Alumni Testimonials: Innovation, Law and Technology

Farahana Jobanputra
Director, RBC Capital Markets

Born in Kigali, Rwanda, Farahana Jobanputra was a toddler when her parents brought her to Canada. Her mother was widowed shortly after they arrived, leaving her to raise two small children in a foreign country. “We really are a boot-strapping family,” she says. “My mom became a serial entrepreneur, developing new technological solutions. Her businesses really were my introduction to using technology and to accessing new opportunities.”

After blazing a trail as the first girl in her family to earn a BA and then an MBA, Farahana has consistently set newer, higher bars with her professional achievements. Now Program Manager for digital projects at BMO, she’s earning her GPLLM. “One of the gaps in a traditional MBA program is you don’t learn literacy in the law,” she says. “As a practitioner developing new technologies; navigating privacy, legal and compliance concerns are part of my everyday life. As a digital specialist, this program allows me to build on my business and cyber security background to deliver better quality solutions.

The GPLLM fills those gaps, she says and builds an appreciation for client experience concerns. “How do you balance commercial interests with ethics and social responsibility?” she says. “I feel like that’s what we’re getting with some of the discussions we’re having. The grounding in law combined with business leaders makes us more thoughtful practitioners.”

Howard Shearer
Chief Executive, Hitachi Canada

As Chief Executive of Hitachi Canada, Howard Shearer is where the buck stops. His portfolio includes business development, government relations, and helping the company’s fifteen business units collaborate effectively. It’s a role that suits him well. An electrical engineer by training, he’s been with Hitachi for 34 years.

“Gone are the days when engineers just sit in their labs and make great inventions,” he says. “In today’s world you require collaborative solutions for customers.” And with the rapid infiltration of technology into almost every aspect of life, Howard felt that the GPLLM would give him a leg up. “If you’re moving toward a knowledge economy, I think it’s important for CEO’s to have a good feel of all governance issues surrounding the use of data. How you share it and how you protect it.”

The Innovation, Law and Technology concentration “totally played to my space,” he says. “It looks at the impact of technology on society, governance of issues around it, and forces you to exercise your judgments and thought as a CEO. What things should be considered? What can you expect? How you weigh the risks and how you weigh the benefits. I love it.”

Charles Von Simson
Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School

After years of experience at law firms in the U.S., Charles von Simson connected with the GPLLM while working as a partner at Buffalo-based Barclay Damon.  As a member of the firm’s active cross-border practice group, he was looking for ways to develop better business connections in Canada. He was also ready to go back to school, and the Innovation, Law and Technology stream dovetailed nicely with his practice area. “It had a good fit with my professional life at the time,” he says.  But what happened next surprised even von Simson.  He applied for a position at ROSS Intelligence, an AI firm that develops software for legal research. “I got the job.” he says. “It was an offer I just couldn’t refuse.”

There was a clear link between the GPLLM and his sudden career shift, von Simson says. “For one thing, I really did gain a level of fluency in technology issues that put me in a position to be more useful at ROSS.” And the company was specifically seeking an American lawyer to work in its Toronto office. Von Simson filled the role perfectly. As what’s called a subject matter expert, he helps software engineers understand how lawyers think and how they approach legal research. “I think technology is going to change the way law is practiced,” he says. “It’s going to happen sooner and more radically than anybody expects.”

Von Simson was so pleased with GPLLM, he applied to join the faculty. He’ll be teaching software commercialization in the fall. “The classes are really like being in a great conversation,” he says. “The professors who were good left a lot of room for conversation between students and teachers. I felt like they all got as much out of it as they put in. It’ll be really fun to teach, especially with such engaged students.”

Chitwant Kohli
Chair - Board of Directors, Exchange Bank of Canada

"Humans are social animals and our interactions with each other are much smoother and predictable when there are common set of rules/norms in place. These rules have helped us organize our lives in a better fashion and get the most out of each individual's talents - collectively we have achieved more than what each individual could. It is in this context that I believe that non lawyers can benefit tremendously from getting a legal education. It helps stretch a different part of the brain, increases awareness of how the legal systems work in various countries and across the globe, improves the understanding of the underlying logic and principles used to make specific laws. Further legal education trained me to be better prepared to enjoy my rights and discharge my obligations living in today's world."