Reorganization of legal services saves $200 000 per year 

By Karen Herland

The legal staff of the Office of the General Counsel has expanded to five lawyers. In increasing its legal capacity from the previous team of two lawyers, the university will be far less reliant on external firms and will save $200 000 annually.

“When I left Concordia in 2003, I could already see a trend towards an increased need for legal services,” said Bram Freedman, who held the position of Assistant Secretary-General and General Counsel from 1992 to 2003. When Freedman returned as Vice-President, External Relations and Secretary-General in Feb. 2008, he undertook an evaluation of legal services.

“University life is becoming more complex,” he remarked. “An increased focus on research means a need to have expertise in intellectual property, patents and research contracts.” Meanwhile, he says the construction projects the university has been involved in require legal expertise in the acquisition of property and contracts with construction firms.

While reviewing the legal expenses of the university and comparing those results with information collected from his peers at the other Montreal universities, he was able to confirm a trend in increased legal activity.

“We have hundreds of dossiers open in a year,” he said. “Some can be settled in a half a day. On the other hand, the acquisition of the Grey Nuns site took close to three years to complete.”

It was clear the volume of work required to maintain the university’s corporate, legal, administrative and governing responsibilities was broader than could be managed by two lawyers, regardless of their range of knowledge. His evaluation also revealed which areas were most likely to require legal support, and seeking that support was becoming an increasingly expensive and decentralized process.

With the full support of then-President Michael Di Grappa, Freedman centralized legal services and determined that increasing the in-house legal staff would both cut costs and improve the level and quality of legal support available to the university.

The university’s legal team is headed by Frederica Jacobs as General Counsel. Her career practice has focused on real estate and corporate matters within the higher education sector. She is supported by Eva Samartzidis, a Concordia graduate who has fifteen years of experience and has been Assistant General Counsel here since Oct. 2007. Her expertise lies in research, intellectual property and purchasing.

Melodie Sullivan, another Concordia graduate, joins the university as Legal Counsel – Student and Administrative affairs. Geneviève Desmarais, Legal Counsel – Employment and Labour Relations will support the human resources department. Valérie Gastebled as Legal Counsel – Facilities Management will be primarily responsible for property-related matters.


Concordia University