A lawyer from PCL Constructors Canada was selected as a finalist for the litigation management award for in-house counsel, part of the prestigious Canadian General Counsel Awards program.
Audrey Faint, legal counsel, eastern Canadian operations for PCL, the only in-house lawyer recognized from the construction industry, was nominated by Glenn Ackerley, chair of the construction practice law group at WeirFoulds LLP and Graham Brown, litigation associate with WeirFoulds LLP.
PCL is a client of WeirFoulds.
“What they said in the nomination is, it’s not about the size of the lawsuit, it’s about effective quarterbacking of overall legal strategy, hands-on management of legal advisers, how decisions are made and how the nominee manages multi-jurisdictional issues,” explained Brown. “Construction lends itself to a lot of litigation, no matter how good you are. What is interesting about Audrey’s practice is that because PCL operates across Canada, she ends up managing litigation in multiple jurisdictions in Eastern Canada.”
Faint is responsible for all of the PCL in-house legal work for Eastern Canada, from the east coast to Manitoba.
“Being in-house is isolating at times because you are the only one and you don’t have access to the inside of other peoples in-house departments to know if what I’m doing is normal,” said Faint. “It was good to hear that confirmation that I’m doing something right.”
She manages hundreds of millions of dollars of new work or litigation at any given time.
“I deal mainly with the major disputes, over $1 million, if they are complicated, and a little bit of insurance,” said Faint. “Day-to-day, it’s a lot of proactive work with our operations people. While the litigation stuff is part of my job I don’t think it’s the biggest part because there is a lot of work to avoid litigation.”
Faint makes it a point to know as much information as possible about both sides of the case.
“I do not like not knowing what the facts and the details are so I find I’m quite prepared,” said Faint. “Our operations guys don’t have a direct contact with our external counsel most of the time so I have to be the go-between.”
Faint has been with PCL on and off for the last 20 years, starting with a co-op term as a field engineer before she went to law school. Her education, background and experience gives her a unique perspective, said Brown.
“When she gets a problem in front of her she looks at it not only as a lawyer but also as an engineer,” said Brown. “She has incredible insight, always has a great perspective and always has incredible advice even before she speaks to external counsel. It’s amazing watching her operate.”
Brown said working with Faint is a partnership and she is truly part of the team.
“She is on top of every piece of litigation that comes across her desk, whether it’s something that has been going on for several years or something that’s brand new or something that just might be in the works trying to avoid litigation,” said Brown. “The level of analysis she has on each file is always precise and there is great attention to detail. She has so many files on the go and she knows them all inside out.”
Faint has also proactively undertaken a review of the possible impacts of the impending Construction Act in Ontario.
“What Audrey has been able to do at PCL is put together policies and procedures as well as training sessions to make sure that everybody is ready for the changes,” said Brown. “She is three steps ahead when it comes to thinking about what the problems might be and how to solve them.”
Ackerley said Faint is a pleasure to work with as a client and that she is both personable and professional.
“She’s a great in-house counsel to work with which is what these awards are about,” he said.
“There are some people who have unrealistic expectations. She is practical and realistic in the sense that she knows what is most likely going to be achieved in a case so she is great at managing expectations too which is important. She is very capable of seeing through to the end how this is likely to play out.”