Queen’s Pre-Law Society (QPLS) is proud to present the second installment in its World of Law series. We aim to educate students about the vast opportunities in the legal field in efforts to support those who share the dream of earning a legal education. On the last Monday in each of the coming months, QPLS will release articles featuring experts in different legal careers to educate the public on the facets of various legal professions. Please fill in the attached feedback form at the end of the article if you would like to hear about a specific legal field.
“...the best set of skills probably include a disarming charm and a discerning eye and ear”
This month, we had the great pleasure of interviewing Richard Patterson, J.D., M.B.A., a sole practitioner lawyer in South Mississauga, Ontario. After his call to the bar in Ontario, Mr. Patterson opened his own practice, focusing on tax, wills and estate, and real estate law. Learn what tips and tricks Mr. Patterson has for future lawyers below!
1. You are a barrister and a solicitor, working with many different types of law, including tax, wills and estates, and real estate. Could you give a summary of your practice?
When questioned about the nature of my practice, I like to respond by first highlighting the antiquated terms ‘barrister’ and ‘solicitor.’ Almost everyone can visualize a barrister or guess what a barrister does by the name of the position – a barrister is one who pleads at the bar of the Courts. I am more of a solicitor. I ask questions and gather relevant information. I prepare the record – regardless of whether or not my client’s issue will ever come to light in a courtroom. Sometimes I prepare a record called a tax return; sometimes it is a fictional tax return for a planning exercise or to ask, “What if…?” And sometimes the fictional tax return highlights the consequences of estate planning decisions. For example, what if your parent predeceases you without having drafted a will? If you are left with a sizable estate, do you have significant taxes to pay? What if you are a parent and you have a will; what happens to your property when you die? As for a more interesting case, what if you are an entrepreneur and you haven’t updated your will since you left your partner? You have met someone new, who is now your common-law spouse and small business partner, and you want to incorporate your small business? These are the facts that people present when their first question is, “How much is it to prepare my basic will?” There is nothing basic about any fact pattern except the price the client wants to pay.
2. In your opinion, what qualities make a good wills and estates lawyer?
From the estate planning and will drafting side, the best set of skills probably include a disarming charm and a discerning eye and ear. Not only do you have to listen carefully but you must keep an eye out for discomfort. You are not cross-examining your client, but you are simultaneously the good cop and the bad cop in an interrogation that starts with a time-consuming polite conversation that puts the party at ease. And don’t forget that time is money, Counsel. All of this can get to be challenging to explain so I would like to try a different tactic in response to this question. Choose a favourite movie or storybook. Now try to link it to your calling to the law. Laughably, I will choose Kevin Costner’s rendition of Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves. While I sometimes find myself aligning with the tax collecting Sheriff when I am a tax preparer explaining why an unfounded filing position is ill-advised, I far rather prefer the image of the vigilante who is righteous in a time before the law provides for due process and equal justice and property rights.
There will be days when your work is dry and the research is not stimulating. You will need a tinge of delusion to get through such days. I find the entire superhero genre is helpful in this regard and so I suggest that a fictional warrior identity isn’t the worst dissociated personality trait for a practitioner to indulge. At the end of the day, keep a hobby and your sense of humour – even a dark dry sense of humour – and your clients will appreciate your balance when they need a good cry in your office.
3. Before working in Canada as a lawyer, you completed your law degree and business degree in the US. What were some pros and cons of studying in the US before working in Canada?
In regards to place of study and place of work that will follow, I really only have this to say, “Make your academic choice a place proximate to your desired long-term workplace.” Why? Simply put, it is not what you know, but who you know. You will learn a few things in school but so will every one of your classmates, so school is foremost a networking exercise and you will bring that as one of your offerings at the altar of an employer. Networking in your desired, long-term workplace will assist you in developing professional connections that can last you a lifetime. And network outside of your field of expertise. Network in your cultural community. If you later do decide you want a change of scene or people – the universe is still expanding and it is generally easier to move out from the heart of the empire after you have developed your specialty and left a favourable impression behind you.
4. Do you have any advice for those looking to get into your field or the legal field in general?
Let’s flash back to the 1970s. I’d like to share the identity of a hero of mine. His name is William Henry Gates II, but he is better known as Bill Gates Sr., an American attorney and philanthropist. Did you know that the father of Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, was a lawyer? Who is the greater hero – the father or the son? When I was in my twenties, I asked my law firm mentor, a Corporate Litigator at Fasken in downtown Toronto, “Do you have any advice for getting into law?” His answer was, “Quit while you’re ahead. Before you get into the law, get out because it doesn’t pay. It’s largely thankless and profitless work.” I believe he recently retired from a quarter-century of partnership with one of the esteemed Toronto six-sisters. So I say to you…
…begin with the end in mind! In our modern device-centric world, everyone is concerned with algorithms and artificial intelligence. I, personally, do not think highly of Bitcoin but Blockchain scares the career prospects out of me because it makes it possible to perceive a world where the moment your smartphone detects that your heart stops beating and your brain waves dissipate, the internet of things will instruct your bank’s computer to transfer funds to your beneficiaries and empty your accounts and at the same time, instructions will flow to the Land Registry Office computers to transfer title of your real estate to your spouse or children. In that case, what role will a real estate solicitor or an estate administration solicitor play in such near-future transactions? Among other things, I am a real estate lawyer in 2020 but I am also a father of two ‘tween-age daughters. I aspire to subliminally cajole them to learn to code, to learn logic, to take financial accounting in time. I suggest the same to the reader of these words. And finally, I suggest a savoury volunteer experience in a field completely outside of the realm of the expected for a pre-law law school candidate. It will make for an entertaining and memorable interview into the law school or law firm of your choosing.
About Richard Patterson
Richard Patterson completed his Bachelor of Science at Queen’s University in 1996 before completing his Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto in 1998. Following his Canadian studies, Mr. Patterson decided to move to Boston, MA where he graduated from law school and business school at Northeastern University in 2002. Mr. Patterson’s superior academic background aided him in accomplishing a call to the bar in both Massachusetts and Ontario, and he is now known as a barrister & solicitor and notary public. Mr. Patterson opened his law firm, Richard Patterson Professional Corporation, in 2014. The corporation celebrated its sixth birthday on July 21. His practice includes wills, estates administration, real estate and taxation. When he is not at his desk, Mr. Patterson is known to enjoy Latin dance and is a dedicated father and husband.
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Authors: Michelle Gilmour, Events Coordinator and Subhadra Menon, Events Director
Contributors: Sami Babayan, Events Coordinator and Christopher King, Events Coordinator
Patterson, Richard. “Richard Patterson Professional Corporation.” Richard Patterson Professional Corporation | Law Firm Mississauga, www.richardpatterson.ca/pages/about-law-firm-mississauga-ontario.