Canadian Lawyer InHouse

June/July 2021

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

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www.canadianlawyermag.com/inhouse 5 What are the most significant changes you've seen to the legal department since joining Royal Bank of Canada 20 years ago? When I first came into the bank, there was definitely a law firm approach. I was there to respond to questions raised by our business and functional partners, so someone would flag a legal issue and I would respond to them. Fast forward to today and I think one of my key priorities is showing that we can align the legal strategy to further business strategy. While the law group will always be the guardians of the bank, we also understand what the business group is trying to achieve as far as goals and strategies and how we can create a legal framework that really furthers the business strategy. How do you work with the other departments within your organization and support the organization as a whole? If we understand the business strategy, then we can be flexible in the legal strategy to make sure that we're furthering the business goals. We've got a lot of really smart people, so we want to give them the licence to be intellectually curious, to be bold, to be innovative and to embrace disruption. One of the things that we do is cross-pollination, so if there's too much workload on the intellectual property side, we might have the regulatory team do some intellectual property work. With Q&A this cross-pollination and cross-training and shared resources, we're better able to handle the workload, and we've got more flexible people with more curiosity. What are the main challenges that your team has faced due to the pandemic crisis? Just trying to get a handle on workload has been a challenge. Immediately after the first lockdown last year, we saw this huge spike in workload, and everyone was inundated. Since then, the workflow has ebbed and flowed but consistently being on the high side. The other big challenge that we really focused on is supporting the team's well-being and mental health. Because of the workload, we're managing anxiety, and we want to make sure that the team isn't burning out. What are your main goals and priorities for the rest of 2021? One thing I'm really excited about is working on our patent strategy. We're working with the technology and operations group in the bank, and we're trying to create an enterprise-wide patent strategy that will be aligned with business strategy. We want to further our legal work from an offensive perspective to make sure that we have the right patents in our patent portfolio. We also want to protect ourselves against patent assertion entities. Aligning legal strategy with business strategy Years with Royal Bank of Canada: 20 Approach to working with external counsel: We're trying to build more strategic relationships with external counsel so that they're not there as order takers but they're working with us to be more strategic about delivering on the work. Lucille D'Souza Vice president, associate general counsel for the innovation and operations team, Royal Bank of Canada regulatory compliance services to the asset management sector will help it build out delivery of services that can efficiently manage risk in a highly regulated environment. BLG announced its acquisition of AUM Law PC for an undisclosed amount in May. It is the first significant deal of this kind in the Canadian legal sector in nearly five years. The acquisition responds to a client need for faster, more innovative and better compliance services. New rule allows majority vote for boards A proposed regulation under the Canada Business Corporations Act would establish the right of shareholders to vote for or against a director of a company's board, starting July 1 — a change to a board election procedure that up until now only allowed shareholders to vote for a director or withhold their votes. The new regulation will give greater authority to shareholders to voice any concern against a proposed director, "as they will now be able to vote specifically against that director," says Matthew Merkley, a partner at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP. Deal valuations more complex: report The first quarter of 2021 saw an all-time high for merger and acquisition activity in Canada, with optimism for deal activity continuing, according to Lex Mundi's latest Global M&A Trends Report. However, COVID-19 made pricing more difficult across the country in view of the continuing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. Lex Mundi's report found that there may be an increased opportunity to deploy excess capital to acquire or invest in the companies that must soon emerge from the protection offered by existing government support programs in Canada.

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