Waddell: a strong advocate with a proven class-actions career
Toronto class-action lawyer Margaret Waddell was barely into junior high school when friends and family started telling her she should consider becoming a lawyer. At the time it sounded like a good idea and she stuck with it.
Even as a young child, she knew how to express an opinion and always stood up for what she believed in – attributes that have served her well in a successful career.
Waddell, partner at Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP, says she enjoys the problem-solving aspect of her field most, figuring out the genuine issues in any dispute and working out the best way to resolve them.
“And I like learning about different areas of the law and figuring out how each aspect of it works,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Above all else, that’s why class-action law appeals to her.
“It’s so broad and covers all areas of practice – the law is constantly evolving in Canada because it is so new here,” she says. “And these laws come together to help people.”
Waddell is head of her firm’s class-action group and will typically lead a team of three to five lawyers in the prosecution or defence of a class proceeding, and is responsible for establishing the strategic direction and tactics to be used during the litigation.
Waddell graduated from Queen’s University’s faculty of law, where she was recipient of a university entrance scholarship in law, and achieved the highest grade in evidence.
Waddell has won countless cases at all levels of court, most notably Cannon v. Funds for Canada Foundation, a leveraged charitable donation case involving 10,000 class members for which partial settlement to date is more than $28 million. She was also counsel in Markson v. MBNA Canada Bank, a case that involved criminal interest on credit cards that affected more than 150,000 cardholders.
She has received numerous accolades, including recognition by Lexpert for her class-action work and was named in the 2013 and 2014 Guides to the Leading U.S./Canada Cross-Border Litigation Lawyers in Canada; Best Lawyers in Canada; Benchmark Canada 2015 Star; and Chambers Global 2015 Leader in the Field for dispute resolution in class actions (plaintiff.)
A self-described Type A-plus personality, Waddell works hard to be as best an advocate as possible for her clients.
She attributes much of her success in part to a careful selection of the class-action cases she accepts.
“Before we start them, we give the cases a rigorous analysis to make sure they are tenable and that they should make it to the finish line to be successful to the class,” she says. “We are very diligent in the front-end research we do before a case gets started and I think that makes a difference."
Waddell also emphasizes the written material she and her team prepare to ensure it is comprehensive and well thought-out.
“We don’t leave anything for granted – we think about what the other side is going to say and try to respond to it on the front end,” she says.
Waddell says the most challenging aspect of the job is to try and anticipate the points that the other side is going to raise and then coming up with a response for it.
“Putting yourself into the shoes of the person and then trying to work your way around what their arguments are going to be can be difficult,” she says. “There are lots of brilliant lawyers out there who are arguing on the other side of cases – they always make it challenging to move ahead because they’re doing their job really well too.”
But Waddell admits the most memorable cases are the ones that she has lost.
“You figure out what you did wrong and how you could have done it better and you apply that to the next case and hopefully have more success,” she says.
Waddell contributes to the legal community by working outside of her practice area.
She is a member of the executive of the Toronto Lawyers Association and on the executive of the class-action law section of the Ontario Bar Association.
Waddell was a board member for The Advocates' Society for a three-year term from June 2003 – June 2006, and has been a member since 1996.
“I think that’s an important part of who I am and what I do – it’s me giving back to the profession at large and I think that’s important for all of us,” she says. “I have always been active in the larger legal community.”
Waddell has a 20-year-old son who was born with facial differences; since his birth she has been active in advocating on behalf of people with facial differences through AboutFace International.