Five Questions with In-House Counsel: Fernando Garcia

Fernando Garcia

Fernando Garcia [B.A (Labour Studies), M.I.R, B.C.L, LL.B, and MBA] is currently the VP Legal at Cargojet Inc.. He has an MBA, with a specialization in Strategic Management, civil and common law degrees, a Master of Industrial Relations, and a Bachelors of Arts degree in Labour Studies. Fernando enjoys speaking and writing about advancing diversity and inclusiveness within the legal profession, as well as speaking about the future of law and how technology is changing and will change the profession. He was named the Thought Leader of 2018 by the Association of Corporate Counsel and Lexology, named as one of the100 World's Leading General Counsel by Legal Era Media Group in 2017, and received the Professional Contribution Award from the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association. He was also the recipient of the 2017 Innovatio Award for Diversity: Small Law Department, was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession in Canada by Canadian Lawyer Magazine, and was named as one of the "10 most influential Hispanic Canadians" by Canadian Hispanic Business. He was also the recipient of the 2015 “Tomorrow’s Leader” award at the Canadian General Counsel Award.

  1. Why did you decide to become an In-House Counsel?

    "Prior to attending law school, I completed a Labour Studies degree at McMaster University. In this multi-disciplinary area of study, the world of work and workplaces were analyzed through the lens of sociology, economics, politics, business, law ,and human resource management. During this time, I gained an understanding that in order to be successful both as an individual and as a professional, one cannot look at any one subject area in isolation from others. With this in mind, I subsequently completed a Masters of Industrial Relations degree, a law degree and then an MBA in Strategic Management. In looking at my career as a lawyer, I wanted the opportunity to practice in an area that would take advantage of these diverse experiences and subject matters and I found that there was no better fit for me than becoming an in-house counsel. I always say that in many ways, an in-house counsel is a business executive with a legal background. Becoming an inhouse counsel was a perfect fit for me and it was an opportunity to become a strategic business partner, thereby practicing law and still applying my business, HR and labour relations skills. "
  2. Is the role of In-House Counsel changing? And if yes, how so?

    "In many ways, law was sheltered from the changes sweeping through other industries. While lawyers adopted simple communication tools such as cell phones, laptops and other technological improvements that helped keep one connected and increased productivity marginally, the industry still was not revolutionized by technology. This is now changing rapidly. We are approaching a point in time where the tools available to lawyers are providing a strategic advantage with regard to being able to have access to information at your fingertips and the ability to gather and analyze that information in seconds. Long gone are the days of travelling to the local law library to find case law or look up references. These are now available within seconds on your desktop. As technology improves and legal tools develop and become increasingly common, AI/Legal Tech is/will be assisting legal counsel in identifying trends, assessing risk, minimizing labour intensive tasks and will transform how and what we as lawyers do. Very soon, the use of such technology will move from being a strategic advantage toward becoming a necessary fundamental tool for a competent lawyer to provide effective and efficient services. The change is here, the only question is whether a lawyer chooses to be at the front of the wave or to be swept by it afterward. "
  3. What is one of your favourite moments in your legal career?

    "For me, there is no one specific identifiable moment, I never thought I would have the opportunity to be in such a wonderful and prestigious profession, so I take every day as a gift and as a blessing. That being said, I would say having the opportunity to work as a GC in three very different, but very interesting corporate companies needs to be within my top 5. Obtaining my first GC role after only 2 years after getting called to the bar is also high up in the list. But, if pressed, I would say just getting called to the bar, after so many years of effort and sacrifice, would be one of my greatest moments! "
  4. How are you leveraging legal technology?

    "I am always looking for the opportunity to do more with less. Time is also a limited resource, so any tech products that become available, which assist in making me and my work more efficient is worthy of consideration and trial. I still think that the bulk of the service offerings from legal tech today focus on large inhouse departments and on law firms, so small and medium legal departments have not yet been the primary focus or targets of legal tech, but I know that we are not far from the day when we will have a myriad of tools and enhancements available to us. The key is to have an eye open for these and to be curious and willing to test new products as they come to market. "
  5. If you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about the legal industry, what would it be?

    "If I had a magic wand, I would remove the obstacles and barriers that still exist for so many people, which prevents them from leveraging and using their expertise, their background and their experiences and from practicing law generally. Whether it is the foreign trained lawyer that is unable to get their foot in the door because of a lack of “Canadian experience”, a female lawyer that is unable to crack that glass ceiling or be recognized for that partnership role, a racialized lawyer who is unable to find a role or advance because they lack the networks, the mentors or the sponsors, or a young law student who is unable to find that articling role that is so necessary for him/her to check that box, to start paying their bills and to start practicing their craft. How wonderful would it be if one magic wand could solve all of these problems?"


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