John Russo, Managing Partner and Lawyer Zoe Smith were interviewed by the Toronto Japanese Association of Commerce and Industry. The interviews were published on-line in their newsletter, Trillium, November 2018 issue.
Click here to view the publication.
English translation for John Russo’s interview:
(Matsuda) Please introduce about Pallett Valo.
(Mr. Russo) In terms of the history of the firm, the firm started in 1948 by John Pallett. It started as Pallett & Pallett, because he practiced with his brother. Mr. Pallett served as a member of Parliament in the Canadian government under John Diefenbaker from 1954 to1962. Around 1980, Pallett & Pallett joined with Sidney Valo, a founder of Milman Valo, so the name was changed to Pallett Valo. At that time, we were primarily a commercial real estate firm, but over time we have come to be a full-service law firm for business.
The firm was originally located in Port Credit on Lake Shore and we eventually moved to our current location. For the last number of years, we have been in the downtown Mississauga core, and we have been in our current building since 2013.
Our firm currently has 88 employees. We have approximately 37 lawyers, law clerks in various areas, personal assistants to lawyers and an administrative staff.
Happily, this year we are celebrating our 70th anniversary.
(Matsuda) What are your areas of expertise?
(Mr. Russo) We are a full-service law firm for business. We do not provide criminal law services, family law or personal injury. We are primarily centered around seven practice groups: employment law, commercial real estate, corporate law which includes commercial leasing, commercial litigation, construction law, bankruptcy and insolvency, and we have quite a vibrant Wills and estates practice.
(Matsuda) What type of clients do you serve to?
(Mr. Russo) We service everyone from individuals to multi-national corporations and everything in between. On our corporate side we deal mostly with family-owned and operated businesses but we also have large corporate clients. It is a full range of clients that we serve.
(Matsuda) What do you think Pallett Valo’s strength or specialization is?
(Mr. Russo) This is a good question. There are two things. I believe we have excellent knowledgeable lawyers in their particular practice areas, and we focus on customer service and providing value to our clients. For instance, if a file comes in to the litigation group, we will line up that particular client’s file with the right lawyers so we are allocating the right resources for the file. We try to add value to every file that comes in and to the client as well. Itis not just an exercise in recording your time, there has to be some value added, and I think we do that really well.
We are also large enough where we can handle sophisticated work but small enough where we do not lose the interaction with the clients. It is not nameless or faceless, we know the file and we are really involved with the client. That’s a real advantage.
Since 2011, we have been voted as one of the top 10 Ontario Regional Law Firm in consecutive biannual surveys by Canadian Lawyer magazine and in the last vote we were number 3 in Ontario. That is voted on by our peers and the public in general, which makes it very special. We have been very successful in this recognition since 2011.
(Matsuda) What do you think you are able to provide to the Japanese business community?
(Mr. Russo) What we can offer is the knowledge and expertise to Japanese businesses about Canadian law, and what they need to do to either start up or continue operations in Canada and Ontario specifically. We regularly update all our clients, but with respect to the Japanese community, we provide newsletters on changes to the law and particular issues that are unique to various groups. We also regularly offer various seminars to our clients. What we can offer is continued education, specific to each unique business advising what they require in Ontario. We also offer ongoing legal services right in their backyard, so there is a convenience factor. Since 2010, we are also a part of an international organization of law and accounting firms called IAG – Global, so if a business here has a particular need outside of our jurisdiction we can put them in contact with a trusted advisor anywhere around the world.
(Matsuda) Please share with us your thoughts about Pallett Valo’s future plans and strategies.
(Mr. Russo) When I started with Pallett Valo in 1999, we were 16 lawyers and now we are approximately 37 and growing. We do not have a plan to say we want to be 40, 50 or 60 lawyers. The way our growth has developed has been very organic, depending on client needs, such as when the practice gets busier and we add to the group, or if there’s a new practice area we want to add, we will hire a lawyer with that specialization.
What we have also done fairly recently is create a Toronto office, which is by appointment only, where we can meet clients in the downtown core if they do not want to make the trip to Mississauga. We also have a number of clients in Vaughan so we recently opened an office in that area, also by appointment only, to better serve those clients.
In terms of where we think we will go, I think we will get bigger, but it is not because we are saying we want to hit a specific goal. We are adding lawyers to better serve our clients.
(Matsuda) Can you offer a message to our members?
(Mr. Russo) We are a trusted, longstanding institution in Mississauga that can provide the proper services to meet each business’s unique needs. Our lawyers are well-respected, have the right knowledge to assist you. If you want to come in just to have a discussion about your unique situation or just want to introduce yourself, we are happy to meet with you. You are welcome to tour our facility and see exactly what it is we have to offer. Maybe we are not right for everyone, but I would say that most businesses here would benefit from our knowledge, range of expertise and excellent client service. We are the largest firm in Peel Region, and probably the largest west of Bay Street, so there should be no concern about our ability to get the work done.
(Matsuda) It concludes the interview. Thank you very much for your valuable time.