Helen Liu is Associate Senior Counsel at Intact Financial Corporation. She practices corporate and regulatory insurance law in a group of approximately 40 corporate counsels spread between the Toronto and Montreal offices. Helen has been a corporate counsel in the insurance industry since the beginning of her career, including her experience as counsel with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. Helen obtained her B.C.L./LL.B. degrees from McGill University’s Faculty of Law, and provides legal services in both English and French. In addition to her day job, Helen is currently the Chair of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association – Ontario Chapter, which is a Section of the Ontario Bar Association.
Why did you decide to become an In-House Counsel?
"I worked at the Corporate Legal Department at TD Insurance as a summer student during law school and felt that the collegiality and culture of an in-house legal department suits well with my work ethics and aspirations. Accordingly, I started my legal career in-house and have been in-house ever since. "
Is the role of In-House Counsel changing? And if yes, how so?
"Absolutely. Disruptions and opportunities brought by technology, the rising pressure of budgetary constraints, and the increasingly complex regulatory framework, just to name a few, are all factors that have had and continue to have significant impact on the role of in-house counsel. To truly add value to our organization and to remain relevant in the long term, we need to be first and foremost a business leader with a strong understanding of information technology, and who also, simultaneously, wears a legal hat. We cannot be road blocks to the operations and simply advise our clients of the legal risks. We need to take a step further by recommending solutions that are feasible to the business – be part of the decision-making process. Our clients are not just seeking our guidance as legal experts, but also as a colleague who is well versed in the day-to-day operations of the organization and who understands the strategic objectives of the organization. "
What is one of your favourite moments in your legal career?
"At one point I was asked by Senior Management to prepare a submission for the World Finance Corporate Governance Award on behalf of Intact Financial. There was very little, if any, "legal work" involved, but I very much enjoyed coordinating with the different business units to put together our submission (as lawyers, we are usually in an advisory role rather than a project management role). And we won the award that year!"
How are you leveraging legal technology?
"Our department is constantly looking for ways to improve and upgrade our systems and technologies. "
If you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about the legal industry, what would it be?
"With magic, if we go back in time to make our industry more diverse and inclusive, then the top ranks of our industry today (e.g. managing partners, senior vice-presidents/general counsels, and judges) would likely be more diverse and inclusive. "
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