2019 Zenith Award Winners
Roberto Aburto has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion at his firm, serving as the Co-Chair of Gowling WLG’s National Diversity and Inclusion Council since 2009.
Aburto was early to identify unconscious bias as a risk in the legal profession and sought to encourage professionals and staff to discuss the issues and increase diversity at all levels of the practice. He was a leader in engaging in Gowling WLG’s development of unconscious bias training, which has become mandatory for all staff and professionals at the firm. Aburto has delivered this training to more than 100 staff and professionals. And he coordinated efforts of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Council with other functional areas of the Firm, including Human Resources, Directors of Students and Directors of Associates.
Ranjan Agarwal "has held several leadership roles in the bar, each of which has allowed him to advance his view of diversity as an access to justice issue. He is Past President of the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto (2016-2018) and a past Vice President, Membership of the South Asian Bar Association of North America (2017-2018). He is currently the first South Asian officer of the Ontario Bar Association (Secretary, 2017-2018; Treasurer, 2018-2020).
Agarwal has advocated both for reforms to our appointment process and more minority appointments. This included advocating to bar associations, judges and policy-makers for reforms to how we appoint our judges, encouraging more transparency and accountability to try to get rid of the problem of unconscious bias, which may be the cause of an unrepresentative judiciary.
In the rapidly evolving global financial services industry, Ana Badour is the co-leader of the firm’s Fintech practice, actively seeking out and assessing innovative technology to provide optimal service to clients. In 2018, one such problem recognized by Badour revealed the need for advancement of an antiquated process: legal agreements. Lawyers create and share legal agreements between parties (often via email), which traditionally requires multiple versions of a document to exist until all revisions are captured in a final document. This process is time-consuming, includes a potential security issue and elevates the risk for errors.
Badour “saw the benefit of combining Open Law’s markup language (computer coding that creates and stores legal agreements) with Ethereum’s blockchain technology, to inexpensively and expediently create a secure, shareable document that keeps record of all changes.
Anita Banicevic is a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP specializing in Competition, Antitrust & Foreign Investment; Advertising, Marketing & Distribution; and Investigations & white collar Defence. She is considered a global leader in the field of Competition Law. At a time when regulators in a variety of areas are grappling with the legal implications of artificial intelligence, algorithms and big data, Banicevic’s specialized expertise and thought leadership are in high demand.
“Recognizing the complexities of Antitrust issues in this space and the need for regulators to take such complexities into account without stifling innovation, Banicevic has quickly become an authority on these issues, and through her valuable contribution to discussions on these topics, she has been able to contextualize them for policy-makers seeking to update their regulatory structures.
Drs. John Borrows and Val Napoleon were instrumental in the launch of the world’s first law degree to combine the study of Indigenous and non-Indigenous law. Following years of planning and fundraising by Borrows and Napoleon, in September 2018, the University of Victoria (UVic) welcomed the first cohort of students to the joint degree in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID/JD program).“The nominees, Val Napoleon and John Borrows, are the preeminent Indigenous legal scholars that have co-founded the first joint degree program in Canadian Common Law (JD) and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID). It is the first program of its kind in the world. Combining intensive study of Canadian Common Law with intensive engagement with Indigenous laws, the JD/JID will develop the skills needed to practice within Canadian Common Law, with Indigenous legal orders, and at the interface between them.