Canadian Lawyer InHouse

June/July 2020

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

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Page 26 of 35 25 protected," says Furlong. "We are leaning on our IT teams to ensure the platforms we use are secure and we are taking the right steps to protect customers. Aviva is very good at managing that," she adds. BMO Financial Group has a litigation practice management group that brings together all litigators from the bank's global locations in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and London in addition to a litigation e-discovery team, which helps to quickly assess litigation risk. The practice management group ensures that work is consistent and efficient in all locations. "As an organization, we put our customers at the centre of everything we do and that includes how we approach dispute resolution and litigation as well," says Pascale Elharrar, associate general counsel, wealth manage- ment at BMO Financial Group. "To us, that means that we're being thoughtful, we don't apply a one-size-fits-all approach to case management and we challenge ourselves and our external partners to think about different ways of doing things, which includes resolving matters early when it's the right thing to do for our customers and our business." Working closely with business teams within the bank enables the litigation teams to identify risks and trends, which often results in resolving issues before they get to litigation. Helping customers and protecting the bank's brand are the two guiding principles for BMO, so maintaining in-house litigation teams is key. "We keep those guiding principles in mind as we approach any matter on litigation and pre-litigation," says Reena Lalji, senior litigation counsel, Canadian personal and commercial banking at BMO Financial Group. With every decision, the in-house litigation teams at BMO take into consideration reputational and regulatory risk in addition to litigation. "Because we are able to have that fulsome picture of all the moving parts of the business — not only litigation — we are able to balance different considerations to properly guide all our business groups to the right decisions," says Lalji. "Keeping it in-house makes it less expen- sive, but that isn't what makes it successful," says Lianne Furlong, vice president and chief litigation counsel at Aviva Trial Lawyers. "Aviva Trial Lawyers has proven itself to cost less and deliver the same results as external counsel. When it comes to developing lawyers in-house, you have the opportunity to get to know other parts of the company so you can develop expertise in other areas and experience different roles in the company, which you couldn't do in a private law firm." Unlike many legal departments, Aviva Trial Lawyers has been sending in-house counsel to court to run trials since 2016, with cases including auto accidents, medical malprac- tice, property damage and sexual assault. Furlong is deeply involved in training young lawyers, and they are often given the opportunity to attend trial as second chair. Since COVID-19 closed courtrooms around the country, Furlong's team has been trying to keep files moving by doing discovery, mediation and pretrials by video, which raises new risks. "We need to be mindful that whatever platform we choose to use is secure, the information is confidential and data is "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." Delbie Desharnais, Telus

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