Building a friendly firm
Mike Sherrard has built one of the top employment and labour law firms in Canada applying a key value he learned at the University of New Brunswick — putting people first.
A graduate of the school’s education (’87) and law (’90)
programs in Fredericton, Mike is one of the founding partners of Sherrard Kuzz
LLP, Employment & Labour Lawyers in Toronto.
Called to the bar in 1992, Mike, together
with fellow lawyer Erin Kuzz, decided in 2001 there was room in the Toronto
market for a unique management-side employment and labour firm; one that would
set itself apart with a set of core values that not only spoke of a
client-centred approach, but fulfilled this promise each and every day.
“From our very first day we have asked from our team only
one thing: exceed the expectations of
clients,” says Sherrard. “It’s fundamentally important to us that our clients
know we are down to earth and focused only on how we can help them succeed.”
The system worked — less than 10 years later, Sherrard Kuzz
LLP has grown from two lawyers to 24 lawyers and continues to make its mark as
one of the leading employment and labour law firms in the country. Sherrard himself has also earned some serious accolades in that time; he’s been repeatedly recognized as a leading lawyer by both Lexpert and Chambers Global.
He diverts credit for the praise back to his firm.
“The firm has, from what we understand from our clients,
developed quite a good reputation,” he says.
“Collaterally, I benefited. I
think one of my jobs in the firm is to make sure I live by our core
values. Those values have been an
important reason for our collective success.”
Rather than evaluating lawyers’ skills based on “billable
hours,”, Sherrard’s firm focuses on the end product.
“Forget the metric of numbers. Let’s use a different metric: the client’s
satisfaction and the client’s perception of us.”
And it’s through this latter point that you begin to have a
better understanding of what’s really different about this firm. “It’s not
enough that we do excellent work. It’s
just as important that our client’s are proud to work with us, like us as
people and consider us to be their trusted advisors and partners. If someone
said I was a great lawyer but a real jerk, I’d consider that a huge failure. We
hope our clients enjoy working with us as much for the end product as for the
process of partnering together.”
What the firm doesn’t have is a rigid hierarchy.
Lawyers are not referred to as “partners” or
“associates”. Everyone, including
support team members, is a colleague, explains Sherrard. There are also no
“partners” in corner offices — Sherrard’s office is no larger than any
other.“It’s about what works best for our clients, not anyone’s ego or a
pecking order. The sooner everyone
understands that the better off we’ll all be”.
This has allowed Sherrard Kuzz to grow primarily due to
client recommendations, he explains.
“When we meet or exceed your needs in a cost-effective
manner, there’s a really good chance you’re going to tell a friend or a
colleague. We get a lot of our business from our own clients, second mandates,
but also clients talking to peers in their professions.”
‘The right thing to do’
Studying at UNB made all the difference to Sherrard, who credits the school with showing him the power of positively influencing the people around him.
“I walked away from that campus knowing how to work
diligently, work efficiently, perform and compete, but never to take yourself
too seriously,” he says. “There was a sense of community, around Fredericton
and UNB, and people gave me lots of opportunity.”
The school, he explains, taught him the importance of
“paying it forward.”
“That was something that stuck with me. To do something for someone today, not because
you’re getting something out of it, but because you think it’s the right thing
to do. I had lots of colleagues around
UNB who did that for me. Because I lived
that experience, I wanted to try and repeat and reflect the benefits I got.”
An education at UNB stands out at his firm: “When we get a
UNB application across our desk, it may sound crazy, but that’s exciting for
us,” he says.
As a former varsity basketball player, Aitken House
resident, and law student, some of the deepest friendships of his life, too,
have come from his days at UNB Fredericton.
“There are guys that might call you 10 years later, and you
wouldn’t bat an eyelash if they needed help and you could help them. You have a
memory. Even if we don’t get in touch
with each other every day, we will always be prepared to take care of each
Contributed by Josh O'Kane, UNB Communications & Marketing. This story made possible thanks to the support of the UNB Associated Alumni.