Canadian Lawyer

May 2024

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 28 of 51 27 RICHARD BRAIT COMPANY: Siemens Canada TITLE: General counsel 'Run the legal department like a business' Adopting a highly individualized approach to talent management works well for his team of 14 professionals, says Richard Brait, general counsel at Siemens Canada. He says that he now focuses on using real-world scenarios in assessing and developing talent. "I find this really useful in spotting people's talents and their development needs," Brait says. "People's performance on the job, or in simulated situations, can sometimes be a confirmation, but it can also surprise. I'm a big fan of on-the-job learning. We try to move people around, get them outside of their comfort zone, and expand their horizons." In addition to hands-on experience, Brait underscores the significance of continuous education and professional development. He points to the accessibility of massive, open, online courses (MOOCs) on platforms like Coursera as valuable resources – and notes that Siemens incorporates many of these external online resources into its internal education programs. "When you go to the websites of places like the Association of Corporate Counsel or the General Counsel Roundtable, what you notice is that there's seldom stuff about substantive law," says Brait. "It's all about process. How do you run a legal department? How do you structure your approaches in different areas? How do you work with your businesses?" It's a deep-rooted passion for building out his own legal team that ties into Brait's fundamental principles that guide his management philosophy. That means being an integral part of that business team. He offers the example of a CEO turning to the heads of the departments and asking what the business will be doing in dealing with an issue. "He's not asking for advice," says Brait. "He's asking for a decision." "Legal needs to be seen by business leaders in the same way," adds Brait. "What I want is for the business leader to turn to the lawyer and say, 'What are we going to do here?'" LEIGH ANN KIRBY COMPANY: NAV CANADA TITLE: General counsel/corporate secretary Flying high in 2024: 'Diversity of thought is crucial' In the corporate sphere, there are few roles as multifaceted as that of the chief legal officer. For Leigh Ann Kirby, vice president, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary at NAV CANADA, donning different hats is all in a day's work. And while the nature of the business and the overarching legal mandate often differ, they intersect in more ways than one. "I don't see balancing the demands of guiding the company's legal strategy with the responsibilities of being a corporate leader as discrete areas," says Kirby. "I think they merge, and every day we're doing all those things in the role as chief counsel for a company." Kirby doesn't merely lead the legal function – she's also intrinsic in overseeing several other departments. Her approach challenges the traditional notion of lawyers staying within their lanes, a philosophy she finds stifling. "I've always felt free to speak my mind and encourage my lawyers for NAV CANADA to speak their minds," she says. "Because I think, at the end of the day, diversity of thought is crucial." Kirby has noticed that some companies prefer a more rigid approach. However, she firmly believes that encouraging diverse perspectives, regardless of background, contributes to better decision-making. "Often, that will be escalated and the CEO will end up hearing the legal perspective as well as the other non-legal perspective," she says. "And then they will decide on what is the most appropriate decision for the company overall. I've struggled with those two pieces together, certainly, sitting at the executive table – there's an expectation that I'm a strategic thinker and supportive of the strategic plan overall. "Here at NAV CANADA, we have a very interesting strategic plan ahead of us that's really going to set the company up for success from a technology perspective."

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Canadian Lawyer - May 2024