Canadian Lawyer

December/January 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 43

14 FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED ALTHOUGH JOHN OSLER didn't have any lawyers in his immediate family, he felt that a legal degree would be the best way to engage with his community. "I noticed that it seemed to be lawyers who were so actively involved in their communities, as volunteers, in the political space and . . . the way I was raised, that . . . had an awful lot of appeal to me." And despite having a busy corporate practice in Calgary, community engagement has been a key part of Osler's career ever since. In fact, it has been a key part of his business approach. For Osler, this started on a national level. He was born in Calgary, but he chose to do his undergraduate in Ontario and study law at Dalhousie. Atlantic Canada, he says, was a natural fit to give him experience living in three broad areas of the country. Osler then returned to Calgary as an arti- cling student with what eventually became McCarthy Tétrault. While articling at a national firm fit with Osler's pan-Canadian vision, there was just one hitch: The Law Society of Alberta wouldn't allow a national firm in the province. At the time, provincial rules required that members of the bar be residents of Alberta and only be a partner in a single firm. This meant preoccupied the leadership that day. But when he did get the offer, the national scope of the firm was solidified. "My overall decision to accept a job with McCarthy and McCarthy was that I found the national law firm concept so appealing." Osler began as an associate in the litigation department, but he eventually realized that the adversarial nature of that practice did not suit him. "Civil litigation is an art. It's an exception- ally challenging art. And I was finding that I was not achieving the fulfilment that I thought I should from such an important craft." Just as Osler entered the partnership, he transitioned to corporate law. In that practice, Osler found, "everybody has a common objec- tive, and everybody is working towards the same objective." While Osler speaks positively about his that the firm McCarthy and McCarthy, which it was named in other provinces, had to have a different name in Alberta. The Alberta firm was called "Black & Company" for that reason. This became the subject of a key Supreme Court of Canada decision in Black v. Law Society of Alberta, where Black & Company took the LSA to court, saying the restrictions violated the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the requirements in its landmark 1989 deci- sion and paved the way for national law firms like McCarthy Tétrault. Osler remembers very well when the SCC decision was rendered, since it was released on the same day he and his fellow articling students were expecting to be told if they were going to be hired back. The firm's decision was communicated a day late, since the release of the SCC decision "There's probably nothing that our clients talk to me about more than our Inclusion Now program. It is a hot topic with clients; it's a hot topic with people in our community." BUILDING COMMUNITIES AND BUILDING BUSINESS John Osler has always focused on his community as a lawyer in Calgary and a partner at national firm McCarthy Tétrault

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Canadian Lawyer - December/January 2021