Women Lawyers in Tax: Q&A with Laura White, Retired Partner from BLG

  • April 06, 2020
  • Rachel Gold

Laura was a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP before she retired from practicing tax law in 2018. From the beginning, when Laura was called to the bar in 1986, her practice related to income tax law and very soon into her career, Laura choose to focus on the mutual fund and asset management industry. During her active and illustrious career, she was recognized in Best Lawyers in Canada and was recommended by Lexpert as a pre-eminent tax practitioner in the area of investment management. Laura had a unique practice as very few lawyers in Canada have this expertise. Here’s my Q&A with Laura:

Hi Laura, I hope you are keeping well in the rapidly evolving climate that we are living in today. I have a set of questions to get to know you better and to hear about your tax law experiences. Our intention is to provide not only myself, but also other lawyers with insight into the many career possibilities that women can have in tax. I also want to graciously thank you in advance for your sage advice and practice points to keep in mind as I, and many other practitioners, become more senior in our tax practices. Let’s get started.

Can you elaborate on what the focus of your tax law practice was?

Hi Rachel, my practice focused on income tax issues relevant to investment funds and their managers. That included a wide range of issues related to the creation, operation and reorganization of the mutual funds and the various other types of investment funds, as well as RRSPs and all the other types of deferred income plans that invest in funds. I also advised on the creation, operation, financing and reorganization of mutual fund managers. I sought Income Tax Rulings from the CRA and advocated for the introduction or amendment of income tax legislation. I did not have a typical income tax practice. 

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Curious, tenacious and brave.

What advice would you give to your younger self when you started out in tax law?

Hmmm. Law firms have informal policies and expectations that impact your career at least as much as the formal ones. You will have to figure it out. A large part of your worth to a firm depends on your billings or billable hours. Understand the math. Don’t assume that advancement and ultimately partnership will happen for you simply because you have become an amazing tax lawyer. If you want to be a partner or involved in management, let the firm know. Don’t be at all timid or tentative about it (even if you feel that way). Find out what the firm expects from you so that you can achieve your goals. In the year or so before partnership, make sure that the senior people with whom you work most closely intend to actively support you in becoming a partner. Don’t be shy to ask them directly and wait for a clear “Yes”. If the discussion is uncomfortable, you have just discovered an impediment to your advancement.