The Canadian Bar Insurance Association
Intellectual Property

LEGAL BRIEF: John Simpson

This is the fourth in’s occasional feature series Legal Brief, profiling lawyers in the Toronto area.

By Kayona Lewis

Intellectual Property lawyer John Simpson’s Toronto practice Shift Law focuses on all aspects of IP law. Since opening in 2011, Simpson has been able to use his experience and skills to provide a unique and intimate approach to his clients. His focus is assisting clients with registrations, licensing agreements and IP litigation. He spoke with from his Leaside office.

Kayona Lewis: When did you realize that you wanted to be a lawyer?

John Simpson: In my mid-twenties. After I gave up wanting to be a rock star.

KL: Why did you choose to focus on intellectual property?

JS: I liked the policy issues involved and the need to think creatively.

KL: What other areas of law do you focus on?

JS: My focus is IP (including registrations and IP license agreements) and IP litigation. I assist clients with some non-IP commercial litigation, agreements, regulatory compliance and small business corporate issues, but for those issues I’ll often refer clients to another lawyer in my network.

KL: What makes Shift Law stand out from other practices?

JS: I think what makes Shift Law stand out is the combination of big firm IP law experience with a small firm approach that’s entirely client focused.

KL: How do you use the popularity of social media to help your practice?

JS:  Using social media like Twitter and LinkedIn is such a cost-effective way to market my services and to stay in touch with my target market and with other professionals who service that market. It’s also a great way to stay on top of what other practitioners are writing about and talking about.

KL: Your practice focuses on different areas from IP audits, search and clearance to advertising and marketing. How does advertising and marketing fit into your practice?

JS:  Advertising and marketing involves the creation and use of a lot of IP. Who owns it is often unclear and contentious. So, advising and representing advertising and marketing firms fits right into my IP practice. I enjoy working with creative people. Also, advertising is an increasingly regulated industry so I keep up on those regulatory developments so I can help my advertising clients with compliance issues.

KL: Your website states that while in school you received numerous awards and prizes for legal writing and advocacy. Do you think writing could have been a career for you if you were not a lawyer?

JS:  So long as I had something to write about and it was a way to make a living, I think writing would be a great career. 

KL: You are involved in the Cabbagetown Regent Park legal aid clinic doing pro bono legal work. Why did you choose to affiliate yourself with that community?

JS:  I live in Cabbagetown and love my neighbourhood. I’m also on the board of our Residents’ Association.

KL: How has your prior training in philosophy and political theory helped you within your current career?

JS:  Studying philosophy helped me learn how to think critically, which is an important skill for a lawyer.

KL: After working for other top Canadian intellectual property, litigation and business law firms, what made you branch out and start Shift Law?

JS:  I wanted to continue working with clients who weren’t satisfied with the big firm experience. And I want to make my clients feel that I am a part of their team rather than just a hired gun. That is hard to do when you’re working for a big firm with other lawyers’ interests to serve.

KL: Finish this sentence. “I am passionate about ...”

JS: ... getting the most out of life.

KL: Since starting Shift Law in 2011 how are you now able to balance family life with work life?

JS:  It’s always a struggle but I have more control over that balance as a sole practitioner (at least for now).

KL: What is next for you and Shift Law?

JS:  At some point in the next few years, I imagine bringing on board other lawyers with complementary practices.

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