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Sandra Abitan on growing Osler’s Montréal office, challenges and lessons from the pandemic and more – Lexpert TV

Author(s): Sandra Abitan

Jul 22, 2021

Sandra Abitan, Managing Partner of Osler’s Montréal office and a key contact for its Insolvency & Restructuring group, recently spoke with Lexpert editor-in-chief Tim Wilbur in an interview for Lexpert TV. Their conversation touched on several topics, from the firm’s history in Montréal and Sandra’s own practice to lessons the firm can take from the pandemic and more.

As Osler celebrates its 20th year in Montréal, Sandra explains how the firm built a presence and became a leader in the city’s business community.

“Osler first opened its doors in Montréal in April 2001, in typical Osler fashion as a greenfield operation. We recruited recognized experts and leaders in our core practice areas and built our team, and two decades later, the team has continuously renewed itself and grown.”

“Our Montréal partners are recognized and ranked leaders and innovators in their respective fields of expertise,” she continues. “We’re always looking to improve the client experience, provide leading-edge advice and solutions, stay on top of developments and keep our clients informed, and be change makers in our industry.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Sandra’s own insolvency practice had plenty of opportunities to innovate when industries like hospitality and tourism dropped to zero revenue overnight.

“There has been no precedent for that in our history, in my history. And so it provided us with opportunities to deal with unique situations and to come up with creative solutions.”

That creativity, Sandra believes, is what helps to set Osler apart.

“At Osler, we are innovators, driving change in our market, always with a single focus: to serve our clients in the most efficient and effective manner, by providing the first-rate, business-critical advice that makes our reputation.”

Sandra is quick to point out that in addition to the firm’s expertise and experience, the office’s culture and relationship to the city make it a special place to work, mentioning as an example the office’s annual Community Day when, she explains, almost the entire staff heads out to local organizations to volunteer.

“We will continue to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to advance legal education in the province, and hundreds of thousands more to improve the quality of life of our community.”

“I think we combine the best of both worlds here in Montréal,” she adds. “We have a one-firm platform that is unique and has proven to be successful, combined with the collegial atmosphere and the one-of-a-kind culture that we have in our smaller office here in Montréal.”

“There’s a really great team spirit that reigns here at Osler in Montréal. The collegiality, the respect, the care and concern for one another, it’s pretty special. And we’ve really missed each other during these last 15 to 16 pandemic months, and we can’t wait to be reunited.”

While Sandra cautions that there are still questions surrounding a return to the office, over the course of the pandemic the firm “learned some valuable lessons and we’ll be looking to integrate some of those lessons in our return-to-work strategy,” she says.

“It’s important to create the relationships and maintain the culture, but I do expect that the situation will continue to be fluid, and will need to evolve over time, as the situation and the world around us adjusts to what post-pandemic life might look like from a professional services perspective.”

Whatever the future holds, Sandra plans for Osler to continue to move forward as a leader in the industry. In her own insolvency practice, she acknowledges, “It’s still a very male-dominated area, particularly in the province of Quebec, but we’re working on that and hoping that we will have more diversity and representation at the insolvency bar across the country.”

“A workplace that’s diverse and reflective of the community that we live in and work in is really the key to success, and I’m proud to say that we recognize that and have implemented a number of initiatives — internal and external — to ensure that there is a real and lasting change on the diversity front, and a continued, clear focus on this priority,” Sandra says.

“Each year we recruit the best and brightest minds. It’s our strength, our future, and that’s what we are going to be doing to continue our growth: recruiting the industry’s future leaders right out of law school.”

Watch the full interview with Sandra at Lexpert TV.