2019 Zenith Award Winners


Robert Cohen, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

Published statistics on mental health indicate that one in five Canadians will experience some problem with their mental health over the course of a year (Source: Government of Canada, 2006) - and while awareness surrounding mental health has increased dramatically in recent years, the stigma surrounding it still remains – particularly in the legal industry. “A 2017 study out of the UK on ‘work-related stress, depression and anxiety’ ranked the legal profession fourth on the list of the most stressful jobs. That is likely not surprising to anyone who works in – or near – the industry. The profession is demanding - with clients expecting a trusted advisor who is impervious to personal issues and able to exceed expectations in terms of work product, strategic analysis and responsiveness. In addition, competition for work at both a personal and firm level can be incredibly intense. “Beyond wellness, there is a business case to be made for prioritizing a healthy firm. According to the World Health Organization, every $1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of $4 or better in health and ability to work - and the University of Warwick found that happiness makes people about 12% more productive. The corporate world seems to have taken notice, understanding that combating stress can only serve to enhance performance.” “The leadership roles assumed by Cohen and Budd are essential to the success of this initiative - one where a message that your well-being is important flows through the entire firm and chips away at the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

Orlando Da Silva, Serious Fraud Office - Prosecution Division, Ont. Ministry of the Attorney General

Lawyers face serious mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse yet even recently, most were extremely reluctant to speak about their challenges, let alone seek ways to address the epidemic for other lawyers. There was too much at perceived risk for them. Who would hire them if they admitted they had been hospitalized, for instance? Former Ontario Bar Association president, Orlando Da Silva has taken a strong leadership role in facing down these challenges facing many, many lawyers and their loved ones. He bravely shared his own mental health story, at podiums where he was the first to do so. And he mentored others who were facing similar challenges. This has had profound beneficial impact on our level of awareness. Most recently, he was elected as an LSO Bencher on a platform of Wellness for Lawyers.

Lisa DeMarco, DeMarco Allan LLP

More than 40 northern First Nations in Ontario sit within 60 kilometres of the very large TransCanada Mainline natural gas pipeline, but have no access to this low-carbon, low-cost heating fuel. First Nations across Ontario experience significant ‘energy poverty’, and regulatory improvements have the opportunity to provide important relief. Lisa DeMarco provided legal counsel services at the Ontario Energy Board for a collective of First Nation communities in northern Ontario around Lake Nipigon, in the Geraldton area, and at the island of Moose Factory on James Bay, which have experienced energy reliability issues at least 200 times greater than other communities in Ontario. She was especially effective at negotiating an Ontario Energy Board approved ‘Settlement Agreement’ with Hydro One Networks that will have important implications for all First Nations in Ontario dealing with energy reliability issues.

Erin Durant, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

In 2018 the Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) Board of Directors made the difficult decision to close its Law Help Centres in Ottawa and Toronto due to a funding shortfall. These centres are PBO’s most significant program for self-represented litigants in terms of visibility and the volume of clients served – having served 147,770 clients since 2007, embedded in three Ontario courthouses in Toronto and Ottawa. Erin Durant, a volunteer with Pro Bono Ontario, worked closely with former PBO Chair David Scott, QC, to develop solutions to save the Law Help Centres. Durant took a leading role in the campaign to save the Law Help Centres, giving numerous media interviews and helping to organize a number of videos by prominent members of the legal community.

Ashlee Froese, Froese Law

Ashlee Froese’s practice is rooted in trademarks, copyright, social media, domain name, packaging, marketing & advertising and commercial law. She is a branding, entertainment and fashion lawyer. “During her tenure as a Fashion Zone advisor, Froese has not only volunteered her time to mentor our community of over 140 fashion-tech entrepreneurs, she has also created and executed workshops across multiple legal disciplines and volunteers her time to sit on our selection committee. As an advocate and changemaker in the Canadian Fashion industry, she is an inspiration to many entrepreneurs.” “In July 2017, after 10 years on Bay Street, Frosee launched her own firm. Froese Law is a boutique law firm dedicated to branded products, services and talent. Business savvy, legal acumen, volunteerism and mentorship are key tenets of Froese Law."