Attorney helped by LL.M. degree in her role as Chrysler Canada's general counsel

As general counsel of Chrysler Canada Inc., the Canadian subsidiary of the leading automotive maker, Lorraine Shalhoub faces unique challenges every day.

Fortunately, the Wayne State University Law School alumna knows just how to handle most situations thanks to her diverse educational and professional experiences.

In recent years, Shalhoub has been involved in some especially demanding issues as Chrysler Canada navigated difficult financial waters.

"One of the most challenging experiences of my career took place when Chrysler went through a restructuring in 2009," she recalled.

"There were issues such as labor rates, tax regulations and pensions that needed to be addressed, just to name a few. Our U.S. office was going through its own restructuring, so some very important decisions had to be made as a subsidiary and relative to our parent company."

Her business and legal savvy was officially acknowledged last spring, when Shalhoub was given the Canadian General Counsel of the Year Award (CGCA), an honor that, according to the CGCA Advisory Board, "acknowledges excellence, the ability to deal with complexity across both issues and jurisdictions and, an irrefutable sure-handedness in dealing with whatever challenges are faced."

"Receiving this award was truly an honor," Shalhoub said. "I went to the ceremony knowing that I had been short-listed to receive an award in the 'deal-making' category, but was sincerely humbled and honored to have been recognized among my peers with such a prestigious designation."

"[Chrysler Canada's transformational restructuring] simply would not have been possible without the efforts of Lori Shalhoub who quarterbacked a myriad of tax, pension, government, union, supplier and regulatory issues to make it happen," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Chrysler Canada said (in a June 3, 2010, Chrysler press release) of Shalhoub when she received the award. "We are proud of her, and this recognition is well deserved."

Shalhoub started at Chrysler Canada as associate general counsel in 1997, a few years after completing her master of laws at Wayne Law.

"I thought an LL.M. would broaden my knowledge of the law and jurisprudence in another jurisdiction," said the Windsor native who received her bachelor of law from the University of Windsor Law School.

"The education and degree prepared me for the bar exam and my admission to the Michigan Bar.

"I liked the fact that Wayne Law offered an LL.M. program with a specialty in corporate finance and that the Law School had, and continues to enjoy, a very good reputation," she added.

In 2002, she was promoted to director of external affairs and public policy.

Then, five years later, Shalhoub was named vice president and general counsel of External Affairs and Public Policy.

In this position, she is responsible for providing legal and governmental affairs advice to the senior management team in Canada.

She feels that she gained a definite career advantage by obtaining her master of laws. "I gained a very good understanding of how American law works and in my current position, I am able to better appreciate some of the distinctions between American and Canadian law that arise from time to time," she said.

Before joining Chrysler Canada, Shalhoub held a variety of different legal positions--clerk at the Court of Appeal for Ontario, associate with Kamin, Fisher, Burnett, Ziriada law firm, director of a legal organization--and had been teaching at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor.

She recommends that law students and young lawyers broaden their knowledge as much as possible.

"I would encourage anyone interested in pursuing a corporate law career to get as much experience as possible, diversify your portfolio, be a good listener and communicate effectively," she said.

"It is also very important to prove that you are a good problem-solver."

Published: Mon, May 2, 2011