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 Stephen Spracklin, then General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Canada.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
Public speaking and debating were always things I enjoyed as a kid (I was on the high school debate team). My aunt and uncle were both lawyers (my aunt eventually became a judge) and their work as lawyers factored heavily in my decision to pursue law.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced during your career?
Many of the challenges I have faced in my professional career have arisen from clients’ honest but mistaken belief that the end justifies the means. As a lawyer, I’ve realized that the path is actually more important than the goal. Clients who discount legal advice or make uninformed decisions can also be very challenging. Sometimes I feel as though I’m perceived as Chicken Little “ running around saying “the sky is falling!”
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
I would change the way we value our contributions as lawyers. Lawyers hold a trusted advisor role and I think our clients need to see us as proactive and valuable in risk avoidance and risk mitigation. The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure holds true for the practice of law. As a result, I think valuing our services on an hourly basis devalues our role. Interestingly, it is in-house counsel in particular who are currently trying to change the model with alternative fee structures.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
I have two pieces of advice. First, it is extremely helpful to find a mentor early on in your career; someone who will mentor you not just on legal practice, but also on business and life skills. You need someone who will help coach you on how to motivate and manage people, how to have difficult conversations with clients, how to be professional, and how to gets results without winning or losing. I was very fortunate to have had a mentor like that. Secondly, my advice is to get to know your clients, and know them well. As their lawyer, you have to know how they define success in order to better assist them with their goals.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
I just read a wonderful book called “A World by Itself: A History of the British Isles” edited by Jonathan Clark. It is a wonderful historical account and I really enjoyed it as it gave me great insight into the building of British civilization.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
SOTTO SOTTO [116 Avenue Road] is one of my favorite restaurants. The atmosphere is incredible and the servers are fantastic they can always be trusted to recommend something delicious. My wife and I enjoy going there whenever we can.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
I would really like to take a trip to the rainforest in the Amazon: the biodiversity and wildlife would be spectacular.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
I would be a doctor. When I was younger, I played competitive soccer and injured my ankle (which essentially ended my soccer career). There was an excellent team doctor who worked on me and I admired how much he loved his job. I was struck by his passion for helping people.
Most recently, Stephen Spracklin served as General Counsel & Corporate Secretary of Konica Minolta Business Solutions (Canada) Ltd. In addition to responsibility for the Legal Department at Konica Minolta, Stephen was a member of the Executive Leadership Team, as well as a member of the Risk Management, Disciplinary, Internal Audit and Compliance Committees.
Prior to joining Konica Minolta, Stephen was the General Counsel for Samsung Electronics, the Deputy General Counsel for Hewlett-Packard, in addition to holding senior level legal positions with Electronic Data Systems and Nortel Networks.
Stephen is a regular contributor at Osgoode Hall CLE seminars in the areas of Information Technology and Intellectual Property and has contributed to IBC’s European In-House Counsel Conference in the Risk Management and Compliance areas.
He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of Newfoundland. Stephen holds a B.Comm. (Hons.) from Memorial University of Newfoundland, an LLB from Dalhousie Law School and an MBA from Memorial University of Newfoundland.