Nine more questions between generations

  • March 03, 2022
  • Jennifer O’Dell

1. Tell us a bit about yourself: where did you grow up, what law school did you go to, and how long have you been practicing in health law?

Lonny Rosen (LR): I grew up right here in Toronto and only left home to go to McGill University in Montréal for undergrad. I returned home to go to law school at Osgoode Hall, graduating in 1996. I was called to the bar in 1998 and began practising in health law in 1999.

Joshua Lerner (JL): I grew up in London, Ontario and went to law school at Western Law in London. I’ve been practicing health law since June 2019.

2. How did you end up working in health law?

LR: I started my career at McMillan Binch (as it then was) as a summer and then articling student. At that time, the economy was not great, and jobs were hard to come by, so I felt I would be lucky to be hired in any practice area. By the end of that year, boom times had returned but nobody told me, so although litigation was my first choice, I accepted a position in securities law. I met my wife and some of my closest friends at that firm, so I have no regrets, but after a year of practice in securities law, I was sure that my heart lay in advocacy work. I then started meeting with lawyers who worked in litigation/advocacy and one of the people I met with ran a health law boutique and invited me to join her practice. I quickly found representing and advising health professionals to be a perfect fit and have never looked back.

JL: During my articles, I worked extensively with the firm’s health law group where I was exposed to a broad set of interesting clients – from large hospitals and healthcare institutions to individual regulated healthcare professionals. I found it motivating to be a part of work with such significant consequences, particularly when dealing with important issues such as an individual’s professional livelihood. I was fortunate to connect with Lonny early in my career and when an opportunity arose to join Rosen Sunshine LLP, I jumped at it.

3. Tell me about a lawyer (or anyone in the legal field) who has had the greatest impact on your career, either directly or indirectly through their work and the impression it made on you.

LR: I could not choose just one lawyer who had the greatest impact on my career, because there have been so many. I have had several mentors and many others who have served as examples for me (including lawyers I have worked for, alongside with and even against) and have taken something from all of them. For example, I have tried to emulate the client management skills of one lawyer, the cross-examination prowess of another, the preparation skills and work ethic of another, and the management skills of another, and have noted things other lawyers have done which have undermined their cases, relationships and practice. From these examples, I have created in my mind the ideal advocate/managing partner/mentor/trusted advisor to which to emulate.

JL: My father has certainly served as a role model for how to conduct myself broadly in my career, and in particular as an advocate. I was fortunate to learn early on that, like many service professions, what makes a great lawyer is a commitment not only to your work, but your client.

4. We have to ask: what has been the hardest part of the pandemic on your practice and when, if ever, do you think it’ll change?

LR: I thrive on the social aspects of practice and have really missed in-person attendances, meetings, and events. If we had done this interview a few weeks earlier, I would have said we were on the cusp of a return to normalcy, but that seems unlikely now. I’m confident that the in-person events and appearances will return but sadly, not for a while. At one point, I pictured V-Day celebrations like those of 1945, but it seems more likely that we will have a very slow return to normalcy. In-person attendances, firm events, meals with colleagues and running into people at the courts, in the PATH or on the street, will all return and I cannot wait for that!

JL: I mostly miss the daily run-ins that were a staple of pre-pandemic life when everyone was working in the office. Random interactions with buddies at the gym, food court, or on the street provide such a welcome boost of energy and are sorely missed! Notwithstanding these past few weeks, I take comfort in the fact that we are slowly but surely getting back to “precedented times” and I will be seeing more friendly faces again soon.

5. What are the best and worst aspects of your job?

LR: The best aspects of my job are many: having the privilege of helping people with their legal challenges; obtaining great results for clients; meeting interesting people; being trusted with advising or representing people in their time of greatest need; mentoring great colleagues like Josh (as well as Sari Feferman, Emma Gardiner and Clancy Catelin); working with a wonderful partner (Elyse Sunshine) and amazing colleagues both within our firm and in the health and regulatory bar generally; teaching, speaking and writing on the most interesting area of the law (health law, obviously); and working on the most interesting files which have a significant impact on peoples professional and personal lives.

There are very few aspects of my job that could be considered “the worst,” but if forced to identify these I would include dealing with (the very few) opposing counsel who make disputes between clients personal between lawyers and having to tell clients that they are unlikely to avoid a finding of professional misconduct and revocation of their licence.

The most challenging aspect of my job is one of the best: because every case is so different, very few cases can be considered “easy.” This certainly keeps my work interesting, but it is challenging.

JL: The best part of my job is the fact that I get to help people when they are facing significant professional and personal consequences. Helping someone when they are vulnerable is extremely rewarding, and each interaction serves as a reminder that the care and attention we provide to our clients is of tremendous value. The worst part of practising law is having to interact with lawyers that think too highly of themselves (myself excluded, of course).

6. What has been the proudest moment of your legal career to date? Why?

LR: I think my proudest moment was when Elyse Sunshine and I established our own law firm in October 2010. That was something I had envisioned for many years, and seeing it come to fruition was a proud moment indeed. A second proudest moment was celebrating our firm’s 10th anniversary just a few months ago.

JL: In defending professionals, oftentimes the best possible outcome is the status quo – even a “win” is a relative term. However, every successful outcome I have obtained has proven to be a moment of pride, particularly when the client’s sense of relief is palpable. Also when Lonny says “good job.”

7. What advice would you give someone starting out/starting their articles? What advice was given to you?

LR: I would advise someone starting out their career to try to find work that they love because it is so much easier to do – and to be good at – work you enjoy then work that you don’t. I advise young lawyers that it is okay to work in an area they don’t love right away. Over time, they may become more proficient and confident, and may grow to love it. But if you don’t love the work, have the confidence to seek out work you will love.

The best piece of advice I received when I was articling was this: once you reach a certain level, everyone can do an excellent job and what distinguishes one lawyer from another is their approach to the case and their relationships with clients and colleagues. This advice gave me much needed confidence that I could succeed in this profession at a time when I was not terribly confident in my skills or abilities. I later realized that some of the attributes of a successful lawyer which I was beginning to develop as a student (oral advocacy, client management, relationships and even empathy) were not necessarily recognized or important in an articling student.

JL: I would reiterate the advice that was provided to me, which is that everyone – regardless of how confident they seem or how experienced they are – often has feelings of self-doubt where they question their knowledge. Imposter syndrome never goes away but it can be managed by embracing the constant learning that we are required to do.

8. Where are you in 10 years?

LR: Hopefully exactly where I am right now, working with the same colleagues as well as more junior lawyers. We just took on more space which will hopefully accommodate this growth!

JL: Hopefully a partner (cc: Lonny and Elyse)

9. Finally, if you weren’t a lawyer, what other career would you have pursued

LR: It is difficult to imagine not being a lawyer. I suppose I could have pursued a career in a health profession but I’m sure I am better suited to representing and advising them!

JL: A vintage car salesman.

Jennifer O’Dell is an associate lawyer at Lerners LLP, in Toronto, practicing in health law. She is currently the Section Editor for the OBA’s Health Law Section.