The sparkling wine was flowing and a string quartet playing at the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP for a special evening involving friends, peers, family, former colleagues and law partners of the late Marc Jolicoeur.
The former regional managing partner of the firm passed away last February, at age 68, from glioblastoma brain cancer.
BLG brought nearly 100 invited guests together to honour Jolicoeur’s tremendous contributions while also raising money for a legacy endowment fund Jolicoeur and his wife, Kathleen Faulkner, established at The Ottawa Hospital. It supports research into finding better treatments and, ideally, a cure for brain cancer.
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It was later announced, by BLG’s regional managing partner Larry Elliot, that they had raised $88,000.
Faulkner attended that night, along with Jolicoeur’s two sons, David and Mathieu. BLG expressed its deep gratitude to the family members, recognizing that the long hours Jolicoeur spent working on behalf of the firm was also time spent away from his loved ones. “We’re so appreciative of everything Marc did for us, and we thank you for allowing him to do that,” Elliot told them.
Organizers made it easy to donate to the Marc Jolicoeur and Kathleen Faulkner Legacy Endowment Fund. They had laptops displaying the donation page set up in a board room. As an added incentive, they drew donor names later for thousands of dollars worth of prizes.
The evening also saw Elliot gather with members of the Jolicoeur family for an unveiling. One of the office meeting rooms is now named after Jolicoeur.
Mayor Mark Sutcliffe proclaimed it Marc Jolicoeur Day in recognition of a man who dedicated his life to “selflessly, tirelessly and enthusiastically serving his beloved community”. The proud Franco-Ontarian grew up in Vanier and was the son of a hardware store owner.
Jolicoeur was recently given a lifetime achievement award, posthumously, by Volunteer Ottawa for his work with such organizations as The Ottawa Hospital, United Way, YSB, and the University of Ottawa, to name a few. He had received the Order of Ottawa in 2012 and the local law association’s Gordon F. Henderson Award in 2001.
Jolicoeur had retired from BLG in June 2020, having held such leadership roles as regional managing partner from 2008 to 2014.
It was the largest group to set foot in the BLG office since pre-pandemic days. Guests included former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell, Ontario Superior Court Justice Pierre Roger, Bank of Canada general counsel Jeremy Farr, retired federal judge Peter Annis, Kelly Santini LLP’s Pat Santini and Kelly Sample, Nelligan Law’s Janice Payne, Denton LLP’s David Little and Greenspon Granger Hill LLP’s Lawrence Greenspon.
“I can’t tell you how nice it is to see so many people in our office,” said Elliot during the formal part of the evening, when he and a few of his colleagues took to the podium to share anecdotes and memories, like how Jolicoeur was always the first person in the office each morning or how he could network a room like no one else.
“To me, Marc was always larger than life,” said Elliot. “He was the lawyer every young lawyer wants to be.”
BLG partner David Sherriff-Scott, who worked with Jolicoeur for three decades, spoke very eloquently about his friend’s many gifts. “He had what can only be described as a unique aptitude to bond with people, at both a level that was personal and disarming, as well as deeply empathetic.
“Simply put, he loved people and he was so very much at ease with them that he could almost unconsciously make them feel special, make them feel heard, make them feel respected,” said Sherriff-Scott while recalling his uncanny ability to remember small details about everyone he met. “Whenever you talked to Marc, you felt like you were the only person in the room.”
Jolicoeur had also been there to support Sherriff-Scott “through thick and thin” during tough times.
“Marc, in my view, was a master of personal relationships. Personal relationships and the joy that they gave him were his oxygen.”
Jolicoeur served as a role model for Nadia Effendi when she was starting out. The alumna of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law is now a regional group manager for BLG in Toronto.
She recalled how nervous she’d been, as a former small-town girl from Edmundston, N.B., to first meet Jolicoeur. He was “a giant in the francophone community”.
“Marc showed all of us francophones that we could make it, despite being the minority that we were. In fact, he showed us that we could succeed because of it and, for that, and being able to look up to Marc as a role model, I will be forever grateful,” said Effendi, who was recently named Litigator of the Year at the 2022 Canadian Law Awards.
The room heard how Jolicoeur played a critical role in Ottawa firm Scott & Aylen’s merger with Toronto firm Borden & Elliott, becoming Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in 2000. He was widely regarded as the type of lawyer, partner and leader that law firms commonly build their success around. “He had great legal skills and, as a community leader, he raised the firm’s profile,” said Sean Weir, former long-time CEO and national managing partner of BLG. “He brought in a hell of a lot of work; he fed a lot of mouths.”
Weir said he’d been looking forward to spending more time in retirement with Jolicoeur, whom he affectionately called ‘Happy Heart’.
“We all cared a great deal for him and we miss him,” said Weir as his voice broke with emotion.
Lending a helping hand with the reception was expert event planner Snookie Lomow. It was fitting that the musicians were from the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (OSO). Jolicoeur had helped to arrange OSO’s longstanding relationship with the University of Ottawa music department.
As well, the party was catered by students of Chef Ric’s, a social enterprise created by The Ottawa Mission as part of its Food Services Training Program (FSTP). Again, it was Jolicoeur who played a role in helping the program find a proper home. One of the prizes given out that night was a catered dinner for four, donated by The Mission’s Chef Ric Watson and its FSTP.