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 David Pickwoad, SVP and General Counsel, Hudson’s Bay Company.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I certainly did not set out to become a lawyer. I worked in the steel industry for several years after getting my history degree from McGill University. I then considered pursuing my MBA, but decided instead to pursue the academic challenge of law.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced during your career?
Truth be known, the last few months in my current role have been both the most challenging and interesting in my career. At the same time as preparing for an IPO, we dealt with an issue related to allegations that arose in respect of certain employees. The challenge was to manage both the technical legal questions and obligations as well as dealing with the non-legal issues within a team environment. The challenge really highlighted for me that being an in-house counsel is not just about technical knowledge of the law, but also encompasses many different areas as well, which is something I find most enjoyable about in-house practice.
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
Without question, the billable hour. The emphasis given to time billed, as opposed to quality and efficiency as a way to value work, is both flawed and troubling to me. As in-house counsel, our work is valued on its quality and service more than anything else. In and of itself, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. It would be nice to work with firms that think differently about ways to bill, for example fixed fees or assessing different work differently. The desire of law firms to continually return to the billable hour I find frustrating; I feel there is a need for law firms to be more proactive in this regard.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
As someone who has been in business, finance, and law, I believe the practice of law is a good foundation for many different opportunities down the road. My advice would be to find the area of law that most interests you, get in with the best firm in that area that you can, and work your tail off to gain experience.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
Realistically, with 3 kids under the age of four, I have very little opportunity to read many books for pleasure (other than children’s books!) The same goes unfortunately for movies as well. My wife and I did, however, recently watch THE GREY starring Liam Neeson. We thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was marketed as an action film but definitely did not have a Hollywood ending. I found it to be a very interesting depiction of men trying to survive in the wild, and Liam Neeson was phenomenal in the role.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
My favorite restaurant in the world is The Fat Duck, located just outside of London, UK. A good friend of mine is the head chef there and it is one of the original molecular gastronomy restaurants. In Toronto, our favorite restaurant right now is The Grove [1214 Dundas Street W.] which is a modern take on English cuisine.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
I have been very fortunate when I was younger to have travelled quite a bit. If my wife and I had more time between work and our children, we would love to go back to Northern England and Scotland, rent a car and just drive. That is a truly beautiful part of the world.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
I would probably be a teacher; I thought seriously about being a teacher when I was younger. Someone once said to me that there are a lot of ways to teach than being a professional teacher, which I firmly believe.
David Pickwoad was appointed as Vice-President, Legal Services of the Hudson’s Bay Company in February 2011 and became Senior Vice-President and General Counsel in April 2012.
Prior to joining the Company, Mr. Pickwoad worked at Stikeman Elliott LLP and at Deloitte & Touche Corporate Finance.
Mr. Pickwoad is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and has a Bachelor of Arts degree and Bachelor of Civil Law degree from McGill University.