Employment & Labour

Clients grateful for tough-talking Ray-Ellis

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Clients should expect a reality check and not the usual niceties when they hire Toronto employment lawyer Soma Ray-Ellis.

Ray-Ellis, partner and chair of the employment and labour law group with Gardiner Roberts LLP, tells AdvocateDaily.com that counsel are always treading a fine line when acting for companies and executives in matters of wrongful dismissal, harassment, workforce-rightsizing, human rights, occupational health and safety, and all manner of other employment law issues.

“I am empathetic, but it’s important to be direct and to know the situation clearly to be able to give the right advice,” she says.

And according to Ray-Ellis, her strong, unwavering approach usually pays off for her clients, who include companies of all sizes, executives, CEOs, media personalities, senators and government officials in highly sensitive matters, both nationally and internationally.

“My approach may seem hard at first, but it prepares my clients for what it takes to succeed in the litigation process,” she explains. “Clients have always thanked me for that.”

Ray-Ellis was on track to follow a path toward the legal profession starting in Grade 11, when she joined the high school debate team.

“It was a light-bulb moment,” she says. “I realized I wanted to make a living focused on things that moved me.”

As time has passed, it’s become more apparent how well-suited her chosen career is to her personality.

“I am compelled by social justice and human rights issues,” she says. “More than any other profession, as lawyers, we have direct access to defining and remedying wrongs in society. It is a privilege to be able to make a difference and create positive change.”

Having graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1990, long before the #MeToo movement, Ray-Ellis found herself drawn to employment law as a result of some of her own personal experiences during her articling year, and emerged determined to tackle issues that have only grown in prominence since.

“I decided I would spend a portion of my work life dealing with harassment and discrimination issues head-on as a lawyer,” she says.

Since her call to the bar in 1992, Ray-Ellis has acquired considerable experience in high-profile matters, acting as lead counsel to Air India at the Air India Inquiry, and conducting numerous investigations for municipalities and corporations involving allegations of harassment, discrimination and bullying, along with representing significant members of society in complex matters.

She has also published extensively, authoring the Halsbury’s Laws of Canada volumes on employment law and the volume on discrimination and human rights. Ray-Ellis was also a co-drafter of the original Rules of Practice for the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and contributed to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers practising mediation.

When in court, her approach is informed by the over-burdened state of Ontario’s civil justice system.

“I am always in awe of what both the members of the judiciary and court staff are able to process and manage,” Ray-Ellis says. “As such, I try to be prepared, passionate, and to the point.

“It‘s a little bit about effective story-telling. We are competing to ensure our side is heard loud and clear and doesn’t get lost in the noise from the other side,” she adds.

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