How exactly do you conquer the entertainment world of Toronto?
Susan Abramovitch, Head of Entertainment Law at Gowling WLG, knows exactly how to dominate as one of the top entertainment lawyers in Canada’s largest city. Abramovitch handles clients nationwide such as Jann Arden, The Cowboy Junkies, Finger 11, Kevin O’Leary, MsterKrft, Six Shooter Records, Larry Wanagas, and even dabbled in film work recently helping out with a documentary for the International Fund for Animal Welfare on the seal hunt in Canada.
Abramovitch always knew she wanted to be an entertainment lawyer, but had to jump through hoops to get there. “I was with 26 of the smartest law students from across Canada at the Supreme Court. I had a good resume and good marks, but that was not the way the entertainment world worked. I was initially rejected,” Abramovitch says. “I had a plan B. I qualified at the Quebec bar and clerk ed at the Supreme Court of Canada.”
Abramovitch clerked for the Honourable Mr. Justice Gerard V. La Forest, and met her eventual husband and father of her two children while at the Supreme Court. After this experience, Abramovitch tried again to get into entertainment law without success. “ I didn’t realize the value of networking, I thought it was about statistics, resumes. I got another round of rejections, so I decided to live in Paris. I eventually became disillusioned by the corporate law life,” Abramovitch says. “Michael, my boyfriend of the time was teaching law at King’s College in London UK so we decided let’s move to Toronto. That is when the entertainment law doors started opening for me. I am assuming it is because I had a few years of corporate law experience under my belt.”
In 1997, Abramovitch paired up with President of Music Canada, Graham Henderson, and Executive Producer of Degrassi, Stephen Stohn, and opened Stohn, Henderson, a boutique entertainment law firm in Toronto. “We were at King and Dufferin in the Toronto Carpet Factory, built it into a law office and it became an entertainment law boutique. I later inherited the practice and became the managing partner,” Abramovitch says. “In 2001, I got pregnant with my daughter and born in July 2002. I was managing the firm and I had to deal with everything. It was becoming too much particularly because I was pregnant.” Abramovitch dissolved the firm and now runs the entertainment law department at major law firm Gowling WLG, which she feels is a perfect fit for her.
Abramovitch is passionate about educating future entertainment lawyers and helping young women and men to become successful in law. “The most important thing is the relationship. It is about nurturing relationships with colleagues and clients,” Abramovitch says. She is the program director for Osgoode Hall Law School’s Continuing Legal Education Certificate in Entertainment Law and is a former lecturer in entertainment law at McGill University’s faculty of Law. She is also a member of the board of governors of the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall.
Abramovitch won the 2014 Lexpert Zenith award, a prestigious award given to Canadian lawyers. Abramovitch is proud to be recognized as a top woman lawyer in Canada, but also believes in helping everyone grow in their career. “I don’t view myself as helping women vs. men. When anyone is interested in entertainment law, I always sit down and talk about my experience,” Abramovitch says. “If women want to talk about frustrations about being a woman lawyer, I don’t believe in being victimized. I believe in productivity and that is how I help people.”
When Abramovitch isn’t working, she loves to cook, eat healthy food, work out, and go to her cottage. She has two kids and is looking forward to celebrating her son’s Bar Mitzvah in June. Abramovitch is also on good terms with now ex-husband Michael Bryant and even negotiated his book contract after the divorce for his book 28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Tragedy, and Hope.
Abramovitch sets the bar on how to succeed in entertainment law. Her teachings on the importance of networking and building relationships are irreplaceable and her valuable experience and tenacity makes her one of the top lawyer in Canada.
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