Canadian Lawyer

May 2023

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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6 FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF LEADERSHIP IN LAW Richard Wong's father advised him to be a leader in his career. Now he aims to impart that lesson to young lawyers "I am one of a growing number of East Asian partners at Osler. It's relatively easy for me to use my position to open doors, knowing it will be good for the firm and give back to the community" RICHARD WONG was surrounded by infrastructure from an early age. His father was a civil engineer who worked with SNC-Lavalin on large-scale global projects like the CANDU nuclear reactor structures. But his father advised him against an engineering career. Wong's father told him he should not be just the person "who does the calculations and figures out the problem" but, instead, be the person "who puts the deal together." This advice has stuck with Wong throughout his career. As his father did for him, Wong aims to impart the same lesson to young lawyers through the numerous mentoring activities he facilitates: you can be a leader, not just a "worker bee." It is a stereotype, Wong says, that many Asian lawyers fight against. It is often unspoken but can create a limitation that Wong hopes to help others overcome. "You have to show that you are not just a worker but an owner." As chair of Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP's construction & infrastructure group, Wong has taken his father's advice to heart, both in his career and in how he advises young lawyers. Wong decided the legal profession would be an excellent place to take on leadership roles, but it took him several years to find his place as an "owner" at a large Bay Street law firm. His father's job allowed Wong to see many countries from a young age, sparking an interest in international development. His mother was a real estate agent with a busy practice within the Korean community in Toronto. Many of his family members had immigrated from Hong Kong to Richmond Hill just before the hand back of Hong Kong to China, which touched off a development boom. When Wong graduated from the University of Toronto law school, his passion for land development and construction was strong, and he wanted to integrate real estate into his legal career. Wong gravitated to DelZotto Zorzi LLP, a commercial real estate boutique law firm with prominent land developer clients focused on Asian communities. He began practising real property and land development law at the firm. Construction wasn't top of mind for him yet, and his work at the time was more about land acquisition and the develop- ment process. Wong was initially exposed to construction law through a litigation file. He was given a file in motions court to have a construction lien vacated. Wong still recalls how he forgot to make the court copy with a blue backing, so in desperation borrowed a blue highlighter from the master's assistant and highlighted the back page blue. The master turned the motion mate- rials over to endorse the record and lifted it to show the court, saying, "What's this, Mr. Wong, a watercolour?" Wong did get the lien vacated but quickly decided he did not want to be a litigator. He knew he wanted to grow beyond the straight real estate development practice into construction law. Wong eventually moved to Goodman and Carr LLP, where the firm encouraged him

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