Michael Ford

Business law the perfect fit for logical thinker Saunders

Toronto commercial lawyer Bob Saunders would never have gone into the legal profession if his parents had their way.

The family owned a drug store, and Saunders’ mother and father thought it would make the most sense for him to train as a pharmacist and take over the business. But their teenage son had other plans.

“I was already working there part time, and I hated the idea. So I told them I didn’t want to be a pharmacist,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Inevitably, they wanted to know what alternative careers he had in mind, so Saunders told them the first thing that came into his head.

“I blurted out that I would be a lawyer,” he says.  

Back then Saunders had no idea what the job entailed, but as he progressed further down the road to law school and beyond, he realized he had made the perfect choice.

“The truth is it’s hard to tell which comes first; the job or the personality, but my mind works like a lawyer’s and people have always said that about me,” he says. “If you ask me a question, I will construct a very lineal answer that begins at point a, and then takes you very logically through point b and on to point c.”  

“It makes for a boring person, but it’s great for analyzing legal issues,” he jokes.

After his call to the bar in 1979, Saunders operated a generalist practice at the Toronto firm that would later become Basman Smith LLP, working with founder Muni Basman and his brother Itzik Basman. That changed in the early 1980s, when Muni decided that although he was too old to alter his practice, the other two should specialize, with one becoming a litigator and the other a commercial lawyer.

“Itzik was his brother, and he wanted to be a litigator, so I became the commercial lawyer,” Saunders says. “Muni was ahead of his time in realizing that the day of the generalist was ending. It was getting too hard to keep up with all these various areas of the law.”

A significant portion of Saunders’ practice now covers real estate and leasing work, including the purchase and sale of residential and commercial properties. re-financing and development work.

He also advises corporations, partnerships, and small companies in all areas of business law, from establishment to sale, and all points in between.

Saunders has also established a niche in estate executor and trustee work, a practice area that has its roots in his more than three decades at Basman Smith. Many of the firm’s longstanding clients developed a need for an independent professional executor and trustee, and looked to Saunders to fill the roles, he says.

After Basman Smith dissolved last year, Saunders took his practice to Fogler Rubinoff LLP, where he is now a partner. He says the transition was eased by the fact that both he and his spouse, Mary Wahbi, an estates and trust lawyer, moved to Fogler's with their team of assistants and clerks.

“It takes some getting used to when you move from a firm with 26 lawyers to one with 125,” Saunders says. “But Fogler's is a wonderful place with a lot of very good people. There are more resources available here too, which has helped improve my ability to serve my clients.”

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