“I've been really lucky to have Gesta assigned as my Principal (AKA mentor) for articling. He's an extremely successful lawyer and a genuine, thoughtful person. Over numerous coffees and lunches, we've discussed career and personal thoughts and goals, and he's acted as a confidante, coach and role model.
The interview below will be especially relevant to anyone interested in a corporate/securities law career. "
– Elliot, Articling Student 2017
Lawyer: Gesta Abols
Practice Group: Corporate/Securities
Year of Call: 2002
Law School: University of Toronto
What advice can you give to law students interested in corporate/securities?
Business understanding is helpful but people shouldn't be scared off from corporate law if they don't have a business background. Having work experience in business or experience in business studies is all good, but not necessary. Once you select this path, I do tell young lawyers to be aware of the broader issues - it's helpful to read the business press and know what's going on.
For law students, if they know that this is what they want to pursue, I'd encourage them to take the core corporate and securities courses and some upper year courses in the field that may be of some interest. For U of T students, the Art of the Deal is singularly the best course possible (Note to reader: Gesta teaches this course).
What do you think makes a great corporate/securities lawyer?
I don't think there's a strict formula. Having intellectual curiosity and a real desire to help identify and solve client problems is fundamental. As a transactional corporate lawyer, you're often helping the client choose their path and you're also quarterbacking a team at the office of the various specialist groups, making sure that everyone is working toward the same goals. Beyond the obvious experience and knowledge of the law and how to apply it, when you get to the next level it's all about that teamwork, coordination and problem-solving.
What is a proud moment for you at Goodmans?
Working with younger lawyers and seeing them grow and succeed. I've been doing more of that in recent years and I find it very rewarding.
What do you find most fulfilling about your practice?
We get to help people identify and solve pretty complex challenges, and that's very interesting. When you're successful, which we try to be more often than not, it's very rewarding and clients are appreciative, and that's a good feeling, and it's satisfying intellectually. That's the best part - when you're really busy and everything comes out the way you hoped.
What's the funniest/strangest experience you've had in your career?
When I was just starting out as a first or second year lawyer, we had a client who had an interest in a forestry operation in Northern Ontario. The client was based in Europe and was suspicious of the effectiveness of local management. For reasons that are still not clear to me, the client wanted me to go see the property in Northern Ontario and report back. So I flew out and engaged with a local forester who knew how to manage a forestry operation.
It was the middle of the winter so I rented a four-by-four SUV to drive on the ice roads to get to the site. What you're supposed to have, which I didn't have, was a radio to communicate with other drivers, because the roads are pretty narrow and there's really only enough room for one car. As we came around a corner going downhill, we saw a logging truck coming our way, loaded with logs, a quarter of the way up the hill and not stopping. I pulled over, but the forester said I really needed to pull over - so I drove right into the snowbank and put the car as best I could halfway into it.
The forester, in the passenger seat, undid his seat belt and opened his window - he didn't jump, but he was prepared to. I realized I needed to get to the middle of the SUV, so I did. The truck came by, scraped the whole side of the SUV, taking the window and mirror off. The damage wasn't so extensive that the airbags went off, but it was a close call. It was definitely the strangest experience that has happened in my career here.
What would you do for a one-year sabbatical?
I have an academic side to me that likes the idea of doing something scholarly, but on the other hand, I went straight from school to work and didn't even take the time off before or after articling. So travel is definitely an interest - maybe writing some papers and traveling. And I'd probably travel somewhere where I can ride my bike, which is my current big passion. Majorca is an area that jumps out as a very nice place to use as a base.
Elliot Seetner is currently an Articling student in the Goodmans tax group. He went to Osgoode Hall Law School.