“Back to Billing”: My Return to Private Practice

I started my legal career as a summer student in 2008 with what was then known as Ogilvy Renault LLP in Montreal (now known as Norton Rose Fulbright Canada (NRF)). Before discovering the firm, I had not contemplated working at a big firm but I loved the people, the practice area I chose (employment & labour) and the intense intellectual challenge of working with some of the smartest people I had ever met. I wasn’t planning on leaving. I considered myself a “lifer”.

“Life” lasted only a few years. I left the firm in 2012 to lead Employee Relations for Target Canada (see this Slaw.ca post). It was an amazing opportunity. I got to be involved from “before the beginning”, build an amazing team, help figure out how to hire 20,000 people in 6 months, learn a new business and play a large role in building a “best-in-class” set of HR policies and practices. It was an amazing 3-year experience and despite how it ended, I am incredibly proud of what we all accomplished (and wrote about it on the Huffington Post). So what now?

I’ve returned “home”. Three weeks ago, I started back at NRF, this time based in Toronto. Many people have asked me why I would want to return to private practice. Well, I didn’t leave because I didn’t like it – I left because Target presented me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I learned a lot and I think I can be an even better lawyer because of my experience at Target. Having been “in-house”, I’d like to think I can better put myself in the shoes of my clients in my new role.

Many lawyers make the transition from private practice to in-house. Fewer return. For me, it’s been great so far and I feel very fortunate to have been welcomed back so warmly – both by my colleagues and clients.

Does anyone care to share their experiences leaving from or returning to private practice? Any advice?


  1. Ginger Goodwin

    Congratulations Gabriel. Tough decision but with a few more years of seasoning you might be able to become a more than questionably competent management-side lawyer. Not good to be leading edge – cutting edge okay, and the ability to talk reason to your clients is a plus. All the best.

  2. Gabriel Granatstein

    Ginger – not sure what you mean by your comment or how to take it.. but thanks for reading.

  3. I think you will find that your in house experience will help with your return to private practice.
    I value the years i spent in house because it allowed to look at matters in a different late. Welcome back i am sure your firm is happy to have you