New World Style

  • August 01, 2013
  • R. Lee Akazaki

Pascale DaigneaultIncoming President Pascale Daigneault goes back to basics to clear the road for progress

Biochemist, lawyer and … wine merchant? She is all three. The new OBA President appreciates subtlety and nuance, but is very obvious about relishing the opportunity to represent the legal profession in the heartland of Canada. If there is an alchemical product of our times, it is the soul of the embattled legal profession. Law in 21st-Century Ontario is one part science, another part reason and another part optimism: so who can boast better qualifications to represent us than Pascale Daigneault?

She grew up in Montréal and completed degrees in biochemistry and law at the University of Ottawa. She then headed west to Edmonton, Alberta, where she articled and practised at the full-service firm of Duncan & Craig. Returning to Ontario, Pascale co-founded Fleck and Daigneault, now Fleck Law, with husband Carl Fleck, whom she met at a CBA annual conference.

She takes the helm of Canada’s largest provincial bar association at a time when lawyers grow more conscious about their professional identity and relevance.

Pascale was elected on a promise to improve association services, in particular in the use of technology. In her 2011 campaign speech, Pascale relied on her wide legal experience, which has covered the gamut from the large firm to a general practice in a small town, with experience in civil litigation, corporate, law, real estate, family law, and wills & estates. As a managing partner, she is directly involved in accounting, hiring and firing, information technology and public relations. She is also aware of the challenges of a woman lawyer in private practice raising a family and mentoring students, as well as taking on contingency, legal aid and pro bono work. “At some level,” she told members of OBA Council, “I can relate to almost all of you, and can share and understand your concerns.”

Her back-to-basics approach to delivery of advocacy, education and community-building, will indeed resonate with members in all practice settings. A return to fundamentals also means energizing the commitment of OBA volunteers. “Pascale is great to work with,” said Shelley Quinn, with whom she collaborated in this year’s launch of the Ontario chapter of the CBA Women Lawyers Forum. “She’s fun, kind, generous, gracious and determined!” Outgoing OBA President Morris Chochla has enjoyed Pascale’s unwavering support during his term. In describing her personality, he came straight to the point. “The three I’s,” Chochla commented. “Pascale Daigneault is intelligent, intense and intent on being a great president.”

Ontario lawyers will do well to take notice of Pascale when she visits your county or district, delivers the message of a profession that needs to stick together, and enlists you in the cause of strengthening your commitment to the bar’s ideals. She takes the helm of Canada’s largest provincial bar association at a time when lawyers grow more conscious about their professional identity and relevance.

Pascale’s law office, which overlooks the Sarnia Golf Club in the picturesque South-West Ontario village of Point Edward, may seem a long way from the bank towers many OBA members call their home away from home. But don’t rush to judgment; Pascale is no stranger to glass towers, having started her career in the large-firm setting. This was an environment in which she thrived and intended to remain, had she not teamed up with her law partner and husband for the last 23 years. Her devotion to practice-management skills, client service and professionalism aims to preserve core competencies that the regional and national law firm associate or partner must maintain from the inside-out, to weather a tough business environment.

As OBA president, Pascale Daigneault will be the face of an 18,000-member organization across a vast province. Ever conscious of the expectations from various corners of the bar to take on their causes, she has trumpeted the message that the association is strong because of its diversity and its common values. Mark Berlin, the Ottawa lawyer and law professor who fought Pascale in the election, is often first in line to point out she is up to the job. “I know that Pascale will bring her determination and focused management skills to the presidency of the OBA while promoting the values of inclusion and collegiality,” said Berlin. “With her added attention to technology, regional and francophone concerns, it’s a perfect time for those who may have stood outside to join Pascale and the OBA, making ours an even stronger voice representing the profession.”

Juliet Knapton, chair of the OBA’s Equality Committee, brims with praise for Pascale’s support of the committee’s work. But, changing the subject back to Pascale’s hobby as a wine importer, Knapton observes that this sideline has long been a conversation-starter for OBA members meeting Pascale for the first time. “She has an incredible memory for wine,” Knapton said. She once asked Pascale, “What was that sumptuous red wine you served 6 months ago – you know the one with the black label and silver grape vines?” Pascale replied, “You mean the Crianza Tempranillo from Campos de Dulcinea. You know, they use organic grapes and I must tell you that it pairs perfectly with grilled filet mignon. ...” 

Lee AkazakiAbout the Author

Lee Akazaki is partner with Gilbertson Davies Emerson in Toronto and is a past president of the OBA. Follow on Twitter @LeeAkazaki

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