NEWSLETTER – January 2019
Editors – Allen Mendelsohn & Larry Markowitz
Dear Honourable Judges, Colleagues, and Friends of The Society,
Happy New Year!
May 2019 bring you success and good health.
Our next event will take place on January 31st, and will be held in memory of the late Michael Stober, j.c.s. For this event, our Annual Student dinner, we are pleased to welcome The Honourable Suzanne Côté of the Supreme Court of Canada, with a talk geared specially to the interests of our audience of young lawyers, stagiaires and students – “Building your practice as a young litigator”. I am certain that all of us in attendance, the young and the merely young at heart, will find some words of wisdom to take away from this presentation!
This evening, as is our tradition, we will host stagiaires and bar students, and present The Lord Reading Law Society’s academic prizes to deserving law students. The award winners, as well as representatives from each of the law faculties, will be present at the dinner lecture and we look forward to welcoming them. The Justice Minister of Quebec, Sonia LeBel, will also address the audience and present the third annual Justice Minister’s Lord Reading Law Society prizes to a deserving lawyer and law student.
We expect to obtain one hour of CLE accreditation from the Barreau du Québec shortly. In addition, this dinner-event is eligible for continuing education credit pursuant to the rules of the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
An early registration discount will be available for Society members who register by Friday, January 25th. You can register online here.
This has been an exciting and memorable year in the Society’s history, but it is far from over, as we have two more exceptional dinner events still ahead of us. Please mark your calendars for the Henry Steinberg lecture on March 13th, 2019 when we will host the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, and the Alan B. Gold advocacy lecture, on May 2nd, 2019, when his son, Senator Marc Gold, will be our guest speaker.
I hope you will join us and look forward to welcoming you all very soon!
Inna Nekhim, President
A Lawyer’s View from the Sky
On December 6, 2018, the worlds of business and law intersected at the dais of the Lord Reading Law Society. Our guest speaker was Maître Arielle Meloul-Wechsler, Air Canada‘s Senior Vice-President, People, Culture & Communications, who is responsible for overall leadership for human resources, labour relations, communications, and culture change initiatives at Canada’s flag carrier.
Introduced by her good friend, Judge Suzanne Costom of the Cour du Québec, as a “role model, mother, wife and friend” and an “accomplished professional”, Maître Meloul-Wechsler provided us with insights as to how she balances work life and family life, while describing how the recent evolution of Air Canada has mirrored the trajectory of her career.
After several years in private practice at the firm now known as Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, she moved to Air Canada, serving some 14 years as in-house counsel, where her days were occupied by corporate financings, reorganizations, and mergers and acquisitions.
Those years coincided with some of the most turbulent events in the airline’s history (pun intended!): Air Canada had to navigate through labour difficulties, deregulation, mergers, a global aviation market downturn, increased competition, bankruptcy protection and restructuring, among other challenges.
On April 1, 2009, former Stikeman Elliott Managing Partner Calin Rovinescu was named President and CEO of Air Canada. Over the next two years, he stabilized the airline. Indeed, the company has been profitable since 2012.
In 2011, Maître Rovinescu asked our guest speaker if she’d like to join the human resources department. He was afraid she’d be bored now that the “turbulence” had been mostly alleviated. She accepted the challenge.
The next task for the airline was to change the workforce culture of the then-nearly-75-year-old company, which had been a crown corporation until 1988. Maître Meloul-Wechsler has played an integral role in what has proved to be a successful transformation. The airline now likes to think of itself as a nimble 81-year-old start-up!
Punctuating her talk with humourous anecdotes, our guest speaker told us about her first day as an executive in human resources and employee relations. Air Canada’s check-in staff was on strike at the time, so this experienced legal counsel had to check in passengers for flights out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport. Her first customers were a family of four who were being deported! (It probably wasn’t so humourous for that family ….).
She also had to endure jokes such as:
- Passenger checking in at airport: “I’d like you to fly my bags to Las Vegas and fly me to Miami.”
- Agent: “Sir, we can’t send your bag to a different city than you!”
- Passenger: “Why not? You did it last week!”
Since assuming her role as Senior Vice-President, People, Culture & Communications, Maître Meloul-Wechsler has overseen a major shift in culture among the workforce at Air Canada. It has been a long and gradual process, involving the building of trust between employer and employees. Maître Meloul-Wechsler’s undergraduate degree in Psychology has probably been as helpful in this transition as her Law degree – if not more helpful!
In turning around the corporate culture, emphasis was placed on opening lines of communication with employees. Rumours were dispelled and in-person chat groups with management were organized. Employees were made to feel part of a team. Eventually, a sense of pride began to take hold.
Fast forward to 2018: There hasn’t been a work stoppage in years. Air Canada has also created a low cost subsidiary, Air Canada Rouge. This has led to a larger workforce and to the airline serving many destinations to which it had not previously flown.
Morale is much better: 85% of employees expect to stay with the airline for at least the medium term. This devotion has translated into better customer service, evidenced by improved customer satisfaction ratings.
Sponsors for the December 6th Lord Reading dinner included Kugler Kandestin LLP and Air Canada. Referring to the latter’s support, Society President Inna Nekhim joked that, in exchange for Air Canada’s sponsorship, our members had promised not to file any complaints against the airline for the rest of 2018!
So far as we know, we held to that promise – likely because of the improved level of service stemming from improved employee morale, due in no small part to the efforts of our guest speaker!
A full set of photos from the evening can be found on our Facebook page
Save the dates!
Don’t forget these amazing events planned for the rest of the season, so save these dates!
March 13, 2019 – The Henry Steinberg Memorial Lecture featuring the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney, 18th Prime Minister of Canada
May 2, 2019 – The Alan B. Gold Advocacy Lecture featuring Senator Marc Gold
Registration for these events will open in the weeks leading up to those dates, keep an eye on your email for more information.
Welcome to the From the Archives Quiz!
Here at Lord Reading Communications, we have been digging through our archives lately and have discovered a treasure trove of photos and documents – lasting over 70 years! So we thought we should introduce a new feature in the newsletter – it’s the From the Archives Quiz!
It’s pretty simple. Feast your eyes on the photo below and answer the questions below it. Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org and the first one to email us all the correct answers will be recognized in this space in the next newsletter. People in the photo are disqualified from the quiz. Good luck!
- Who are the people in this photo?
- On what occasion was this photo taken?
- What is that portrait being held?
(answers next time!)
Events of Interest
The Society is always pleased to point its members to events of interest around the community, especially CLE events.
- Concordia University’s Jurist-in-residence Maître Morton S. Minc would like to extend an invitation to you for January 29, 2019 at 5:30 PM for a conference at Concordia with The Honourable Justice Nicholas Kasirer of the Quebec Court of Appeal. Justice Kasirer will be speaking on the topic: New Family Realities and an Aging Family Law: Can Quebec Law Keep Up? . You can find details of the event and registration at the Eventbrite page. Book as as soon as possible, as seating is limited.
News from the Mispacha
- To Society Lifetime Member The Honourable Morris Fish on being appointed by the federal Minister of Justice as Special Advisor on Wrongful Convictions
- To Society Treasurer Jonathan Gordon on the loss of his father Morris