Original article posted on Law.com written by Gail J. Cohen
Ken Freeden wants to leverage his knowledge and relationships to provide more opportunities for disabled lawyers and create a more inclusive bar.
Former Deloitte Canada general counsel Ken Fredeen has taken an unusual next step in his career, joining one of Canada’s largest legal recruiting agencies to head up its in-house program.
Fredeen spent almost 21 years at professional services firm Deloitte, during which time he emerged as a leader in the in-house bar winning numerous awards both within the legal profession and in the community for his work with people with disabilities and commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion in the profession.
Fredeen stepped down from his GC and secretary of the board role at Deloitte a year before his mandatory retirement from the partnership at 62 to dedicate his last year to indigenous and accessibility issues.
“When I retired from the firm I asked for my final year to do something purposeful and impactful. So I led the reconciliation strategy for Deloitte and the accessibility strategy for Deloitte,” he told Law.com International.
His dedication to the profession and desire to make a difference led to ZSA Legal Recruitment approaching him to join them in the newly created role of managing partner for in-house recruiting.
“It is very unusual to have a person of Ken’s reputation and experience consider furthering his career in this way,” said Dan Malamet, director of programming and events at ZSA.
He said Fredeen’s appointment “signaled the importance” the recruiter is putting on developing and supporting in-house teams in Canada and helping to create a more inclusive bar.
“It also provides Ken with a platform to continue his work in supporting a more inclusive legal profession for people with disabilities,” said Malamet.
Fredeen said the ZSA role is the “perfect fit” for him at this point in his career as it will allow him to do three things: Continue working with general counsel to “create a better in-house profession”; bring his skills around talent development and recruitment to the table; and thirdly to use all of his “leadership [and] relationships to build a more inclusive legal profession for legal professionals with disabilities.”
Fredeen, who chaired a 2012 panel for the government of Canada that studied employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the private sector, said he’s always believed in creating diverse teams. That means looking “more broadly in terms of identifying top talent,” he said, noting there are lawyers with disabilities who “are not included in the legal profession to the extent that they should be.”
The silver lining of COVID has led to increased use of technology in the profession which Fredeen said will let him leverage his knowledge and skills to fill “some wonderful opportunities to find talent in the disability space that hasn’t been identified before.”
Overall, Malamet said the recruiting space is very active for both in-house and law firm positions. But due to COVID, they are seeing an increase in the number of firm lawyers looking to move in house, he said. The challenges remain with the usual questions, from compensation to allowing for hybrid [work arrangements] to geography and of course call to the bar.”
It’s still early days for the ZSA in-house platform but Fredeen says he has lots of ideas in the areas of thought leadership that he thinks can help general counsel build skills for the “modern age” and fill gaps he sees in the programming available from established groups like the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel.
“For instance, the role that ethics plays in the mandate of General Counsel and how we can maybe look at other areas [such as] how can we develop general counsel within the medical sector, health sector, or educational sector in ways that hasn’t been done before,” he said.
ZSA has for years supported the Canadian in-house bar with programs like the Quorum Club, Canada’s only private gathering for general counsel across the country regardless of industry or company size, and the Canadian General Counsel Awards, so Fredeen’s experience and skills “will be hugely valuable” as it continues to grow its presence in the legal community, Malamet said.