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 Georgia Sievwright, Vice President Law and Government Affairs, Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I took some time off after high school and was considering going to business school initially. I then met some people who were in law school and felt that it would be a good avenue to pursue. There are no lawyers in my family, but I figured you can always do business with a law degree, but you can’t do law with a business degree. I have never looked back.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced during your career?
There are two, actually. The first was a large piece of litigation that HP was involved with. It was significant enough for the HP Board to hire independent counsel and required both the CEO and CFO to be involved in many of the meetings. It required creative legal and HP business strategy and complex litigation management. We had to manage confidentiality, internal and external communication, government affairs, and corporate governance including SEC filings. There were a number of moving parts. Secondly, HP has been involved in a number of significant corporate acquisitions, two of the larger being Compaq and EDS. These were very complex transactions and as the Canadian team lead I was responsible for managing the deals from beginning to end including merger review and approval, clean room due diligence and finally integrating very divergent corporate cultures.
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
In a word, e-mail. I believe there is too much e-mail. I am actually involved in an internal initiative to educate on e-mail etiquette and communication strategy and come up with agreed upon rules, if you will, to follow. I really believe that face-to-face interaction is best, phone is secondary and e-mail should be used much more carefully. Law has become less and less personal and I think there needs to be a return to a more personal approach. If people were more specific in descriptions the email subject line we would all manage email strings much more efficiently.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
I have lots of advice for someone starting their career in law. It is important to manage your network and keep your CV up-to-date. In in-house practice, it is very important to know your clients and their business and to truly become their trusted advisor. Become as involved in strategy deeply as you can. Building and maintaining internal and external relationships is key to being successful. You must be proactive. You can’t be a “no” person; you need to find productive , workable business solutions, understand the business you’re in and keep abreast of changes.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
I absolutely loved “The King’s Speech”. It was extremely well done. I am in also in a book club. We meet monthly and have been fortunate, on occasion, to have the author join us in our meeting. I recently read a great book called “My Camino” by Sue Kenney. She came to our book club meeting and tells us she is hoping to make the book into a movie. I prefer paper books (as opposed to having an e-reader) and wherever possible I buy them in hardcover. I often keep them, particularly when they are signed by the author. As for paperbacks, I often recycle those to my doctor’s office or a hospital.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
My favorite restaurant is Noce on Queen Street West. It is a place with wonderful food and a wonderful atmosphere, and is appropriate for either a business dinner in the private dining room area or something more personal.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
I love traveling. My family and I try to head to exotic locations every year for March break. We have been on safari in Kenya and we’ve enjoyed places like the Galapagos and Harbour Island. This year we’re headed for Coco Point in Barbuda, an island North of Antigua. My dream trip is to take three weeks to truly explore Italy; we would start in the north and head south, exploring the wonderful food, wine, olive oil, people, countryside, history and art. This trip is definitely on my bucket list.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
If I were not a lawyer, I would be:
- a fashion designer (I have sewed my whole life and I love fashion, fabric and texture. I often dream of designs in my sleep);
- a dog breeder (we have three dogs – in my next life I hope to come back as a dog owned by me!); or
- – a rock star (unfortunately, I’m tone deaf)
Georgia Hastings Sievwright Vice President Law and Government Affairs
HEWLETT-PACKARD (CANADA) CO.
Georgia Sievwright joined HP in 1988 as General Counsel and in 1993 she was appointed Secretary of the Board of Directors. From 1995 to 2002 she took on additional responsibility for managing HP Canada Corporate Relations which included Media Relations, Philanthropy, Employee Communications, and Corporate Brand. She is a member of the Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co. (HP) Pension Committee of the Board of Directors, and a member of the Canadian Leadership Team.
Georgia assumed additional responsibility for the Canadian Government Affairs role in 2003. She is active in engagement and representation for government policies that impact HP’s employees, business, customers and shareowners. In her current legal role, Georgia is responsible for all HP Canada legal affairs and corporate governance.
Ms. Sievwright currently participates on the Board of Directors of the Association of Corporate Counsel, Ontario Chapter. Past Board positions include the IT.CAN Board of Directors, the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Sunnybrook Foundation Boards. She is past Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and has held previous Board positions on the Zoological Society of Metropolitan Toronto, Junior Achievement of Peel, the Bishop Strachan School, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and The Canadian Club of Toronto. Georgia was recognized as one of Canada’s top 25 General Counsel in 2003.
She is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries. Georgia holds a BA in Social Science from York University and an LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School.