Canadian Lawyer

June 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 15 of 35

14 FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED PAUL SAUNDERS has never seen legal training as a guarantee of stability. Even before he started his undergraduate degree, he knew the legal profession was bound for significant disruption. Saunders recalls speaking with several lawyers more than 20 years ago when he was considering the law who told him that the practice of law and the role of lawyers was changing. Because of this uncertainty, Saunders decided to take a practical business degree for his undergraduate and then do an MBA, "as a backup just in case it didn't pan out with law," he says. Throughout his pre-law studies, he also did co-op placements that involved working on technology, databases, project management and process improve- ment. After his MBA, he worked as a finan- cial analyst at a bank in Toronto. While things did pan out for Saunders after he returned to Nova Scotia and grad- uated from law school in 2007, his backup planning came in handy as well. While he started as a corporate associate at Stewart for our firm to be able to look to the future and prepare for the evolving nature of the industry." He then became "practice inno- vation partner" in 2016. "When we first embarked on this journey six years ago, the idea of having a full-time innovation lawyer was still a pretty new concept." Saunders then used his backup plans to plan for his firm's future. "I felt that utilizing my background and in all these other disci- plines and merging the practice of law with the innovation side of things was the right choice for me at that time," he says. "But it wasn't an easy decision by any stretch because I was very much happy [with] what I was doing." THE FUTURE CAME FASTER THAN EXPECTED Paul Saunders has always known the profession needed to change. The pandemic just convinced everyone else, writes Tim Wilbur McKelvey after articling at the firm, he was not satisfied sticking to a traditional role. He quickly gained the reputation for being the techy lawyer who used technology and project management to streamline processes for all of the firm's practice areas. When new CEO Lydia Bugden took over at Stewart McKelvey and Saunders was a newly minted partner, his part-time passion for process improvement turned into a full- time role. Saunders had worked closely with Bugden on the massive Sobeys/Safeway deal as an associate, and that work had involved a lot of project management and technology. So, Saunders says, he and Bugden "started having some conversations about the need "If you are billing on an hourly basis, and you're reducing your revenue at the same time as you're streamlining your processes, you need to have alignment in the incentives."

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