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 Steve Cimicata, General Counsel, Volaris Group.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to become a lawyer, but I think I’ve always known that’s what I would do. If I trace the root of it, I always had an interest in politics, even as a child. When I found out that most politicians are lawyers, that became my goal. I didn’t know any lawyers growing up, nor did I really understand what lawyers did, so it had to be my interest in politics that got me into law in the first place.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced during your career?
For me, the challenge has been reconciling what I thought a lawyer did with what a lawyer actually does. It’s been a shift of my expectations. There are daily challenges of actually having to make decisions based on limited information, as opposed to researching, deliberating, and taking time to find an answer. The reality is that lawyers, especially in-house, often have to make a snap decision based as much on judgment as on law. It’s the difference between being qualified as a lawyer and becoming a practicing lawyer.
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
I enjoy the practice of law as I’ve carved it out in my own career. I don’t think that there is anything I would change. The advantage with law is that you’re not limited; everyone’s practice is different. In my experience, I get to do many different things and I don’t have to be boxed in in any way. Personally, I don’t think it is the practice of law that should change, but your role within it. If I wasn’t happy doing what I do, I wouldn’t do it.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
That’s a great question. Sometimes I wish I would have gotten some good practical advice at the outset of my legal career. My advice is to be open to new challenges and to move outside of your comfort zone as often as you can. There is a tendency, as you get more experience, to pigeon-hole yourself. I think, especially as a young lawyer just starting out, it is best to take on new and interesting challenges and not be afraid to take ownership of your work. You will realize that “you are what you do”. Be unafraid to take your basic set of tools and challenge yourself; take on opportunities you don’t necessarily think you are suitable for and try it. It may turn out to be the best opportunity for your career.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
I just started re-reading “Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams” by Nick Tosches. I love Dean Martin, so I’m kind of biased, but this is one of the best biographies I have ever read (and I read almost nothing but biographies). Nick Tosches is a great writer and you would be hard-pressed to come up with a fictional character half as interesting as the real Dean Martin he captures in his book. I highly recommend it.
Lately I’ve been up late at night a lot (with a newborn, our third child) and so I’ve been re-watching the first season of “The Sopranos” currently re-airing on HBO. It has been long enough now that I almost forgot just how brilliant and funny that show was. Not a movie, I know, but still brilliant.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
That’s easy – Frank’s Pizza [1352 St. Clair Avenue West]. I think it’s the best family restaurant in the city. My family has been going there for years and we love it. It is a small, boisterous, fantastic Italian pizza joint that welcomes kids. Despite the novelty of the Neapolitan ovens on every corner now, I don’t think you will find a better pizza anywhere in Toronto.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
Since having children, the place we get to most often is Anna Maria Island in Florida, which is my idea of paradise for young families. It is quiet, with long white sandy beaches, guaranteed sunshine and a quaint little sand bar to have a drink on the beach.
As soon as the kids are old enough, I desperately want to get back to Italy. In particular, I would love to take my older kids to Venice. You have to do Venice just the right way though – go in the off-season (the Fall) and stay in an actual neighborhood outside the craziness – then it actually is a magical place.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
I think I would want to be involved in politics in some way, although not necessarily as a politician anymore. I would like to be involved in influencing public policy.
Steve Cimicata is General Counsel at Volaris Group. Volaris acquires, strengthens and grows vertical market technology companies enabling them to be clear leaders within their focused industry. Prior to joining Volaris, Steve was Senior Counsel at Symcor Inc., one of North America’s largest business process outsourcing companies where he negotiated large outsourcing transactions, managed the company’s own outsourcing initiatives, and completed strategic technology acquisition agreements. Before Symcor, Steve was a Corporate Counsel at Alias Systems Corp. (now Autodesk, Inc.) and a TSX listed software company, Northcore Technologies Inc. Steve received his law degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1997, was called to the Ontario Bar in 1999 and is a frequent presenter at legal conferences on IT-related topics.