About the series
As one of Toronto's top business law firms, Gowling WLG is comprised of a diverse and highly experienced team that provides clients with insightful advice, valuable counsel and trusted representation across a variety of key industries, including energy, financial services, infrastructure, mining, manufacturing, technology and life sciences.
In this series, you will meet a number of practitioners in our Toronto office who have helped their clients overcome a variety of complex legal obstacles. In addition, you will also have the chance to hear more about how these professionals began their careers, the challenges and opportunities they have experienced along the way, and what insight they can bring during these unprecedented times.
Meet Christopher Alam
Christopher Alam is the national leader of Gowling WLG's Lending Group, and head of the Real Estate and Financial Services Group in the firm's Toronto office. He is also leader of the firm's national artificial intelligence (AI) technology sub-group. Christopher discusses how AI plays a valuable role in the lending practice and the advantages the technology provides to clients who use it.
James: James Buchan here. I am the firm managing partner for clients. I have the pleasure today of speaking with Chris Alam who is the national practice group leader for lending as well as department head in Toronto for financial services and real estate. Welcome Chris and thank you for joining me today.
Chris: Thank you very much James.
James: Let's start with a question about your background and why you became a lending lawyer.
Chris: I have to say that in fact I didn't choose to become a lending lawyer, lending, I think chose me. Many many years ago when I started practice, I wanted to be an insolvency lawyer but at the time the market was too strong there wasn't a lot of insolvency and I was practicing in a group that was a hybrid insolvency lending group and I started doing lending and I started doing more lending. It's certainly been a field that I found exciting and that is dynamic a fast-paced field and I'm thrilled to have carried forward that in my career.
James: As a firm we act for a lot of financial institutions, what is it that we do to help them?
Chris: What we do is we bring them a lot of certainty. What we say to them is you know you have a deal that you want to do with your client, you want to make sure that you provide value to your client, you want to make sure that your client gets value from you but at the same time you want to know that if in the unfortunate circumstance something goes wrong that the paper that you have behind that deal is going to keep you high and dry so to speak when the tides turn, so that's what we bring but on top of that I think what we bring at Gowling's, which is perhaps a little bit different, is we bring a wealth of experience across many many facets of lending and many many facets of industry sectors across our firm. As well as an international aspect and so we're able to take all of those pieces and bring them together so that the advice that we provide may be a little bit more complete or a little bit more balanced.
James: What would you say has changed in the practice since you started?
Chris: The standard I think for lawyers has moved a lot higher. We are expected to deliver value in terms of accuracy and consistency and speed of service and a lot of that is driven by technology. You know as as we can see in this pandemic even, it's far easier to meet meetings in a way had dropped off because people were delivering documents by email so quickly and now in this pandemic with technologies like the technology that you and I are using right now we're actually back to meeting at least virtually face to face with our clients quite often and I think what you see therefore is there's been an approach towards speed, an approach towards real exacting perfection in documents over the past 20 years or so an approach that moved us perhaps away from face to face with our clients and I'm I'm wondering, I don't know for sure, if technologies like this now start to move us back to more to a more interactive role with our banking clients.
James: Chris you were also the leader of the artificial intelligence or AI subgroup. what role do you see AI having in the lending practice?
Chris: I think we will see AI develop in a way that provides advantages to lenders who use it so they may be able to better seek out targets for value, they may be able to better project how a company is going to do over time. This will allow them to offer competitive borrowers better rates, better longevity in terms of their relationship with the bank and overall enhance the return to the bank as well as to the borrower.
James: Chris you take on new clients from time to time, when you do, what is the one thing you wish that they asked you at the outset?
Chris: One of the things that our clients come to us for is our preeminent position in the lending space in the Toronto market, in the canadian market, and in the global market it would be helpful for our clients, if they thought of us on a holistic basis because we can bring to them a number of experiences and a number of pools of knowledge and a number of suggestions and even client contacts for them in areas where our lending clients don't necessarily think of us. We could take what we have here and give them perhaps a greater experience.
James: Thank you very much Chris, thank you for your time and your insights today.
Chris: You're welcome nice to talk to you again James
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