a Vice President, she has previously held the role of Director of Communication and Treasurer. She is also currently co-chair of SABA Women’s Committee and Pro Bono Committee. Jasmine is an advocate for the advancement of equity, justice and opportunity for women and racialized lawyers in the Canadian legal community.

  1. What initially attracted you to become a lawyer?My path to becoming a lawyer was not a direct one. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and was initially attracted to a corporate career. After completing my undergraduate studies, I knew I wanted to pursue a post-graduate degree. I initially thought about doing an MBA but a professor recommended going to law school. I decided that made the most sense for me at the time. Before attending law school, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to actually practice law. However after two weeks of law school, I realized that using analytical skills to tackle issues resonated with me. So I knew law was the right path for me.
  2. What area of law do you practice and how did you get interested in that area?I practice derivatives law at BMO. My practice focuses on energy commodity derivatives and securities financing. My files require me to understand complex products, and advise on the regulatory landscapes within which BMO’s businesses operate.As a law student in Australia, I was initially drawn to criminal law and business law. When I finished law school, I wanted to come back to Canada, so I went through the OCI process from Australia. All the interviews I received were corporate based, which paved the path for me. I articled in-house at Loblaw Companies Limited, where I did general corporate work, assisted with litigation, real estate, and labour and employment matters.  After articling, I began my legal career with George Weston Limited, Canada’s largest retail conglomerate, where I gained experience managing commercial litigation for subsidiary and affiliated entities and assisted in negotiating a breadth of commercial transactions. These experiences led me to my current role at BMO.

    Though I didn’t have a securities background, I viewed my current role as an exciting opportunity to transition into a specialized practice area and was able to do so by leveraging the set of skills I developed through my past experiences.

  3. What is your favourite memory from being part of SABA?As a Co-Chair of the Women’s Committee, I along with Richa Sandill had the unique opportunity  to engage in advocacy efforts with the Prime Minister of Canada and another government representative at a roundtable discussion. We discussed the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women in Canada. We talked about discrimination and harassment faced by South Asian lawyers and the systemic barriers for women in our profession and the need for diverse judicial representation at the Supreme Court of Canada.SABA has provided me with an amazing platform to engage in advocacy work that I am passionate about and to voice these issues at the highest levels with the hope of creating an impact in the community.
  4. What is your favourite pastime during the pandemic?Regularly exercising has always been an important part of my daily routine, but during the pandemic, it has proven to be an even more crucial part of my routine. It offers a mental escape and is always a mood booster. When the weather was better, I also found myself going on a lot more walks on routes through the city that I hadn’t explored before.
  5. What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers?It’s important to introspect to ensure that a legal career will be fulfilling. Make sure you really want to either be a lawyer or that a legal education will contribute to your future career of choice.  I was the first in my family to practice law, and an important part of my decision was speaking to practicing lawyers who could provide insight. If you can find someone who can connect you with a lawyer and who can tell you what it’s like to practice law on a day to day basis, that’s important. Some may only picture the work of a litigator or criminal lawyer when they think of a lawyer at work, but there are so many different practice areas. I would recommend trying to gain as much exposure as you can to see what resonates with what you want to do.

Written by: Vipal Jain

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