New OTLA President Brings A Diverse Outlook

Lerners LLP


Lerners LLP is one of Southwestern Ontario’s largest law firms with offices in London, Toronto, Waterloo Region, and Strathroy. Ours is a history of over 90 years of successful client service and representation. Today we are more than 140 exceptionally skilled lawyers with abundant experience in litigation and dispute resolution(including class actions, appeals, and arbitration/mediation,) corporate/commercial law, health law, insurance law, real estate, employment law, personal injury and family law.
A lawyer and Partner with the Personal Injury group at Lerners' Toronto and Waterloo Region offices, Sandev Purewal, Certified as a Specialist in Civil Litigation...
Canada Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on

A lawyer and Partner with the Personal Injury group at Lerners' Toronto and Waterloo Region offices, Sandev Purewal, Certified as a Specialist in Civil Litigation by the Law Society of Ontario, can list many other accomplishments and interests: former football (soccer) player, captain, and coach; first-degree black belt in Taekwondo; and long-time motorcycle rider.

This month, Purewal also took the title of President of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) as he assumed the role for the 2024/25 term. His appointment marks the third time a Lerners lawyer was chosen as president since OTLA was founded in 1991, something no other law firm has achieved.

OTLA, Ontario's only plaintiff trial lawyers association, is dedicated to justice and fairness for those harmed by the wrongdoing of others.

Purewal's first exposure to OTLA was as an Osgoode Hall Law School student. He attended two OTLA conferences before starting his articles at Thomson Rogers in 1999. "I felt a real sense of camaraderie and purpose in my involvement with OTLA," he recalls.

Over the years, he continued his OTLA involvement, presenting at several conferences and events and joining the board of directors in 2015. "It gave me a better appreciation of the massive workload and diversity of issues that OTLA leadership must deal with and navigate," says Purewal.

What prompted Purewal to become a lawyer?

"My paternal grandfather went to England in the '50s and worked tough jobs, including in the steel foundries, but he always emphasized education for his kids," explains Purewal. "Dad had a skilled trade, and my brother and I were the first generation able to go to university without worrying about immediately finding work. As a way to support the underdog, the law was appealing to me.

"I was always interested in litigation, tort law, product liability, insurance law, and human rights. So, when I had my articling interviews in the summer of 1998, they were with a mix of plaintiff civil litigation firms, union-side labour firms, and human rights organizations."

At the end of his term as president-elect of OTLA, Purewal took his place as president for a one-year term on May 10, 2024. What does he plan to accomplish for the nearly 1,400 members of the organization over his tenure?

"That's a work in progress," he replies. "We've had many excellent leaders coming in and a lot of phenomenal board members over the years. Often, it's hard on boards to get involved and take on responsibility. I want our younger directors more engaged because there's a lot of talent there. We will continue to provide our members with first-class continuing legal education and expand our outreach and services.

"Another thing we are working on is developing a comprehensive mentorship program to help junior and intermediate lawyers. I also want to expand our media outreach beyond our solid work in the area of government relations. We have also recently established an OTLA Diversity & Inclusion Caucus. It is hard work — but it is meaningful work."

As to the significance of being OTLA's first racialized president, he is "mindful of it" and "understands it" but is "not fixated on it."

"I'm a Canadian. I'm British by birth. I'm a Sikh of Indian/Punjabi heritage. I'm a dad. I'm a husband (happily married for over 25 years). I'm a football fan. Identity is complex. I've faced all sorts of brutal, overt and covert racism in my life and in my legal career. I'm proud of who I am, and I'm mindful that I've broken a glass ceiling for racialized lawyers. Before 2015, OTLA only had two female presidents. Maia Bent of Lerners London was the third in 2015.

"I think that our profession in the world of personal injury and insurance law is still not very diverse. In terms of leadership, partners, and owners of leading law firms, it's still quite homogeneous. Hopefully, we will see a rise in leadership opportunities for talented people from diverse backgrounds."

Purewal joined Lerners in 2022 and currently focuses on tort and insurance litigation, product liability, privacy law and education law. He has appeared as counsel before the Superior Court of Justice, Ontario Court of Appeal, Financial Services Commission of Ontario, License Appeal Tribunal, and the Tax Court of Canada. He won the Lexpert Zenith Award for Mid-Career Excellence in the Legal Profession in 2018 for excelling in a professional role and in social responsibility.

Sandev is also a mentor with both the South Asian Bar Association (SABA Toronto) and the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL Ontario) Mentorship Programs since 2021. Purewal won the FACL Lawyer of Distinction Award in 2022.

He is actively involved in other OTLA community initiatives in the Peel Region and, since 2007, has led the "Helmets on Kids" project, which provides free bicycle helmets and road safety education to children in need. To date, the program has distributed over 8,500 free helmets.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More