A young 26-year-old lawyer, Sophie Rompré passed the Quebec bar exam in 2003. She started her career in the litigation department of a large Canadian law firm specializing in business law, where she honed her skills for almost two years. The travel bug bit her, however, so she took a year off to travel in Latin America. Upon returning, she decided to specialize in new technology law, a field that had interested her for a long time, so she went back to school to do a Master’s degree at the Université de Montréal. Since 2007, she has been applying her new skills part time for StreamTheWorld, a Quebec company offering online digital audio and video distribution services. At the same time, she has been finishing up her Master’s thesis. Enriched by very different professional experiences in separate legal fields, she describes the day-to-day details of these two jobs.
WHAT DOES THE WORK OF A COMMERCIAL LITIGATOR, YOUR FIRST JOB, INVOLVE?
I worked for a large law firm as a junior lawyer. I was mainly in charge of client files under $100,000, and I also assisted with court-related tasks for larger files. As a junior, I was supervised by associates, but still had major responsibilities. The company invested a lot in its juniors. Far from doing just research, as is often the case for a beginner, I was truly in charge of my files from Z to Z.
Like any litigation lawyer, I had to be thoroughly familiar with my files. I prepared examinations, interlocutory motions, submissions, depositions. . . all under the supervision of the associates of my department. I pleaded cases in Practice Court about three times a week, and in a year and a half, I handled two complete trials all by myself. I assisted some associates in two long-term trials, and I also had the opportunity to plead before the Court of Appeal.
Managing my files did not just mean making presentations in court. I also handled case law research, determining the strategy to follow, preparing procedures, producing evidence and negotiating out-of-court settlements.
I learned a lot from this job. The associates were very available, and I could easily consult them to discuss my files and the problems I was facing. I was quickly given large responsibilities, through which I developed good reflexes and unique experience in my field.
WHY DID YOU LEAVE?
I became a lawyer at 22, which is very young. In addition, I wanted to specialize in a very specific field. I felt that my area of practice was too general for me. And finally, I really wanted to travel, so I decided to go to Latin America for a year and then to specialize in new technology law afterwards, a field that had always fascinated me.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR NEW JOB AS A CORPORATE LAWYER IN NEW TECHNOLOGIES?
StreamTheWorld specializes in the development of distribution technologies for digital content. Its customers are mainly Internet service providers, such as commercial radio stations, or video content broadcasters. The company offers a solution that allows its customers to broadcast their radio signals or video files on demand, without the lengthy wait associated with downloading files.
As an in-house legal counsellor, I handle all the company’s legal issues: observance of intellectual property law, preparation of customer contracts, review of contracts with service suppliers, protection of personal information, content responsibility, software licences, etc. These aspects apply to many types of companies, but take on an additional complexity in the information technology field. I am also called on to work with people throughout the company, which now has some thirty employees, as well as the executives.
It’s a field that’s evolving quickly and with the lack of legislative reform on certain issues, there are many legal gaps. As information technologies are constantly evolving, new issues arise continually and it is sometimes difficult to determine the legal approach to be adopted. The Internet is an environment that has no boundaries, which also leads to the problem of which legislation applies. Moreover, as in any legal field, the legal counsellor has to be thoroughly familiar with what he or she is dealing with, in order to be able to prevent and spot any resulting legislative problems. So I have to know exactly how the technology developed and used by the company to offer services to customers works.
I am very happy in my new job. The new technology field really appeals to me, and I hope to be able to contribute to its growth. I find it motivating to be required to understand both the technical side of things and the legal aspects of the company; I’m a bit of a computer lawyer. Personally, this challenge is right up my alley. It’s a legal field that is alive and well, dynamic and creative, with a lot remaining to be built. After all, technology is the future!