Cindy Watson, the founder and managing partner of Watson Labour Law and a graduate of the renowned Osgoode Hall, is an experienced and recognized attorney who has specialized in social justice for the past 30 years.
Cindy is a sought-after corporate trainer and speaker who works to bridge the gap between men and women in order to improve productivity, communication, and gender prejudice.
Cindy is committed to breaking down barriers, achieving wage fairness, and putting an end to discrimination. She has a demonstrated track record of empowering, fighting for, and pushing individuals to be the greatest versions of themselves.
She is a well-known international speaker, author, and consultant who is recognized for her enthusiasm, devotion, and ability to inspire.
Below are highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Cindy Watson:
Describe who you are as a person, inside and outside of the workplace.
I’ve always been passionate and driven about issues I care about. Growing up in a blue-collar family (in a low-rent apartment complex with a father who worked shift work in a paper mill factory), I felt called to protect the rights of workers. It was always instilled in me from a young age that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond. That is a life-long philosophy I have embraced and brought to my law practice, zealously representing trade unions and the rights of their members.
Describe your background and what did you do before you started/joined the company?
Coming from a blue-collar background, my parents didn’t have the resources to afford a post-secondary education for me. So, I worked almost full-time hours waitressing throughout the school year for my high school, university, and law school experiences to earn the money to fund my education. In the summers, I sought out relevant work experience, doing an internship in the Students Training in Industrial Relations program, working at employment agencies (both private and public), and working with a trade union.
Tell us about the inception of the company. How did it all start?
I went to law school knowing I wanted to practice trade union labor law. I articled at the Labour Relations Board, and after my call to the bar, I took a position at a boutique labour law firm. I was offered a partnership after only 3 years, but while I loved the practice, I knew I didn’t want to do it there. Everyone thought I was having an early midlife crisis when I turned it down and opted to put out my own shingle. I wanted a firm that was mission-driven and ideologically committed to protecting and enhancing rights for workers and unions.
With the naiveté that comes from youth, I had no doubt that it would succeed. In hindsight, I had no equity, no assurance of clients, no business plan, or any of the typical minimum requirements for a business start-up, but my unshakable confidence in the power of my mission allowed me to forge a path to kickstart my own boutique labor law firm, which quickly grew (both in size and reputation). We became known for our passionate advocacy on behalf of our clients, and I’m proud to say that reputation continues.
What has made you successful? What do you value?
I’ve always prided myself and our firm on our core values of integrity, passion, drive, commitment, and excellence. That winning combination delivers consistent, superior results. We believe in what we do and the important value it brings, not only to our clients but the broader community as we advocate for enhanced rights for workers on a global level.
Because we are mission-driven, we aren’t motivated by the money. We pride ourselves on our ability to effect superior settlements, knowing when and how to avoid litigation to secure creative best outcomes and when to litigate.
Which are the major services of the company and how do they the company to get ahead in the competition? What value-added services does the company provide?
We offer the full range of services to our trade union clients, including (but not limited to):
- Representation before all labour tribunals and at all levels of court
- Grievance & arbitration advocacy
- Labour Board advocacy
- Workers compensation matters
- Disability benefits
- Equity work
- Human Rights advocacy
- Legislative and political lobbying
- Training & Education programming
We stand out from the competition given our passionate commitment to the cause which is reflected in our advocacy and in our ability to secure better outcomes without litigation where appropriate. We tirelessly seek the best possible results for our clients. We do so utilizing what we call the Art of Feminine Negotiation, where we bring rapport-building, empathy, flexibility, intuition and trust-building to the table so our clients get more creative outcomes with better relationships, greater buy-in and longer-lasting agreements.
We think outside the box, looking for unexamined options for enhanced solutions. This cooperative versus competitive approach consistently yields better experiences and outcomes for our clients. Having said that, where necessary we are known for our exceptional advocacy, where we leave no stone unturned.
We care about our clients and their issues. We don’t treat them like numbers.
Unlike most law firms, we also think proactively, seeking to anticipate issues and redressing them before they become conflicts or problems. Our proactive (vs reactive) approach is unique in the practice of law and saves our clients much time, money, angst and relationships.
Give us your opinion on; do organizations rely heavily on individual heroics or team processes?
Team is key in life generally, in business organizations, and particularly for trade unions and service providers for unions. Unions are based on a philosophy of solidarity—stronger together. Individual heroics do not serve the greater good. Building an engaged, dedicated, passionate team is key to success. Studies show that diversity in thinking allows for more creative outcomes and better results (not to mention improved productivity and efficiency). Teamwork and the brainstorming it affords will increase the output of any organization (both in terms of quantitative productivity, but perhaps more importantly, in terms of more refined, creative, distinctive, move-the-dial end results).
This holds true generally, and we see it as particularly important for our law firm. Unions secure their strength in numbers. Unions that rely on individual heroics don’t survive. The law firms that serve trade unions need to similarly embrace and foster team environments to deliver the best possible service, advice, and results.
What are your responsibilities as the Founder/CEO of the company? What is the happiest part of your daily routine?
I’m proud to have built our thriving practice over the last 30 years. We’ve built a reputation for our passion, integrity, and results. I’m still integrally involved in the building of our team and ensuring that our culture continues to reflect our core values. Hiring our best team is a key part of that process, as is fostering relationships with our long-time clients and building on client development for the future.
I’m lucky to still be passionate about representing trade unions. I love the advocacy, and I particularly love the exceptional training and education we offer. Engaging directly with members, stewards and front-line union reps feeds me – the energy flows both ways as we inspire each other in carrying forward the important work that needs to be done.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Listen. Really listen. Bring empathy to the table, truly seeking to understand and meet the needs of others (both within and outside your organization). The benefits of this approach cannot be overstated. Never seek to exert power over others, but rather, always strive to achieve power with those you engage with.