Catching Up With JD/MBA’08 Alum Konata Lake
By: John Wu
JD/MBA alum Konata Lake, Partner at Torys LLP, graduated from Osgoode and Schulich in 2008. Since then he has become one of the top M&A lawyers in the country, being featured in Precedent Magazine in 2017 as the recipient of a “Precedent Setter Award.” In 2016 he was also the Osgoode Gold Key recipient within the One-to-watch category.
Together, they bring you this edition of the Alumni Spotlight…
J: What was your experience with the JD/MBA program? What advice would you give a student looking to get the most out of it?
KTL: The JD/MBA Program provided me with an incredible opportunity to explore the legal and business field and the intersections between the two. The group work of the MBA program prepared me well for a life of working in a corporate law office and working on transaction teams which I do now in my M&A practice. My advice to current students would be to explore as much as possible. Go to every event and meet as many people as possible. I still keep in touch with friends from the JD/MBA program.
J: Are there any specific JD/MBA classes or events you have particularly fond memories of?
KTL: The final seminar program that all graduating JD/MBA students had to take stands out to me. The program culminated with a dinner hosted by Rob Wildeboer. The course was focused on discussions of real life issues we would face in the business world whether as lawyers or other business professionals. The opportunity to have these discussions and hear from JD/MBA alum was priceless. The dinner with Rob was great as he offered fantastic insights with great humour.
J: What would you look for if you were looking to hire new graduates from the JD/MBA program?
KTL: Employers are of course looking for smart new hires but if you survived the JD/MBA program you are likely smart enough and that won’t differentiate you. A general passion and curiosity for the area or subject matter being pursued is key. These are not items one can fake and so students should pursue areas they genuinely have an interest in. And of course, there is no substitute for hard work. A strong work ethics is paramount.
J: Last year, you made partner at Torys (congratulations!). What were some of the biggest challenges you had to deal with on your path to partnership?
KTL: I grew up in a single parent household not far from York University. Not the typical background for a “Bay” street partner. The biggest challenge was not related to legal work – it was learning a social environment, which is critical to success in the professional service industry – that was completely foreign to me. Thankfully, I have been blessed to have mentors and champions throughout my career, both in and out of law, who have and continue to look out for me.
J: What’s the most interesting case you’ve worked on so far?
KTL: Over the course of a couple years I worked for the Province of Ontario on the sale of shares of Hydro One Limited to First Nations in Ontario. It was by far the most rewarding transaction I have worked on. The culmination of that transaction provided First Nations in Ontario with assets that over the long term can have incredibly positive impacts on First Nations Communities. The link between a corporate transaction and the betterment of individuals is not often very direct and so it was great to be a part of something aimed at such a clearly positive goal.
J: When you’re not in the office, how do you like spend your free time?
KTL: When not in the office or working on work matters, my time is spent trying to keep up with my son and occasionally getting out to the gym. Not much more time for anything else.
J: You’ve been a long-time member of the York University Board of Governors. What made you decide to go for the position? Could you share with us some of your experiences on the Board?
KTL: York University has always held a special place for me. During high school it was an outlet and an escape from day to day life as I trained for track and field events at York’s track facilities. And, the education I received at York has transformed my life. It was only natural then to try to give back to York University in whatever way I can. Serving on the Board of Governors allows me to do that. I am able to leverage my life and work experiences as part of the governance of the university, bringing insights on both business matters as well as diversity and inclusion.
J: I want to congratulate you on becoming a father. Between your work at the firm, and your extensive involvement with the community, how are you finding the challenges of parenthood? Any advice for prospective / current parents in law school?
KTL: It is awesome, frustrating and terrifying, but there is nothing better I have done or will do in my life. As for advice, it’s probably too early for me to give any as my son is just under a year but I think students should know that you don’t have to choose between a career and being an involved and engaged parent. You probably can’t have it all but you can create an experience and life that works for you and your family – customize your life to you and your family’s needs rather than attempt to copy anyone else. Also, Sheryl Sandberg’s comment that “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry” applies to everyone. My spouse is amazing–she is a surgeon, a personal trainer, a mom, and has more energy than I do. She is the only reason I can juggle both. Thus, choose wisely!