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 Anthony Cugliari, Vice President, Legal Affairs & General Counsel, Parmalat Canada.
1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
It’s funny really; I was a talkative child and did well academically, so my mother suggested that I be a lawyer and it always stuck in the back of my mind. As a young buck, I was very interested in politics and thought that maybe I would go that way career-wise. I knew that many politicians were lawyers, so that is what initially attracted me to the possibility of pursuing a legal degree. After finishing my undergraduate degree in Canadian History and Political Science, I wanted to have something practical to fall back on so I decided to pursue law school. I did well and enjoyed it so I made it my career.
2. What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced during your career?
In 2004, after I left Osler and upon establishing myself at Parmalat, I was asked to participate in a major settlement of a serious litigation matter in the U.S. with our former American affiliate. I was asked to represent the Canadian interest at that settlement conference, which was a big honour but also a big responsibility. It was very challenging for me especially because at the time I didn’t have experience with litigation management. I took the opportunity to learn from the Parmalat senior executives and external counsel and I learned how to settle a very emotional and significant dispute.
Shortly after that, in the Fall of 2005, I was given a management role and had to manage 3 individuals who were more senior in experience than me. It was a very unique challenge. I had managed people before, but always those who were equal and younger than me in experience. It provided a very interesting dynamic and certainly a challenge.
3. If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
Well I wish I had something more novel to add, but I believe that the practice of law should in some circumstances move away from the billable hour and toward flat fees. I have successfully negotiated flat fee billing for Parmalat transactions involving external counsel, with nuances built in for possible eventualities. It is more of a challenge for litigation work, which I view more from a project management perspective and ask firms to create estimates for different stages of a file. We then meet regularly to track progress and the cost, which we can take into consideration when looking at settlement. You wouldn’t ask someone to build a house for you on an hourly rate – you would ask for a quote and build in a process where change orders are required. I believe the same can work well in the practice of law.
4. What advice would you give to someone starting his/her career in law?
My advice is you must pursue your passion. I recently re-read a great book called “Double Your Income Doing What You Love” by Raymond Aaron and Sue Lacher. I read it first in 2010 and I recently re-read it because it is such an amazing book. The author discusses how you must pursue your passion, which will sustain you and allow you to be very successful.
5. What was the last good book you read/movie you saw?
Again, “Double Your Income Doing What You Love” by Raymond Aaron and Sue Lacher is a phenomenal book. It is a quick and easy read but excellent in the way the authors present their ideas. For example, they discuss procrastination and help the reader understand why we procrastinate and how we can get back to doing what we love doing. I strongly recommend reading this book.
6. What is your favorite restaurant?
That depends on whether we’re going with kids or without! With kids, we love Jack Astor’s. If it’s just my wife and I, we love Adega Restaurante (33 Elm Street). It’s a great little Portuguese/Spanish restaurant with excellent food.
7. Where would you most like to travel?
I haven’t done enough travelling, unfortunately. I would love to take the kids to Europe because they haven’t been yet – Spain would be great as a start.
8. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
I would probably be begging my dad to start our own business in the custom-built home industry. My father was in that business in the 1980’s and he used to take me along to help out. Looking back, it was a great learning experience and now as an adult, it is something I would love to do with him.
Tony joined Parmalat Canada as in-house counsel in March of 2004, when he was initially brought on board to assist with a major refinancing transaction. Since then, he has been progressively promoted to positions of increased accountability and is currently the Company’s Vice President, Legal Affairs and General Counsel. Prior to joining Parmalat Canada, Tony worked at Osler Hoskin & Harcourt in the business law department.
Tony manages the lion’s share of the Company’s legal affairs, e.g. day-to-day corporate/commercial matters, business transactions, intellectual property, litigation and corporate governance matters. He and his team also regularly provide support to the Government and Regulatory Affairs function as well as the R&D department. Tony is also ultimately responsible for Environmental Affairs at the Company.