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Class Action

Lombardi: an advocate who thrives on the variety of class actions

London class-action lawyer Sabrina Lombardi was in her late teens when she worked on her first case, and she’s been at it ever since in a career that has progressed alongside the development of her practice area in Canada. 

At age 18, thinking she might want to be a lawyer, she cold-called a large local law firm to ask if she could volunteer. 

“I thought I’d go and observe it a bit,” Lombardi, a member of the class-action group at the London, Ont.-based firm McKenzie Lake Lawyers, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Management at that firm, no doubt impressed with her gumption, accepted her offer, putting her to work on the front-line with members of a class-action suit. 

“I find people interesting, so I really enjoyed that aspect of it,” she says. 

There was no end of work to be done. The nature of class-action cases, their sheer scope and complexity, makes for heavy administration. There are sometimes thousands of people involved in a case, with some matters requiring significant contact with members to establish their claims, Lombardi explains. 

She was tasked with contacting class members, conducting interviews, obtaining medical records, filling out claim forms and more. 

“I really liked the work and the idea of doing something that had this good effect on a mass of people at once," she says. "I found it really exciting, this maximum impact.” 

Her timing couldn’t have been better for a front-row view onto a new frontier in Canadian law. 

“The first case I was involved with was one of the first class actions in this country,” Lombardi says.

She found the energy and dynamism of class-action law contagious. 

“Everyone I worked with was excited about what they were doing because it was so cutting edge,” she says. “So many other types of law are constrained by precedent.”

Not so with class-action cases, Lombardi says. 

“This was very different,” she says. “It was all still in the making. It wasn’t as traditional.” 

Lombardi gained an early appreciation for the highly collaborative nature of these cases. 

“They’re impossible to do alone,” she says. “It’s not like other litigation where the lawyer carries the file solo, beginning to end,” she says. “This is a team. It has to be.”

Following law school at the University of Windsor, Lombardi wondered if she hadn’t given other practice areas a chance. She tried out different areas during her articling, which only confirmed her first instincts were good. She returned to class-action work and stayed there.  

“Ultimately, I just felt this is where I belong,” she says. 

Lombardi, who studied political science and cinema as an undergraduate, relishes its creative possibilities. 

“I use that side of my brain, that film side, that artistic side,” she says. “I see things a little differently — and that is very helpful in what we do because we bring forward cases all the time that aren't cookie cutter.” 

During her career, Lombardi has witnessed the increase in the volume and scope of class-action cases in Canada, as they expanded beyond a consumer-protection focus.

“There’s been a growth into many different areas,” she says, including anti-trust and pension litigation, and matters relating to breach of privacy. 

“That’s really born out of the times in which we live, as well as social media and technology,” she says. “It's an evolving area.” 

She's currently working on automobile and pharmaceutical cases, as well as those with social-justice leanings, as in a matter against a college, in which former students have alleged abuse. 

Lombardi is also litigating a case in Manitoba where the government is alleged to have purposefully diverted flood water towards four First Nations communities. 

Whatever the case, or the subject, she immerses herself in it. 

“I want to know it inside out and backwards. I try to learn as much as I can about the issues involved and all the tangents,” she says. “I go down many different rabbit holes.” 

Lombardi thrives on the variety the job offers. 

“I like writing. I enjoy doing the initial investigation into a new subject. I love making submissions in court and the client interaction too,” she says. “And my day is filled with all of those things.” 

 

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