Canadian Lawyer

September 2022

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 43 of 51

42 FEATURE DEPARTMENT PROFILE CONSTRUCTION GIANT EllisDon struc- tures its 20-person legal department with the business in mind. The team consists of a full-service legal group that supports the lines of business and handles contract work and tendering, as well as subcomponents for labour relations, insurance claims, and contract managers. Labour relations is top of mind for the team this year, as there has been an unprecedentedly high number of strikes in the industry. "As we're moving into a post-COVID world, I think the landscape is changing a little bit in our industry, and labour relations is such a crit- ical piece of that," says Andres Duran, senior vice-president, legal services at EllisDon. As governments look to change the P3 model that has dominated public infrastructure markets, the legal department closely monitors changes and participates in procurements that follow the new contract models. Duran and his team also focus on the chal- lenge of developing the ideal hybrid working structure for employees to prevent burnout. Duran's top priority this year is taking care of the people on his team in the post-COVID era. He aims to ensure everyone is comfort- able and getting the support they need if they have re-evaluated their life goals. The legal team favours a collabora- tive approach to ensure they are working closely with other service functions. That includes finance, the different lines of busi- ness, construction, and management teams. Although many interactions have been virtual during the pandemic, in-person meetings are starting to resume. "We're making sure we're getting out there, and we're not just doing a document or file but participating with the project team as one of the team members," says Duran. "That has always been and remains our approach." Initially operating only in Ontario, the team is expanding across Canada to support oper- ations in other provinces. In-house lawyers are now located in Vancouver and Calgary to support the western Canadian business. Together with EllisDon's construction group, the legal department recently spear- headed the creation of a complex claims group – a cross-functional group led by a legal team member. Labour relations and employee wellness are top of mind for EllisDon's legal department in the post-COVID world Boosting efficiencies through technology This year, EllisDon announced its latest partnership with WomanACT and the Society for Canadian Women in Science & Technology (SCWIST) to improve company-wide prevention and response measures that address gender-based and sexual harassment. The Department of Justice has funded WomanACT and SCWIST to provide customized support to STEM and trade employers. Those two organizations bring shared expertise in training, organizational strategy, policy development, and women's experiences and representation across many sectors. Through this partnership, WomanACT and SCWIST aim to provide support to enhance EllisDon's policies and procedures regarding the prevention of and response to workplace sexual harassment. WORKPLACES FREE FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT "One of the prime directives of the group is to help us get through current complicated litigation or claims and to take all the lessons learnt to help the business get better at dealing with issues on these complicated large projects," says Duran. Negotiating claims on a large project can be a complicated, multi-step long-term project. So, the cross-functional group – consisting of engineers, people with claims management expertise, and lawyers – must be well equipped to handle such complex claims while avoiding disputes. "It's a smoother and ideally quicker process that doesn't become litigious or affect relationships," says Duran. Legal operations are a key priority, so the team is always looking for ways to improve efficiencies by integrating new technology.

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