Soon after she overheard colleagues talking about a charity event, Susan Dhillon, now national manager, corporate services, with McMillan LLP, found herself rappelling down 36 storeys of a local hotel. “It was high!” she admits. “But to my surprise, many of my colleagues came out to support me. One partner left before I could thank him and when I asked him why, he said, ‘I just came to make sure you were all right.’”
With offices in several Canadian cities, McMillan is a leading business law firm serving public, private and not-for-profit clients across key industries in Canada, the United States and internationally. “We have a culture of helping,” says CEO Tim Murphy. “People here created a space for me to succeed and we continue that model. We see ourselves as custodians of careers.”
Dhillon has progressed along an unexpected pathway thanks to mentorship and support from her team, supervisors and even the partners at McMillan. She began as a records clerk – just to see what it was like to work for a law firm. She worked her way up, becoming a transactional paralegal along the way. But she never expected to become a manager.
“‘Why is it you’re not applying for this management role?’” Dhillon was asked. A number of lawyers encouraged her and helped her to acclimatize once she stepped into management. “Everyone is so easy to reach.”
Employees are given an education allowance every year, and they can do both internal and external development programs. Dhillon belongs to a professional association and she is working through a McMillan program called Leadership Essentials. Others can take advantage of the internal McMillan Business Academy.
“We have a culture that is built around teams,” says Murphy. “Everyone contributes and everyone receives credit.” As soon as a transaction has closed, an e-mail goes out to all employees congratulating the team. It includes the names of everyone who worked on it from staff to lawyers to partners.
Even before the pandemic had people scrambling to work successfully over virtual platforms, McMillan was set up to be a single, national team. “We identify the best person for a job, no matter where in the country they work,” says Murphy.
Murphy adds that McMillan sets out to be an employer of choice, embracing the value of achieving equity, diversity and inclusion. “If we’re going to reflect those values, we need to reflect the community,” he says.
To this end, McMillan has opened its recruitment to students after their first year of law school in order to consider a larger and more diverse range of applicants. “We’re willing to create space for different approaches and different ways of doing things,” says Murphy.
This extends to the firm’s policies as well. One example is the parental leave policy, which is 26 weeks for everyone – mother, father or same-sex partner, and whether they are staff, lawyer or partner. The policy also applies to adoption. And the company has added eight additional recovery weeks for a birth mother.
“We value respect, teamwork, commitment, client service and professional excellence,” says Murphy. “Merely being economically successful is not enough at McMillan LLP.”
“I feel a sense of belonging here,” says Dhillon. “It’s being part of a community and giving back to the community.”
Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.