Elisa Henry
  • Partner
  • Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Canada
Elisa Henry

Elisa Henry

  • Partner
  • Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Canada

I came to the data field through commercial IT law, which is the area where I started practicing back in 2001, first in Paris and then in Canada.

Joining my colleague Eloïse Gratton at BLG, with whom I used to work at my previous firm, is certainly one of the main highlights of my career. She was my mentor and now we co-lead a very successful and integrated national team. Being able to grow an international practice, covering Canadian and European data protection law for clients located around the world out of Montreal, is another element I am very proud of.

A big challenge in data law is that talent is rare and law students are not trained in the area of privacy. Our field is developing fast and the demand for high-quality legal services and for lawyers who are able to navigate between multiple legal systems are constantly increasing, especially in light of the recent reforms.

To adapt to these challenges, I advise organisations to recruit lawyers who didn’t follow a ‘traditional’ career path, who are resilient and are very creative and passionate about our area of practice.

Emerging trends I’m following closely include the globalisation of privacy and data protection, with jurisdictions that were traditionally not granting much protection to personal data, or moving to the other end of the spectrum, with expansive requirements for data localisation, transfer impact assessments etc.

Another trend is brain-computer interfaces and related user-oriented devices, which is a fascinating development of neuroscience raising complex ethical and data protection questions.

High-quality communications and true collaboration, are in my opinion, key assets of female lawyers. One of our multinational clients promoted as global privacy officer a female privacy lawyer who had limited exposure to this type of work before and was asked to implement harmonised privacy processes across the group (which includes tens of thousands of employees on all continents). Being a woman helped me understand the difficult situation she was put and in resulted in an open line of communications between us. This enabled me to understand the internal organisational challenges and areas of resistance to change she was facing. Together, we built a great work relationship with operational teams located around the world and had them integrate privacy compliant processes in their projects.

Ten years ago, the area of privacy and data protection in Canada was for a large part seen as a support service to corporate law, traditionally dominated by male colleagues. This understanding has really shifted and our field is now front and centre for organisations. As a result, data is now an area where women professionals truly have the same opportunities as men. A large proportion of my clients are women, and they hold senior positions in their organisations. We also see it in private practice. Eloïse Gratton and I  – who are both women in our 40s – are leading the privacy and data protection team at BLG, which is the largest Canadian firm, something that would have been difficult to imagine 10 years ago.

A piece of advice would you give aspiring data lawyers and professionals: Stay curious and read about data innovation and new technological developments. Follow international privacy trends. Nurture your network and support other women who share the same interests as you.

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