ZSA is proud to feature the 8 Questions Series interviewing prominent lawyers in Canada, aimed at discussing interesting perspectives and the challenges that face those in the legal profession. These articles, entitled “8 Questions With…” will be published on our website www.zsa.ca and in the ZSA Daily Digest, a daily compilation of legal news circulated by email to more than 1,500 legal professionals across Canada.
Emily Lee, Partner, ZSA Legal Recruitment, interviews Dan Dagan, Associate General Counsel – Energy Sector, Siemens Canada Limited.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
Pursuing law was a tough decision. I came close to pursuing a career in academia after completing my degree in ancient classical history. Instead, with a bit of idealism, I decided to try out law school and thought I wanted to be a litigator initially. After articling, I realized I most enjoyed business law which eventually drew me into in-house practice; I love the dynamism of in-house corporate practice.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced during your career?
There have been a lot of interesting challenges. One of the biggest is shaping the in-house role (being part of a business team and not simply back-office). As someone once said to me, you need to be part of the game and not just the person who catches the ball. Given businesses constantly change, you can’t rest on your laurels; you need to keep proving your value internally to your business partners. I think it is a common battle that all in-house lawyers face – but it’s a good challenge in my view.
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
The legal model is based on billable hours and I don’t think that will change or even could change. What I do believe can change are the behaviours that can be driven by the billable hour. Maximizing hours can create a disincentive to finding the simplest solution to the problem and it can drive “over-lawyering”. I believe that there needs to be more reward, more recognition and more self-regulating to create customer satisfaction. Lawyers need to find creative solutions that are valuable to their clients. In the long run that will get more work from clients, and more valuable hours.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
There are lots of ways to practice law and my advice would be to find an area that you love, build your knowledge, and show creativity. In my opinion, you really have to love what you do; as they say, if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. If you love it you will put in the time and the effort to do it well. As far as knowledge goes, understanding your business and its goals, risks and other issues (in addition to legal knowledge) is a big part of being successful. Creativity is also key; you must be able to work through problems and come at them from different perspectives. I think if you have these three things (love, knowledge and creativity) you will be successful in your legal career.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
A great book I read recently was “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan. The book follows the lives of several people, all connected in some way through music, at different times and challenges in their lives. It’s both sad and uplifting. It won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
My wife and I love Amore Trattoria [2425 Yonge Street]. The food and service are excellent and after dinner we love to stroll along Yonge Street and browse the shops and bookstores.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
Where I most love to travel is Italy. I have been there a few times and honestly if you offered me a plane ticket tomorrow, I’d be there. I love the history, the art, the food, the beauty of the country, the language, the culture… it’s a beautiful place.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
I love what I do, so I don’t have a “daydream career”; however, I suppose if I weren’t a lawyer, I would have probably gone into marketing and advertising or doing something similar that would combine my love of music, photography, words and selling ideas in a creative way.
Dan Dagan has been Associate General Counsel – Energy Sector at Siemens Canada Limited since January 2010. Prior to joining Siemens, Dan was a lawyer with Ontario Power Generation. Between those two jobs, he’s worked on many of the largest energy deals in Canada including power plant development, nuclear refurbishment and new build, transmission, wind and solar projects.
Dan articled and spent his first few years of practice at Tory’s. Dan has his LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School where he was the silver medallist. In 2009, he was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Lawyers under 40.