Recognized as one of Saskatchewan's Top Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 3, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why McDougall Gauley LLP was selected as one of Saskatchewan's Top Employers (2021):
- McDougall Gauley LLP supports employees who want to start a family with maternity and parental leave top-up payments for new and adoptive parents, to 100 per cent of salary for up to 16 weeks
- McDougall Gauley LLP created a Culture and Wellness Committee in the past year to facilitate events such as meditation sessions and fitness challenges -- the firm also offers a health and wellness reimbursement of up to $500, which may be used for fitness classes, personal trainers and weight loss programs
- McDougall Gauley LLP helps employees save for the future with matching RSP contributions and lets everyone share in the firm's success with year-end bonuses
McDougall Gauley raises the thoughtfulness bar
Four years ago, Michael Milani and other senior leaders at McDougall Gauley LLP, a law firm with offices in Regina and Saskatoon, decided to send all 200 of their partners, associates lawyers and employees for performance-empowering training. “It wasn’t inexpensive,” he says, “but it was probably the best investment we’ve made as a firm.”
Milani, a partner in the Regina office, knew they were already treating their people well but felt they could do more around mental health. “We wanted to help people recognize what they could do to help improve their personal and professional lives,” he says. Since then, to help encourage everyone to be more mindful in how they relate to one another, they must take about 40 hours of training sessions from The Pacific Institute.
The results have been better than Milani could have predicted. “We’ve learned that when you empower everyone the proper way, you foster a more respectful environment,” he says. “I’m proud of our firm for investing the time and funds into this program.”
That respect might be evident in how a lawyer asks a legal assistant to revise a document. “We’re more thoughtful in what we say now,” says Milani. For example, “You’ve got the numbering wrong, would you do it again?” might become “We’ve got a numbering issue – let’s tweak it and see if we can improve the process.”
This kind of careful consideration is one reason legal assistant Darlene Higgs, who works with the commercial real estate team, has stayed with the firm for more than 40 years. “I enjoy working with people who have integrity and a high standard of ethics,” she says. That care was clear when Higgs was sent home to work remotely when COVID-19 hit Regina.
Both Milani and Higgs applaud the law firm’s IT department for quickly connecting everyone at home. Although Higgs missed the social aspect of being at the office, she enjoyed seeing her co-workers’ faces on her computer screen and having her two “assistants” – her cocker spaniels – keep her company. When it was safe to do so, she returned to the office part-time.
As a member of the law firm’s social committee, Higgs has done a lot of fundraising, including for Farm Credit Canada’s Drive Away Hunger initiative and Regina General Hospital’s neonatal unit. “My daughter was born at the hospital, and while she was fine, we know that not every baby is,” she says. “It makes me feel really good to help and give back.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 5, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why McDougall Gauley LLP was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2021):
- McDougall Gauley LLP health benefits plan includes a health and wellness reimbursement of up to $500, which employees may use for fitness classes, personal trainers and weight loss programs
- McDougall Gauley LLP starts new employees with three weeks of paid vacation and offers additional paid days off (up to six days) between the Christmas and New Year holidays
McDougall Gauley was prepared for the pandemic
Founded in 1891, the Saskatchewan-based law firm McDougall Gauley LLP survived two world wars and the Great Depression, as well as every other challenge the 20th century presented. Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic of the new century, the firm is proving its resilience once again.
The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, says Mike Milani, a 41-year veteran of the firm and chair of the executive committee. A big one is how to maintain organizational cohesion and collegiality with most of the staff working remotely for the greater part of the past year.
“One of the fears companies have with remote work is that the glue that holds firms and organizations together is being watered down because you don’t see your colleagues on a daily basis,” says Milani. “When COVID-19 rolled around, we had a vehicle in place for our people to be together while working remotely. It was more than just Zoom calls.”
That vehicle was the culture and wellness committee. The firm created it several years ago with a mandate to preserve and enhance the organization's culture. Senior members of the staff serve on the committee, but they are open to suggestions from all levels.
Milani calls it “pop-up” leadership. “Anybody in the firm, whatever their position, is equally able to bring forward ideas,” he says.
Prior to the pandemic, the firm was actively encouraging physical and mental wellness. “Moving lunches was an initiative of one of the associates,” says Mavis Dzaka, an administrative assistant in the Saskatoon office. “The idea was to get people moving midday. It could be a walk, a run or a workout. You feel refreshed with physical activity and if you’re refreshed, you’re more productive.”
The firm also introduced twice-weekly meditation sessions, which took place in the boardroom over the lunch hour. The sessions were brief – 10 to 15 minutes – and led by one of the lawyers. “Everyone encouraged us to participate, even senior management,” says Dzaka. “A core group always went and others would pop in from time to time.”
Several years ago, the firm also put everyone – lawyers and staff – through workshops provided by Seattle-based The Pacific Institute, which offers sessions on a number of subjects, including culture enhancement and employee engagement.
“We started from the premise that our culture was good, but we could all improve in the way we interact with each other,” says Milani. “We were fortunate to have done that because it provided additional skills to cope with the stress and unexpected events of the pandemic.”
The culture and wellness committee has launched a number of initiatives during the pandemic to ensure that everyone remains connected even while working remotely. These have included a virtual book club, after-hours bike rides over the summer and an electronic newsletter called The Roundup based on submissions from staff.
“People submitted recipes, photos of their pets and things they were doing,” says Dzaka. “You got to see a personal side of your colleagues that you don’t always see.”
Giving back to the community has always been a priority for McDougall Gauley. Over the past year, staffers contributed to several local fundraising campaigns, including radio station Z99’s annual radiothon in support of the neonatal intensive care unit at Regina General Hospital.
In addition, at Christmas, the firm gave everyone gift certificates that could be used to support local restaurants hit hard by the pandemic.