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Every day brings new challenge for lawyer Lisa Newton

By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer

When Lisa Newton is not on campus, in her office on the third floor of Richardson Hall, she can usually be found out on one of her two horses, riding near her home north of Kingston.

For the lawyer, now general counsel for Queen’s, it’s her therapy, takes her away from things. Her golf, she says, smiling.

It seems natural that she needs that escape, given the scope of her new position at Queen’s, where she rarely knows what any given day is going to be like, what challenge might appear on her desk in the morning. She is an advisor to many, providing legal advice to the administration and faculties and handling everything from student appeals and human rights issues, to policy interpretation, privacy and freedom of information requests, and service contracts.

University Counsel Lisa Newton rides near her home north of Kingston.

“It’s been a great opportunity so far to stretch myself, move into something new and more challenging,” she says of the role she transitioned into last fall after several years in Queen’s Human Resources as director and counsel, employee and labour relations. In her new role, Ms. Newton takes over from Diane Kelly, who spent many years in the position, retiring last year.

So far, what’s intrigued Ms. Newton most is the work of providing support for the Office of Advancement in the area of donor gift agreements. It’s a new sphere for her, something she hasn’t dealt with since law school, and she enjoys it because it’s the most foreign to her – a challenge.

“It’s far away from the employment and labour law I’m used to – a very specialized and unique area of the law. And that’s exciting,” she says.

Ms. Newton came to Queen’s after several years at McMaster University as university counsel and director, employee and labour relations. Prior to that, she had a lengthy career, about 15 years, at Baker & McKenzie in Toronto, where she specialized in labour and employment law, a field she says she fell into while she was an articling student. She had excellent mentors in the field and quickly realized how important a good working environment and staff are to creating a great organization – principles that have motivated and sustained her through the various cases she’s encountered over the years.

At Queen’s, Ms. Newton admits she is still trying to navigate through the new role, how to be an advisor to a great many. “I have tremendously big shoes to fill. Diane (Kelly) was the glue in many ways. She had such great institutional knowledge and I still consult with her on many issues.”

But, it’s clear Ms. Newton has her own plans of being the glue. She sees great legal minds in various departments across campus and she wants there to be more connection between them, to better serve the needs of the university. As she moves forward, she plans to bring the various lawyers and experts together regularly to draw on each other’s knowledge and to learn about different initiatives.

“It would be great to create more cohesion among the legal experts on campus who are working in many specialized areas, such as HR and Research Services. Having a network will not only help them in their work but also create more awareness on campus about the expertise available.”