In 1987, Lynn Harnden and Jake Emond shared a lunch that would change their careers and give Ottawa employers a legal partner they could count on.
The lawyers frequently ran into each other about town despite working at different firms. Eventually they got to talking about founding their own local firm specializing in labour and employment law.
They decided to take the leap and set a goal of growing the firm to 10 lawyers, never imagining that would only be the beginning.
“Reaching 50 lawyers is a significant milestone for a boutique firm that specializes in one field,” said Harnden. “It’s the result of longstanding relationships across many sectors, including employers in the private sector, the health, education, and municipal sectors as well as federally regulated employers.”
Emond Harnden’s client partnership model – the secret to success
The firm believes establishing long-term business relationships with their clients is the secret to their success — it makes their clients consider the firm as a business partner when facing employment and labour relations issues.
By working together as partners, lawyers and clients collaboratively create innovative and strategic approaches that help them avoid costly litigation.
Also central to the firm’s success has been a commitment to responsiveness.
“Most of the problems we deal with are time sensitive,” said Harnden. “Working with our clients with a sense of urgency marked us from day one and helped accelerate the growth of the firm.”
They also made a decision from the start to deliver services in both official languages.
“We have taken great pride in ensuring that clients have always been able to access services in the language of their choice,” said Emond.
These founders also know the first step to providing excellent client service is hiring the best people.
The partners take pride in seeing new recruits find their stride. “Seeing the people we hired right out of law school develop into highly competent lawyers is particularly gratifying,” said Emond.
Hiring local Ottawa talent to fill key operational roles is also an important part of an intentional strategy to evolve and expand the firm. An example is chief operating officer, Steven Herzog, who joined in the past year.
“Steve brought his professional services background and business acumen and infused that into how we operate,” said Emond. “He improved the caliber of our administrative, operational, and marketing teams and introduced innovative ways to run our business.”
Providing service beyond Ottawa
What Ottawa employers may not know about Emond Harnden is the extent of the firm’s geographic reach.
“On any given day, our lawyers may be advising employers in B.C., Newfoundland or Nunavut,” said Emond. “We have clients in every province and territory and assist many U.S. based employers with operations in Canada.”
They’re happy about the message it sends to Ottawa businesses.
“Ottawa-based business can go far beyond servicing the local market, particularly in a post-pandemic world where advisory services are not constrained by geography,” said Harnden.
Even as the size and reach of the firm continues to expand, the partners will always take pride in supporting the local Ottawa community.
“From day one, we have placed a priority on giving back to the local community,” said Harnden. “We try to step up as often as we can to help local organizations reach their fundraising goals.”
Harnden is also grateful for what they’ve received.
“We’re so grateful for how much the Ottawa community has supported us,” he said. “It’s that very support that has helped us to grow partnerships with employers far outside of Ottawa.”