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Apr 26, 2018|News

John Valeriote: 50 Years in Law

We are pleased to congratulate John Valeriote on 50 years of legal excellence – serving his clients and community with pride. John was a founding partner of SV Law in 1999 and continues to play an integral role in our growth and success.

David Smith, a close friend of almost 50 years and partner of more than 15, describes John as a very detailed, thorough, and honest lawyer who continues to go the extra mile for his clients. This, in turn has led to their steadfast loyalty to both him and the firm. “I am delighted that John has been able to reach this significant goal and is still working hard. He truly enjoys the practice of law, he keeps in good health, and he works hard – those are the secrets to longevity.”

John recalls with fresh fondness what the past 50 years have been like:

Q: You have reached quite a significant milestone – how does it feel?

John Valeriote: This might be trite to say but it seems like I started just yesterday. I think the combination of good health, good law firms, good people working with me, and a supportive family have all contributed to an excellent 50 years.

Q: How did you get into law? What led you to practice in Guelph?

JV: My stepfather, Fred Moyer was an excellent lawyer and a wonderful influence on me with respect to my love of the law and serving clients. As I began to show an interest in the law, he steered me where I needed to go, which included my first job at Hughes Amys, an insurance defense firm in Toronto. It was a tremendous experience where I discovered I really liked being a litigator. However, I was then presented with an opportunity to partner with a lawyer named Aldo Braida, who had a busy general practice in Guelph. I decided to follow that path and returned to Guelph.

Q: How has your practice evolved over the years?

JV: At first, I did all the litigation that came in the door. I focused on litigation for the first 15 years of my career. I’ve always kept my robes in my office and was always ready to go to court. I prided myself on being good at representing a client’s interests – making sure my file was complete, that I had all the facts (helpful and not so helpful), and anticipating the other side's position as well as how to oppose that position. Because I was practicing in a smaller community, I also became involved in real estate development work, which I found to be creative and fun to do. Appearances before local committees, city council, and the Ontario Municipal Board to represent my clients’ interests was simply another form of litigation.

Q: How has the legal profession changed over the years?

JV: The thing that has really affected my life and the law has been advances in technology. During my early years of practice, I always made sure that we had the latest technology, which was then Xerox machines, fax machines, phone systems, and sophisticated (at the time) computer systems.

The evolution of technology and the business of law have changed together. Now, everyone in court has a laptop – the lawyers and the judges – and they’re using them to take notes and retrieve documents. Technology also allows us to do a lot of our work electronically and remotely. In the early days when working on a real estate deal, I would have to gather up all the paperwork and take it to the registry office to close a deal. Now, I can close real estate deals online, even if I am out of the country.

Another dramatic change that I have seen over the last 50 years is the increased number of women in the legal profession. When I came out of law school, there were less than 10 women in my class; today, more than half of law students are women. And I’m proud to say the number of lawyers in our law firm is representative of the law school population (almost 50/50 men and women). Moreover, we place a great deal of importance on supporting the diverse needs of our lawyers and our staff.

Q: What do you think makes a good lawyer?

Competence, of course, but also communication. One of the great mistakes that we, lawyers make is not sufficiently communicating with our clients – just assuming the client knows what we’re doing. That is a very dangerous assumption. The more you keep the client informed of what you are doing on a file, the more satisfied your client will be. As an aside, the very best kind of legal business is the referral business from that "satisfied" client. However, you must now perform well for both the new client, who has been referred to you and for the existing client, who made the referral.

Q: If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to be more balanced between my work and my personal life. That’s something that I have observed today in younger lawyers and other professionals – they’re a lot more in tune with their personal lives and deliberately build in a quality of life agenda. I come from an age when quality of life was often secondary to work. What you did was work, no matter the sacrifice. Balance is better.

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John Valeriote