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Justice Agyemang, LLM in Financial Law

November 30, 2023


With a name like Justice Agyemang, there was an element of destiny in his choice of profession.

“I knew quite early that I wanted to go into law,” says Agyemang, now a senior legal counsel in the commercial banking, global trade and receivables finance department at HSBC Bank Canada. “It was directive spending most of my childhood trying to figure out what justice means and never feeling completely satisfied with the answer. I’m happy with my choice of vocation.”

Still, it turns out not everyone in the family believed in nominative determinism for the young Justice.

“My dad jokes that he should have called me Doctor,” Agyemang adds.

Although his competitive instincts initially drew him to the debate and drama of the courtroom, Agyemang’s view slowly shifted as he learned more about the practicalities of litigation for the parties involved – first during his undergraduate studies for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree; and later when he enrolled in a business law class at the University of Ottawa.

“The focus of those courses was all about providing value to clients,” Agyemang says. “When 98 percent of cases settle, your client is probably not receiving much value by going all the way to court. Even if the decision goes in their favour, they would have spent a huge amount of time and money to get to that stage.”

His conversion was complete by the end of his articling period, which included rotations in the litigation and financial law practice groups at a full-service Toronto law firm.

According to Agyemang, the contrasting emotions he felt at the conclusion of two major matters confirmed that he was on the right track in pursuing a future in corporate law. While the last-minute settlement reached on the eve of trial in a construction law dispute left him feeling empty, he was elated by the late-night closing of an initial public offering for a family business client, whose CEO delivered a celebratory speech to the boardroom.

“He told us how much it meant to him that everyone in the room – including the lowly student (me) organizing the closing material – had helped him to reach his dream,” Agyemang says. “I remember feeling that this is what I want: to support people with the vision and drive to complete transactions and get things done.”

After several years in private practice focused on financial law, Agyemang decided to switch to an in-house position, attracted by the challenge of developing more strategic advisory skills.

“I also liked the idea of growing with a business and understanding it intimately,” he says.  

Since starting his role at HSBC, Agyemang says the bank has been supportive of his mentoring and teaching efforts, helping business law students and licensing candidates at Toronto Metropolitan University prepare for their entry into the legal profession.

His employer was also facilitative of Agyemang’s decision to return to the classroom himself, in OsgoodePD’s part-time Professional LLM in Financial Law in 2020.

“As a lawyer working on matters with a specific role and mandate, you see the world of financial services through particular lenses. Over a career spanning 20 years, I think I have seen quite a bit, but I wanted to get a more holistic view of the industry and how it is regulated,” he says. “I was not disappointed; it was an incredibly enriching experience.”

Although the Covid-19 pandemic limited Agyemang’s in-person class time more than he would have liked before his 2022 graduation, that did not stop him from forming bonds with his classmates, who came from a diverse set of professional backgrounds – not all of them lawyers.

“My network has grown substantially,” he says. “You learn almost as much from your fellow classmates as you do from your professors, because of the experience they bring with them. Executives, directors, lawyers and regulators are all in the same room, so you hear from all of these perspectives.”

Agyemang was particularly struck by the insights of colleagues in financial regulation, who gave classmates a peak behind the curtain at their changing role and expanding mandate as artificial intelligence and machine learning drive the development of Canada’s thriving FinTech sector.

“It was very valuable to see the different roles that different regulators are taking on, how they all work in harmony and what they’re trying to achieve,” he says. 

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