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Lynne Vicars: Combining passion with profession

Long before it was cool, Lynne Vicars was a proud “tech geek at heart.” In the seventies, her family had one of the first Apple computers, and in the eighties, she completed a computer science certificate. She fell in love with technology early on, and it has remained a constant in her life and career since.

OBA President Lynne Vicars, also Senior Legal Counsel - Legal Practice Management & e-Discovery, Scotiabank

It is a passion that has served her well, leading her to her current role as Senior Legal Counsel, Legal Practice Management & eDiscovery at Scotiabank. Her workday is spent collaborating with cross-functional teams to provide “advice and legal solutions around electronic discovery and best practices in information governance.”

“My own mandate professionally within the bank is to make sure we maintain best-in-class technology, and robust policies and procedures to support the bank's eDiscovery and information governance goals,” she explains. “That means keeping abreast of emerging legal technologies and incorporating them where we can and where we should.”

As Lynne is one of relatively few in-house eDiscovery lawyers in Canada, she relies on her wider network of private practice colleagues and other professionals to keep her up to date on developments and best practices in eDiscovery: “It's really by aligning myself, associating myself with other experts in the industry, that I've developed my practice over the years.”

One of the groups she specifically cites as helpful is the Ontario Bar Association’s (OBA’s) eDiscovery Implementation Committee. Guided in its work by the Sedona Canada Principles, it promotes thought leadership, best practices and law reform with respect to information management, discovery, litigation support and paperless proceedings. At this point, most of its members are in private practice, but she sees this changing over the coming years. “The first wave is all the law firms having in-house eDiscovery practices. That's still happening,” she says. “And then I think there will be a natural progression toward more corporate legal departments doing the same.”

Her path

The key is to always look for opportunities and be ready. When Lynne started at Scotiabank as a teller in 1981, the processes were very manual: “I had a teller's blotter that you physically wrote your transactions on.” However, she could see the tides shifting and enrolled in computer science at Centennial College.

Then, after nearly eight years with the bank, she took a break to go back to school. She and her then husband moved to Alberta and she enrolled in a combined JD/MBA program at the University of Alberta—while caring for her four children, aged one, three, five and seven at the time.

She continued to feel a strong affinity for Scotiabank, so she pursued a summer position and articled at the law firm Duncan & Craig LLP in Edmonton, which did a lot of work for the bank. One of the proudest moments from her early career was addressing the court as the counsel representing Scotiabank. “It almost brings me to tears when I think back to that time,” she recalls. “I was standing in the court and I was able to tell somebody I was Scotiabank's lawyer. That was a pretty pivotal moment for me.”

Family circumstances brought them back to Ontario, and Lynne immediately sought out a position with Scotiabank's legal department. “Everything worked out, and I was hired back in February 2001,” she says. “When I first joined the bank's legal team, my role was providing legal advice to the retail deposits, lending, mortgages, marketing and corporate security teams. Then I gradually shifted my focus, and eventually completely focused on managing litigation, which I did for many, many years.”

As the need for managing electronic evidence grew, she joined her love of technology with her love of law to develop the bank's legal-hold and eDiscovery procedures. “Through that, I honed my skills in this still rapidly changing field,” she explains. “And so nowadays I give strategic advice on the bank's eDiscovery activities worldwide, and I provide legal advice on best practices for information governance.”

“When you look at the banking industry today,” she continues, “I think you'll find that this is a sector that's really leading the charge in terms of investment in technology because it has a direct impact on how we serve our customers. It's fast-paced. And the banks, if you look around, particularly in Canada, you'll see we're really on the forefront of that change…. I am proud to work for an organization that invests so much in technology and its digital capabilities.”

A healthy balance

As dedicated as Lynne is to her work, family has always been the most important thing. “Everything that I do, everything that I do, is somehow in support or celebration of my family,” she says. Her idea of paradise is simply being with her husband and her four children and three stepchildren—“we’re almost the Brady Bunch!”—sharing a home-cooked meal and enjoying each other’s company.

It was in raising her children that she saw the importance of balance. “My parenting inspired me academically and vice versa because although I spent days really focused on studies … most of my evenings and weekends were completely devoted to my children and family. Just like other families, we camped, we skied, we played games, and we went to Brownie and Beaver meetings; because my kids were involved, I was a leader in both those organizations. All of those interactions gave me the motivation to excel at school and set an example for them. And at the same time, when I was at school, I fueled my own intellectual needs and that really helped me to be my whole self.”

Another driving factor is continuous learning. “Without a doubt, my commitment to lifelong learning has been an extremely worthwhile investment towards both my personal and professional goals,” Lynne explains. “For example, since I came back to the bank, I've done a Master of Laws at Osgoode in e-commerce law. I've done a certificate in Lean Six Sigma at U of T. I've completed Culinary Arts 1 at George Brown College to fuel my passion for cooking. And, I would say for fun although it ended up not being fun, I studied for, wrote and passed, on the first try, the New York State Bar Exam. My lifelong education has certainly been critical to my keeping abreast of change, especially in technology.”

But by far, her most valuable professional investment has been her participation in the Canadian Bar Association and its sections. For instance, she is currently President of the OBA and a big supporter of the CCCA. “The leadership experiences that I've been provided, the networking opportunities I've had, the friends I've made—all priceless,” she says. “My investment of time in this Association has been, far and away, the most instrumental factor for me.”

As Lynne reflects back on her success in work and life, she offers three pieces of advice. First, be curious: “Really watch for changes and potential opportunities on the horizon, and get the education you need to take advantage of them.”

Second, be creative: “If you think about it, there was certainly no eDiscovery law when I started my legal career, just as there was no cannabis practice until recently.” Change is continuous and swift.

Finally, be kind: “I'm really so very grateful to my mentors and sponsors, to my friends who have really helped me get here.” Whether it be as a leader in her organization, a mentor to new Canadians, a colleague eager to share knowledge or simply an example of a successful lawyer, she is constantly looking for ways to pay it forward.

This article was initially featured in the Spring 2019 issue of CCCA Magazine.