Barbara Hendrickson, LLB’82, was in the third graduating class of the University of Calgary Faculty of Law. Since her graduation, Barbara was called to the Bar in four provinces and has completed two Masters of Law (Osgoode Hall Law School (tax) and the University of Toronto). When she went to law school, Barbara reports that she thought she would be a criminal lawyer, but quickly found that she gravitated to the more technical legal areas, which is evident by her career path. Over her career, Barbara has practised in the natural resources, pension and tax areas. Since the 90s, she has focused on corporate finance/securities law with the Ontario Securities Commission as senior legal counsel, both a large international law firm and a large national firm, and her own firm, BAX Securities Law, a boutique firm located in downtown Toronto, which she founded in 2012.
BAX Securities Law is unique in a Bay Street legal market where the majority of securities law practice occurs in the larger law firms. Her lower overhead as well as her tendency to work with more senior lawyers has allowed her to adopt a business model where she can provide legal services on a “firm estimate” basis.
Barbara reports that starting her own firm has been incredibly challenging and required business skills that were not required in her previous positions with large firms. She has had to learn the “business of law” over the last four years, and according to Barbara, “there does not seem to be a course for running a legal practice – not in law school, not in CPD courses, not in MBA programs…you just have to figure it out.”
On the other hand, she says that having her own firm has also been rewarding. “In a smaller firm you have all of the responsibility, but you also have all of the authority - you control your own practice.” So far, it has been working - Canadian Lawyer Magazine named BAX Securities Law as a Top 10 Corporate Securities Boutique Firm in Canada for 2016/2017.
Barbara is proud to be a lawyer, and has made significant contributions to the legal profession, including founding the Toronto Business Lawyers Association which is designed to create a network of smaller law firms within the Toronto area for referral and business development purposes. She has also been active in the Canadian Bar Association over her career, and spent 10 years on the executive of the Business Law section. Barbara is a past recipient of the Women’s Law Association President’s Award, which recognizes her substantial contribution and commitment to the promotion of women in law and as a leader in the legal profession. Advocating for women in the profession has always been a priority for Barbara, dating back to her time at the University of Calgary where she helped to form a chapter of the National Association of Women in Law.
Barbara has mentored numerous law students, articling students and young associates over the years, and her advice has always been consistent: specialize, work hard, and develop your own client base. Barbara believes specialization is important because it helps to distinguish a young lawyer in the market, and points out that young lawyers should “find your own niche and be excellent in that area.” In today’s legal market Barbara advises that young lawyers, “have to go above and beyond to distinguish themselves; they need to go the extra mile.” Her best advice she says is to “start thinking about practicing law as a business. Being an excellent lawyer is the starting point, but you need clients and you need those clients to pay you for your services.”
“It sounds simple” she says “but if you want to move ahead in our industry, you need to recognize the business aspect of our profession.”