Luisa Ritacca is the managing partner of Stockwoods. Luisa’s practice encompasses a wide variety of areas, including professional regulation; administrative law; general civil and commercial litigation. She is preferred counsel for LawPro, having acted on its behalf on a number of court motions.
Luisa frequently appears as counsel for the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports on a number of anti-doping cases. In addition, Luisa acts for students facing academic and non-academic related charges at secondary and post-secondary intuitions throughout the Province.
Further, Luisa acts as independent legal counsel for the College of Opticians of Ontario, the College of Naturopaths of Ontario, and the College of Veterinarians of Ontario.
Luisa was appointed by former Chief Justice Warren Winkler to act as court monitor in the administration of two pan-Canadian settlements involving the tainted blood scandal, as well as the settlement involving water contamination in Walkerton, Ontario.
Luisa has been involved in three judicial inquiries, including serving as co-counsel to the Office of the Chief Coroner in the Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology (the “Goudge Inquiry”), counsel for the North York General Hospital nurses during the SARS review, counsel for Peter McCallion in the Mississauga Judicial Inquiry, and counsel to the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario in the Elliot Lake Inquiry.
In February 2016, Luisa was appointed a part-time member of the Licence Appeal Tribunal, Fire Safety Commission and the Animal Care Review Board.
She is an adjunct professor for the Trial Practice Course at Osgoode Hall Law School and is a team leader for the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program.
1. How did you get involved in your current area of practice?
I currently practice both commercial litigation and public law, with a focus on professional regulation. I came into my practice areas much by chance. I always had an interest in administrative law and I clerked for the Divisional Clerk prior to joining Stockwoods, so public law was a natural fit for me. In addition, there were great senior lawyers at the firm doing interesting work in these areas and so I started working for and with them. That gave me good exposure to our existing clients and the opportunity to go out and market myself to potential new clients.
2. What qualities and/or skills are important for leaders?
I think a good leader needs to know how to draw the best out of her team. It isn’t about getting your team to do what you want them to do; rather, as a leader you need to create an environment that allows each person to thrive and succeed. It is also important to be able to make tough decisions. As a leader your goal is to obtain input and build consensus, but there are occasions where you have to make a call, regardless of how difficult or unpopular. Finally, I would say that a leader should be a good listener; your team members no doubt have valuable input. Listen and learn from them. You get more buy-in as a leader if you show that you are willing to take feedback and consider everyone’s ideas.
3. What qualities and/or skills do you look for in a junior?
I look for lawyers who are committed to doing the work of the firm and who are willing to take on projects/assignments that may be outside of their comfort zone. I am happy to help a young lawyer who might be working through an area of practice that is new for them. I also look for lawyers who understand that our primary job as lawyers is to serve our clients and to help our clients avoid or minimize problems. It is not enough to be able to identify issues for our clients; as lawyers we need to be able to come to them with solutions. I expect the lawyers who work with me to understand that problem-solving is our main focus. This is true whether you are meeting with a client to explain the legal ramifications of a particular business decision or presenting a case in court. You are there to offer solutions.
4. What advice would you give a young woman starting her practice?
You should find other lawyers with practices you admire and offer to buy them coffee. Lawyers are usually more than happy to give advice to other lawyers just starting out. You should also look for a network of lawyers who may or may not be doing the same kind of law, but who you believe will be supportive and encouraging. Law can sometimes be a stressful business. It is important that we surround ourselves with people who understand that.
5. What advice would you give a mid-level junior looking to advance her career?
If you love what you are doing and where you are working, let your employer know and talk to them about where you see yourself in the next 5 years. Make it clear to them that you see yourself as someone who has been and will continue to be of value to the firm/company. Keep doing great work for your clients and look for opportunities where you can start using the knowledge you have developed to date to give back to the legal community. Teaching and writing are great ways to give back and to showcase the breadth and depth of your knowledge.
6. What can we do to address the continued attrition of women in law?
This is a difficult question as I believe that there are a myriad of different reasons why women choose to leave the practice of law. Sadly, I am sure that there are women who have felt undervalued and unappreciated by their employers and/or partners, such that they no longer believe that the effort is worth it. I also know that there are others who feel the stress of balancing their home and professional obligations is too much to bear. Finally, I know women who have left the practice of law to take on other passions – which I think is great and should certainly be celebrated. That said, as someone in management, I try to make sure that the women on my team are heard and know that they are appreciated. I look for opportunities to showcase their skills and make sure to tout their successes. For women returning to practice after a parental leave, it is important for management to make sure that the work they are returning to is challenging and rewarding.
7. If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting out in law, what would it be?
Never say no to a work assignment that gets you into court.
8. Is there anything else (advice, an interesting experience, tips, etc.) that you would like to share with our members?
Remember that even the most difficult and acrimonious files will come to an end. Be sure to remain professional and civil with opposing counsel throughout. If you lose, call and congratulate the other side. If you win, call and let them know that it was a pleasure working with them.
This post is part of YWL's Managing Partner Series. This series features Q&A-style blog posts where women managing partners from small, mid-sized and large law firms answer questions about their path to success and share their advice for young women in law.