Canadian Lawyer 4Students

Fall 2009

Life skills and career tips for Canada's lawyers in training

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BY SUSAN HUGHES BUSINESS (law) without really trying How to succeed in this fast-changing and uncertain world, how do you achieve success as a business law practitioner? A few who have made it share their thoughts on how they did. John Anderson, a partner and mergers and acquisitions spe- T cialist with Stikeman Elliott LLP in Vancouver has a four-point plan for success. Number one is to work hard and choose an area of the law that is going to "demand a premium." A┼┐ter a number of years of practising, "marks are irrelevant. Anyone's marks." "Watch the market and pick an area that's hot. People who distinguish themselves become very well known for doing deals in one sector. When you get much better known, you can spread your wings in that area," he advises. Accurately forecasting a niche area can be tricky though. For example, a few years ago everyone thought that outsourcing law would here are many ways to approach a career in law from doing pro bono and legal aid work at one end of the monetary spectrum to corporate and com- mercial, the pinnacle at the other. In business law, achievement doesn't come without a cost. But in be in demand but few would choose to specialize in that area now, he says. Reading the business press and knowing the market is key. Doing work for small firms or retail operations won't get you on magazine covers either. According to Anderson, his "biggest insight, which sounds simple and trite," is for business lawyers to think like business people, to take control of a file and get the transaction done, rather than waiting for the other side to come back. "Follow it up. Push it along. Step into the breach. Transactions that aren't pushed tend to die on the vine." Having a business background is a plus, too. "I have a B.Comm. People who aren't able to understand a balance sheet and have no head for the financing of a corporation are starting well back from the starting point. It's a handicap. You can't focus on the legal aspects if you're scratching your head trying to understand a balance sheet," he adds. Sophis- ticated knowledge will come later but you have to at least know the basics. Amy Grubb with Ogilvy Renault LLP in Ottawa agrees. "I C ANADIAN Lawyer 4STUDENTS SEPT E MB E R 2009 29

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