Sean Lal is always up for a good challenge. He’s a competitive force who inherited his mother’s warmth and courage.
Sean Lal is always up for a good challenge. He’s a competitive force who inherited his mother’s warmth and courage. He witnessed her strength and resilience when cancer became an unwelcome new member of his family. Sean put his investment banking career on pause to be by her side. His mom made sure that the cancer didn't prevent her from doing things she loved. She always taught Sean to focus on how to live, not how to die. An avid basketball player who celebrates his roots from Guyana and Fiji, Sean is the first person in his big family to go to university and practise law.
Where did you earn your law degree?
University at Buffalo
Why law? What inspired your legal aspirations?
In high school I had a very interesting teacher who taught grade 11 law. His method of teaching made the law fun and appealing. It really was the first time I considered law as a career. He made law practical and gave real life examples by using his own personal experiences. It wasn’t always about the black letter of law, rather he showed me unique ways how everything the law can be interpreted and argued. Ironically my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was in the same class. Knowing this, he would pit us against each other, especially during oral arguments. I believe this is what made me really competitive. Knowing that we both so competitive, he gave us both the same final grade, 99 percent. Then I went to business school (Ivey School of Business, Western University) and had aspirations of going into investment banking. Unfortunately, during my last semester of business school my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and I decided to take a year off of school to be with her. She recovered, but because I had a year gap in my resume it was very difficult to get into the super competitive investment banking industry. So I decided to go to law school. It was the perfect fit because 1) I was already interested in law and 2) the skills I learned at business school (case based learning in particular) was easily transferrable to law school. After I graduated law school and passed the NY bar, my family was again devastated to learn that my mom’s cancer had returned. This was especially difficult because she was almost at the 5 year cancer free mark. I decided to take another year off from school to be with her and it was the best decision I have ever made. We lost my mom 11 months later. As you can imagine, when I was ready to begin my career in law it was difficult to get an articling position due to the gaps in my resume. The LPP helped me transition back into law and ultimately into my career as a lawyer.
How did your mom’s health challenges impact you?
My mom’s cancer was the most difficult thing I ever dealt with. It was emotionally and physically difficult. I spent a lot of time with her and I took her to her appointments. I remember my mom and grandmother being at my at law school graduation. This had a big impact on me. We drove from Brampton to Albany, New York. It was a really big moment for me because my mom watched me get my law degree. It meant a lot because despite all her health challenges she was determined to be there. Her motivation, determination and sheer will-power made me want to be a strong successful lawyer because of that special moment. I’ll never forget it.
What kind of law do you currently practise?
Corporate law, specifically construction. I had two interviews – one with an investment banking firm and the other with Aecon and I ended up going with Aecon. I love my job and the team I work with. I was offered a job after my 4-month placement and I started working on minor projects surrounding construction law. I was quickly given the opportunity to be a dedicated Project Lawyer for one Aecon’s major LRT projects in Ontario. It was a great way to learn the industry and work through complex construction contracts.
What is a typical day at work/office like for you?
Every day is different. Each lawyer in our group supports a specific business unit of Aecon as well as manage bids for major projects. My day typically begins with prioritizing tasks and tackling them in order of priority.
What is the best part of your career?
Every day is different and there is always something interesting and new that I get to work on.
What is your least favourite part of the job?
When I get a request to review a document/contract with very little time (i.e. turnaround time is less than a day), but those are few and far between.
What legal case had a strong impact on you and why?
Snow v. The Eaton Centre Ltd. – very interesting case that discussed intellectual property law (specifically moral rights). I found it very interesting that something as simple as putting a ribbon around Canadian Geese figures in a mall could cause an intellectual property nightmare and it has stuck with me.
Where did you complete your LPP work placement?
Aecon (where I’m currently still working). Aecon is Canada’s largest publicly traded infrastructure/development company.
Describe a significant experience during the training component of the LPP?
I remember doing the “snapper day” session which was one day where we received a new task/assignment from a “senior partner” every 2 hours or so. It was a stressful day, but really exposed me to the demands of a career in law and taught me how to prioritize and manage my time effectively while doing real, practical work.
Describe a memorable experience during the work placement component of the LPP?
I was assigned a small claims court matter where I had to appear in court. I was really nervous as this was my first court appearance and I wanted to win the case for the company. I was up against an individual, who was actually a lawyer himself, which made the whole situation even more nerve racking. When I got to the courthouse I met the opposing lawyer and we chatted about the case. After telling him a bit about myself (that I was young law student and how I wanted to make a good impression) and my take on the case and our settlement proposal he was receptive and agreed to settle.
Describe some of the helpful tools or skills you acquired during the LPP.
The LPP taught me to be more comfortable with public speaking. There were several sessions that involved us standing up in front of a group and speaking, from little things such as speaking about an interesting article in the news, to more complex things like presenting oral arguments in front of a judge. I found these sessions to be very helpful in my practice today.
Words of advice can you offer future LPP candidates
Treat it like you would a job. The more you put into it the more you will get out of it. It is a safe environment that helps tremendously with the transition from law school to work.