2019 Zenith Award Winners


Laurent Massam, Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP

Laurent Massam is a partner in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office, practicing primarily in the area of Intellectual Property litigation. In addition to his practice, Massam is a natural leader who has repeatedly demonstrated commitment to pro bono initiatives within the firm. As director of pro bono initiatives at Gowling WLG, he is an outstanding mentor to our associates and students, and a tireless advocate for our firm’s pro bono initiatives. “Massam identified and acted on the need and opportunity to create a significant internal culture shift towards placing a higher value on individuals and teams who seek out, take on, and successfully deliver pro bono work as an important part of our obligation and commitment to promote access to justice for the public and serve as an example to the legal profession."

Isabella Massimi, BMO Financial Group

Isabella Massimi “led a team to create, develop and implement a pilot escalation resolution process to encourage more efficient resolution of suspected financial abuse of vulnerable customers, including elderly customers – and including romance scams.” The goals were to: “(a) establish an engagement model – a process for how front-line staff, escalation teams, legal, privacy, compliance and other groups could work together; and (b) socialize, train and roll-out the model – train front-line staff and others on what they should do and how to use the engagement model if they suspect a vulnerable customer may be suffering from financial abuse.” “With the help of others, Massimi led the team and developed a step-by-step practical engagement model that engages Bank teams with the right expertise, at the right time."

Sarah Millar, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP

Discovery is now a largely electronic process, and in large scale litigation involves a significant quantity of data. The costs to parties can be enormous. To best serve clients, it is crucial that there be defensible and cost-effective ways to approach discovery. Doing this properly requires understanding and embracing technology and utilizing third party vendors where appropriate. This requires innovation and leadership. “Sarah Millar has been at the forefront of developing an integrated approach to discovery involving lawyers, paralegals, tech personnel and external service providers. This provides significant cost-savings to clients and can also be a significant driver of profit for law firms (vs. having this work done entirely be third parties).” Millar “is comfortable at the intersection of law, technology and project management, and is adept at managing relationships both within the firm and with third party service providers."

Valerie Napoleon, University of Victoria - Faculty of Law

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.

Breanna Needham, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Breanna Needham recognized the inequities surrounding the existing change/lounge rooms for male and female lawyers and took decisive and meaningful action, starting a change.org petition calling for a universal robing room at Osgoode Hall. The change.org petition was accompanied by an extensive social media campaign. She garnered the assistance of male allies in the profession who took photos and videos of the male’s robing room to demonstrate the significant disparity and tweeted them out to her expanding base of followers. “As a direct result of Needham’s actions, on February 20th, the LSO announced that they are working to create one dedicated gender-neutral space for all barristers to robe and network in what is currently the men’s robing room. All lawyers, regardless of gender, may now share the same benefits of mentoring and relationship-building that are part and parcel of this physical space.”