Employment & Labour

Irwin embraces complexity in employment law practice

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Toronto employment lawyer Mackenzie Irwin isn’t afraid of a challenge.

Before entering the legal profession, Irwin, associate with MacDonald & Associates, spent six years as a member of the Ontario Alpine Ski Team, representing the province at international and North American events, before earning herself a spot on the roster of the top division college skiing team at New York state’s St. Lawrence University.

And that competitive spirit remains in evidence in her legal work.

“For the most part, we like cases with complexity, and we’re always striving to make new law,” Irwin tells AdvocateDaily.com, pointing to the pioneering work of principal Natalie MacDonald who wrote the book, Extraordinary Damages In Canadian Employment Law and argued the current leading case setting the record for moral and punitive damages.

“At the same time, we always try to keep everyone focused on the fact that in litigation, anything is possible,” she says.

Irwin says she felt drawn to the law while studying psychology and sociology at St. Lawrence, where she was awarded the title of Academic All American in all four years of study.

After exploring health law, Irwin discovered her passion for employment law while articling at a global law firm, where she acted exclusively for employers with workplace issues, including allegations of human rights discrimination, occupational health and safety, worker’s compensation, accommodation, and employment-related litigation.

At MacDonald and Associates, she has broadened her client base to include employees as well as employers, acting in a variety of human rights and employment matters.

“I think it’s a great benefit to be working for both employers and employees because we have a deeper understanding of what each side is looking for, rather than focusing all our arguments on one mindset,” Irwin says.

In addition, she says the boutique firm environment suits her.

“It’s great to be more involved in files from the start, and to be able to see them through to completion,” says Irwin, who has also taken advantage of MacDonald’s education sessions for human resources professionals to build relationships in the field.

“Natalie encourages us to attend with her, and it has been very helpful to see what questions and issues are on their mind,” she says.

“Mackenzie is a welcome addition to the firm, putting her dedication and competitive drive from her career as an Alpine skier to excellent use in pursuit of her bright future as an employment lawyer,” MacDonald says.

Describing her style with clients as “straightforward,” Irwin says she likes to ensure they know what they’re getting into from the outset.

“For employees, especially, they might not have much experience with court processes, so I spend some time laying out what each step looks like, and how long it might take,” she says.

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