Canadian Lawyer InHouse

June/July 2020

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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Page 25 of 35

24 FEATURE "There is no greater expert in the business of the company than the in-house team," says Sandra Perri, vice president and associate general counsel at Sun Life Financial. "We bring a deep understanding of the company and the business we support, as well as the company's broader strategic priorities and objectives so we can align with those." Understanding the company's tolerance for risk is another advantage that the in-house team brings, together with the ability to bring a business operations mindset. "Leveraging data and technology to improve workflow, be innovative and optimize resources in the team are all things we do in-house that can't as easily be done by external law firms," adds Perri. As Sun Life Financial does not have litigation teams outside of Ontario and Quebec, law firm partners are regularly called upon to help with litigation matters in other jurisdictions. Perri's team also partners with external counsel on complex litigation cases and class actions in all geographical regions. At Telus, a team of nine lawyers and paralegals is spread across the country and manages a diverse range of litigation including e-discovery and employment matters. A new litigation lawyer just joined the team in April to help meet the growing need. When external counsel is retained to provide a local presence in a specific city or province, the in-house team works closely with external partners to establish a litigation strategy, approve court proceedings and any documents that will be filed and sent on behalf of Telus. "When we use external counsel, it's important that we remain very close to litigation matters to ensure we leverage the knowledge we have in-house about the culture of our business and corporate priorities," says Delbie Desharnais, associate general counsel, litigation at Telus. "Our model allows us to keep the team lean and efficient and make sure we focus our efforts on matters that have the potential to significantly impact Telus." The model also enables Desharnais and her team to identify and mitigate risk in order to prevent litigation when possible, and ultimately reduce external spend. Telus' litigation team handles matters across the country, ranging from class actions to real estate and employment matters. During her nine years at Telus, Desharnais has observed an increase in the number of significant litigation matters such as class actions and intellectual property claims. Aviva Canada's internal litigation team — known as Aviva Trial Lawyers — has grown to 90 from 80 people in the past two years, spread across eight offices in Canada. Around 30 per cent of Aviva's litigation was managed by the in-house team in 2019. WHILE LITIGATION HAS traditionally been one area that legal departments frequently outsource to external law firms, many organizations are building in-house litigation teams — not only to save costs but also to have greater control and closer alignment with the business objectives of the entire organiza- tion. Financial institutions, insurance compa- nies and telecoms providers have all boosted internal litigation teams in recent years. At Sun Life Financial, more than half of Canadian litigation cases are managed in-house by a team of 40 litigation lawyers, paralegals and assistants who are spread among three offices in Ontario and Quebec. Boosting in-house litigation teams Litigators from powerhouse organizations discuss the advantages of managing litigation matters in-house "Leveraging data and technology to improve workflow, be innovative and optimize resources in the team are all things we do in-house that can't as easily be done by external law firms. Sandra Perri, Sun Life Financial

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