DAC Member Profile: Lynne Charbonneau

The Centre for Business Law at the Peter A. Allard School of Law is pleased to announce that Lynne Charbonneau has recently been appointed to the Dean’s Advisory Committee ("DAC"). The DAC is comprised of senior members of the legal community who provide strategic direction and advice to the Centre. For a complete list of members, please click here. We are thrilled to welcome Ms. Charbonneau to the DAC, and we look forward to the experience and expertise she will bring to the role.

Ms. Charbonneau graduated in 1992 from the Allard School of Law. Following a clerkship at the Federal Court of Appeal, she practiced as an Associate and Partner at Fasken Martineau LLP. Ms. Charbonneau has been with HSBC Bank Canada since 2005 where she is now Deputy General Counsel. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her professional achievements, including a 2013 Lexpert Zenith Award celebrating “Women Leaders in the Legal Profession”. In addition to her successful legal career, Ms. Charbonneau is very active in her community. Until 2016, she served as Director (BC Board) of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and was a member of its National Finance and Audit Committee.

What inspired you to go to law school? 
I was inspired by a love of language and the art of debate and persuasion. I started law school at age twenty and was pretty naïve, so the more interesting question from my perspective is how law school inspired and shaped me. I was lucky to have some wonderful professors who opened my eyes to power structures in society, social justice and intersectionality issues, along with giving me a solid legal education. I left law school thinking I would litigate in the area of human rights.

What led you to pursue a career specifically in business/corporate law?
I came to business law indirectly. After graduating, I got funding to do graduate work in the area of refugee law, but decided to defer and complete a clerkship and articles. I abandoned my academic plans and took a coveted position in Fasken Martineau’s labour & employment department, which handled human rights in the employment area among other areas. I was surprised to realize after a couple of years that I was quite unhappy despite wonderful colleagues and clients. A lot of my practice involved arguing over disputes that had already occurred. I realized that I wanted to look forward through the windshield instead of backwards through the rear view mirror. In a leap of faith, I moved to the commercial group. I soon discovered that what I enjoyed about law was problem-solving and risk allocation – finding a way to negotiate and complete complex transactions having planned for all eventualities. I relished the academic and business challenges presented by securities law and M&A work. I love the art of legal drafting, and I also found there was a lot of scope for advocacy. Negotiating an underwriting agreement was a piece of cake after having bargained a collective agreement against the Operating Engineers union.

What do you enjoy most about your current position at HSBC? 
Moving to HSBC was my second leap of faith and the best career decision I have made. While I enjoyed my transactional practice, I wanted to be more embedded with the business and be a permanent part of the team. I was interested in different forms of leadership and influence, and expanding beyond the traditional adviser role. I have the privilege of working for a global organization that presents different and novel legal and business challenges every single day. None of my work is routine. My value is recorded in my outcomes rather than by the billable hour. What I enjoy most is working with and managing an exceptional group of lawyers in a collaborative and supportive work environment. And while the hours can be long, we benefit from a lot of flexibility that allows me to balance work, my family priorities, and volunteer commitments to the community.

What made you decide to join the DAC?
For a long time I have been interested in finding a way to give back to the university that launched my career. It is long overdue. I love business law, and I am brimming with stories about practising law in an environment different from the traditional law firm setting. If I have a gift to offer, it is perhaps to be a role model for the career benefits of taking some chances and being open to re-evaluating personal decisions. Sometimes it is hard to let go of success or an earned accomplishment to try a different and unknown path. But it’s liberating to change your mind.

What advice would you give to students from the Allard School of Law entering the legal profession?
Be curious. Explore areas that do not interest you at first; maybe you will be surprised. Remember that completing law school is just the beginning; leave your ego at the door, as almost everything really useful in the practice of law remains to be learned. Put in your 10,000 hours. Approach your career in a way that is personally sustainable. And always be respectful to support staff.