Law Times

Oct 1, 2012

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Law Times • OcTOber 1, 2012 Noted litigator 'natural choice' for OBA award FOCUS minion Centre this summer, it marked a homecoming of sorts for Bryan Finlay. The firm' W hen WeirFoulds LLP completed its move to the To ro nt o -Do - started out his legal career ar- ticling under the legendary liti- gator Walter Williston at Fasken & Calvin. "I've come full circle, s emeritus partner tells Law Times soon aſter the last of the moving boxes disap- peared from his 41st floor office. But it' " Finlay vening 4-1/2 decades that has led his colleagues to award him this year' s his work in the inter- tion award for excellence in civil litigation. Finlay received the award during a special ceremo- ny on Sept. 27. "When Bryan talks, people sit s Ontario Bar Associa- up and listen," says David Sterns, a partner at Sotos LLP and chair- man of the OBA civil litigation section' the bar and he really was a natu- ral choice for the award. Sterns recently had the op- portunity to see Finlay's work " up close as co-chairman of the OBA' diation. "His ability to zero in on an when he heard the news. "Frankly, I thought they' made a mistake," he says. Finlay says he was shocked d " says Sterns. Williston, things might have turned out quite differently. In a story that will sound familiar to many law school students, Fin- lay says he saw his law degree as "really a three-year deferral of a life choice" more than anything else aſter his graduation from the University of Toronto with a degree in history. His year with Williston was a turning point. "It was while working with Without his encounter with him that I developed a passion for the law, 1969, Finlay went to Ottawa to clerk for former Supreme Court justice Wishart Spence. "He was a great man," says Aſter his call to the bar in " Finlay, pointing to a picture of the late judge on his office bookcase. On his return to Toronto, The McKellar Structured Settlement™ Finlay joined his current firm. He added John Arnup and Jack- Weir to his impressive list of mentors by working as their ju- nior before developing his own practice. A two-year sojourn back to Ottawa during the 1980s was the only interruption to his time at Untitled-1 1 12-05-08 11:11 AM Financial security. Guaranteed payments. 100% tax free. Some decisions are easy. very good to me and he really ig- nited the spark that has survived to this date. " says Finlay. "He was s task force on judicial me- argument and get straight down to the heart of the matter is just second to none, s nomination committee. "He is a towering presence in STEVE NOYES I. T. Consultant Volunteer BY MICHAEL McKIERNAN Law Times WeirFoulds. Finlay says it was another landmark ca- reer decision. He had initially re- Just this year, a part- ner's case out of St. Kitts Finlay worked for the Compe- tition Bureau and was special counsel to the Department of Justice. "The experience I got from buffed advances from the federal government to participate in an execu- tive exchange program. But a phone call from future Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie, who had done the exchange himself a few years before, convinced Finlay that the program could have a transformative effect on his practice. During his two-year stint, that was fantastic," he says. "The cases that are wheeled by your door on a trolley at that stage of your practice and life made the sort of cases that were wheel- ing past my door in Toronto pale and Nevis gave him the unique chance to go to Canada' It's important for all lawyers to do pro bono work, says Bryan Finlay. into insignificance. You would just die for those sorts of cases. I was plunged into very large and exciting cases, which is something that just wouldn't have happened as soon as it did if I had stayed in Toronto. him to the Supreme Court more than 10 counsel to the appellant Morris Manning in the landmark defa- mation case of Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto. Finlay's clients have taken times, " including as counsel wear a gown. And you're all on the same level. In that way, it' I found it very conducive being face to face with the judges." But it's not just the high- than we're used to here. There are five judges who wear business suits and court, the judicial com- mittee of the British Privy Council on appeal from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. "It was an experience, says Finlay. "It's a com- pletely different forum s former highest " s a very attractive forum. profile cases that stand out for Finlay. In 2004, he acted pro bono for the parents of two autistic children who success- fully challenged the process involved in the government's funding decisions. and frustrated by the runaround they had received at the hands of the bureaucracy that they were re- ally at their wit' "They had been so befuddled ally stands out in my mind was be- cause these parents had a strength which I couldn't even begin to imagine where it came from," he says. "They were very apprecia- tive that we were successful, but I learned more from the journey with them than the service I par- ticularly provided to the parents. It sure opened my eyes." The case came to Finlay s end, and why it re- through the Dickson Circle, a group of senior litigation law- yers dedicated to pro bono work on behalf of clients with disabili- ties. Finlay was the founding chairman of the group. He says it' do their share of pro bono work. "I think it' " I've always thought it has been a great privilege to practise law. I think we're hugely fortunate to do what we do. s important for all lawyers to s vitally important. LT PAGE 13 "I was quite moved by it once I got over my incredulity."

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