Aliya Ramji is General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal and Corporate Affairs at Figure 1. Figure 1 is a case-sharing platform for healthcare professionals and was named one of Canada's top tech companies to watch in 2018 by Maclean's. Aliya is an international lawyer who acted as legal counsel and global business unit advisor at CSA Group prior to joining Figure 1 in October 2014. In 2016, Aliya was named one of the top 10 thirty-somethings by the Association of Corporate Counsel and was awarded the Young Alumni of Influence by the University of Toronto, University College. She has spent time lobbying the US Senate and Canadian government, making submissions on international free trade agreements, and taking companies global.
Aliya teaches the Legal Aspects of International Business as well as Business Law at Ryerson University. She attended the NYU School of Law and earned her Masters in Law in International Legal Studies, and is licensed to practice in Ontario and in New York. Aliya has spent a considerable amount of time working and studying in the UK, Asia and in North America. In her spare time, Aliya writes a monthly column for the ACC, is the Vice-Chair for Diversity for the ABA Section of International Law, and an advisor to Junior Achievement.
Fun Fact: Earlier this year, Aliya took up kick-boxing. It's the best workout of her life… and it's great for stress relief.
Why did you decide to become an In-House Counsel?
"I wasn't planning on becoming in-house counsel. In fact, I was very much against it. But when one of my clients from big law was looking for someone to help with their trademarks work, it seemed like the perfect fit. My role evolved from trademarks counsel to more general corporate commercial work to international trade. As in-house counsel, I have had the opportunity to work on projects that I wouldn't otherwise get to work on. TTIP, CETA and NAFTA submissions, testimony in the House of Commons, and lobbying in the US Senate: these are not every day tasks for outside counsel. "
Is the role of In-House Counsel changing? And if yes, how so?
"In the last decade, the role of in-house counsel has moved from purely legal work at cheaper rates to that of a trusted business partner. In-house counsel must give you practical legal advice, must understand business, and must interpret grey areas of the law in a defensible manner. The role of in-house counsel is no longer one of cost reduction and cheap legal services. The role has expanded to managing specialized legal services, interpreting applicable laws, offering strategic and proactive direction and managing and controlling risks. "
What is one of your favourite moments in your legal career?
"The moment I didn't get hired back after articling. Before then, I thought big firm life was the only way to have a truly meaningful legal career but in that moment my entire life changed. Out of what then seemed like failure came incredible opportunities and possibilities I could never have imagined. I learned to adapt to change and be resilient."
If you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about the legal industry, what would it be?
"I'd cure the allergy to change. I recognize the importance of a predictable and consistent legal environment but we must be more open and willing to adapt. The world around us isn't static or predictable anymore and we need to embrace that. I am not suggesting we take all and every risk. What I am suggesting is that we take more calculated risks so that as a profession, we don't get left behind."
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