Toronto (June 19, 2019) — Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) is proud to share that five of our lawyers have been recognized at this year's Lexpert® Zenith Awards Celebrating Change Agents in Law. Michelle Henry, Robert Love, Erin Durant, Breanna Needham and Devin Persaud were all honoured at the gala that took place in Toronto.
The firm's 2019 Zenith winners are shining examples of our shared commitment to innovation, advocacy, pro bono work, mentorship and giving back.
Michelle Henry's efforts to improve diversity and pro bono practices are inherent to her career. She has vast experience in representing clients in human rights litigation before the federal and provincial tribunals, both in respect of allegations relating to discrimination in employment and provision of services. Michelle is invested in our firm's efforts towards recruiting students from racialized communities as well as to retain their talents in the firm. She co-founded the Black Business Law Clinic, which provides free legal advice to black businesses through a network of volunteer lawyers. Michelle was also chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the Ontario Bar Association. She is currently the Toronto Regional Director for the Ontario Bar Association.
A true innovator and automotive legal expert, Bob Love has been at the forefront of the developing Canadian legal framework surrounding autonomous vehicles. Bob leads a national focus group composed of more than 60 lawyers, a unique and leading group among Canadian law firms, in providing cross-practice legal insights on the impact of autonomous vehicles to AV stakeholders. Sought after for his views on autonomous vehicles by media, industry, and government, under his leadership, BLG continues to lead the pack on autonomous vehicles legal insights through a bilingual monthly publication, The Sensor, featuring trends and legal perspectives across discrete areas of law and industries.
Erin Durant's commitment to pro bono and advocacy work has been outstanding. In the fall of 2018, the Pro Bono Ontario Law Help Centres announced they were closing which would have had a negative impact on access to justice for low income Ontarians. Utilizing social media, Erin created and organized videos of retired Supreme Court Justices McLaughlin, Cromwell and Binnie and Court of Appeal Justices Goudge, Epstein, Weiller and O'Connor and penned a LinkedIn article encouraging donations to save the Help Centres. In total, Erin helped to raise over $275,000 through the #SaveLawHelp campaign. The social media efforts caught the attention of the federal government which has committed $250,000 and ensured the Help Centres remain open throughout 2019.
Breanna Needham is committed to advancing equality, diversity, and inclusion. When the size of the "Lady Barristers" robing room at Osgoode Hall, which houses the Ontario Court of Appeal, arose as an issue again in early 2019, Breanna drafted a petition pointing out the clear differences between the women's and men's robing rooms, as well as the fact that the disparity was not only in space, but also in access, for women in law as well as lawyers who are transgendered or non-binary. The petition garnered 877 signatures in support of implementing an all-gender robing room at Ontario's highest court, drawing the attention of lawyers nationwide and internationally through a successful social media campaign. Less than two weeks after the petition was posted, the Law Society of Ontario announced that the men's robing room would be renovated into an inclusive space for all lawyers. Breanna's actions resulted in a concrete recognition that the profession is increasingly diverse and that institutions need to take real steps to foster that diversity.
Devin Persaud firmly believes as one of the lucky racialized licensees who has found success in the legal profession, it is his duty to "send the elevator back down" and be the voice for those from underprivileged and marginalized communities. As the current vice-president of the South Asian Bar Association (SABA), the largest equity-seeking legal association in Canada, he oversees SABA's Sponsorship, Mentorship, and CPD Committee and was a co-chair of this year's annual SABA gala. This year alone, Devin created and implemented the SABA-Student Liaison Program, was a member of FACL's student committee, participated in the Law Society of Ontario's Licensing Dialogue Study, and acted as the SABA representative on the OBA Council. Devin helped create the SABA Student Scholarship, awarding $3000 to racialized licensees across the province. In addition, Devin dedicates a large portion of his time to the Malvern community in Scarborough as a mentor to students and youth. Devin also has a burgeoning practice in BLG's competition and foreign investment group, where he has worked on ground-breaking antitrust cases and has developed a specialization in marketing, corporate compliance, and cultural and foreign investments.
Orlando Da Silva, Senior Crown Counsel and Serious Fraud Officer at the Ministry of the Attorney General was the keynote speaker at the event.