Adjunct Profile: Catherine Chow

Ms. Chow is the Vice President Legal and General Counsel at Keg Restaurants Ltd., where her broad portfolio includes legal matters such as financing, real estate and leasing, business development, franchising, key partnership agreements, risk management, insurance, litigation, trademark protection, and corporate compliance. Before joining The Keg in 2006, she had a thriving private practice as a commercial and real property lawyer in Alberta and British Columbia. Her proactive approach to risk management has been recognized as an industry-leading initiative, winning both a 2014 Canadian Lawyer In-house Innovatio Award and a 2014 Lexpert Zenith Award. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in law? 
I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer – from my earliest memory advocating for a boy to get his turn on the teeter-totter at the preschool playground, I’ve wanted to be an advocate, a problem solver.  I’ve enjoyed so many aspects of my career in law because the practice and academia of law is so fertile.  In addition to the different disciplines of law, the intersectionality of law makes a legal career boundless and always interesting.  

What drew you from working in private practice as a commercial and real property lawyer to your current role as Vice President Legal and General Counsel for The Keg Steakhouse + Bar? 
Many reasons, and all the right reasons – I wanted to work with a great group of people and be immersed in a mid-market enterprise with an opportunity to have a better work-life balance.  Many in-house lawyers laugh at the aspiration of work-life balance because some of our work weeks can be 90+hours (which it has been more often than I expected!). When the President and CFO asked me to consider joining The Keg, I already knew them as clients.  I was lucky that these factors came into place at the right time for me. 

How is your practice as in-house counsel different from that of a private practitioner? 
Freedom – I am at liberty to combine legal and business advice, which private practitioners often need to avoid doing.  As in-house counsel, I get to negotiate, oversee projects and do “non-legal” business projects while also conducting a hefty “pure” legal portfolio of litigation, corporate compliance, trademarks etc.  While I thankfully don’t have to keep timesheets, I am more mindful of whether a legal cost is a value-add to the business.

Why did you decide to get involved with teaching and supervising students in the Business Law Clinic? 
I love teaching, and I wanted to give back.  After almost 20 years of practice, I reached that vintage in my career where I wanted to share my experiences and learn more “law” by teaching it.  David, The Keg’s President and CEO was immediately supportive and allowed me the opportunity to teach as a function of my work.  It is a great honour and privilege to do so.

What do you enjoy most about your involvement with the Business Law Clinic? 
I love having the front row seat to watch students experience that “lightbulb” moment in learning. It is so satisfying to help students unlock a skill or identify a strength that was previously blind to them, all the while strategically guiding them through an actual client file.  The Business Law Clinic is perfectly suited to combine entrepreneurial spirts with legal academic minds- free from, but mindful of, commercial realities.

What advice do you have for Allard School of Law students entering the legal profession? 
Learn as much law as you can, and even long after that last textbook is put away, keep reading voraciously about the law - you never know what you will learn and how it will help you.   Try to give back to your profession at every opportunity you can because the rewards are great.