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Kate Salter took her public service career to the next level with an LLM in Business Law

January 10, 2024


Whether she’s talking about a 20-storey building or a legal career, Business Law LLM alumna Kate Salter knows the value of solid foundations.

The seasoned infrastructure and development lawyer recently joined provincial transportation agency Metrolinx as its Director of Legal Services, the latest move in a public-service career made possible by her early development in private practice. Throughout her career, Salter has prioritized mentoring law students and supporting their entry into the profession.

“The advice I give to all my mentees is to target articling and LPP opportunities that offer comprehensive training and an opportunity to work on complex and challenging work because that foundation will serve you for the rest of your career,” Salter says. “Law school is theoretical, it’s really the first few years of practice where you learn how to do legal work, and then you can specialize from there.”

It’s guidance Salter has followed herself at various stages of her own professional journey, starting with her early days as an articling student and associate at Bay Street giant McCarthy Tétrault LLP, where she soon established herself in the firm’s construction law group.  

“It was a tremendous experience that gave me the opportunity to work with some of the leading legal practitioners in the country, which was exactly what I needed,” she says.

Over her first decade in practice, Salter reinforced her litigation base by developing the commercial solicitor-side skills she needed to make a mark on the development infrastructure sector – first in private practice and later as corporate counsel for Toronto Community Housing and then Ryerson University, where she was responsible for complex real estate projects that made its downtown campus expansion possible, before its rebranding as Toronto Metropolitan University.

“I became a project lawyer who could support new developments all the way through inception, procurement, and implementation while managing disputes as they arise,” Salter says.

Her efforts were recognized by Canadian legal magazine Lexpert, which awarded her one of its Rising Star Awards for the country’s top 40 lawyers under 40, and at the 2022 Canadian Legal Awards, receiving an Excellence Award in the Female Trailblazer of the Year category. In 2021, Salter had the opportunity to pursue an LLM and chose OsgoodePD’s Professional LLM in Business Law to bring her to the next level as a strategic partner to her clients.

“I wanted to take this practical experience that I had developed and deepen my agility in the corporate sphere particularly given the rise of ESG and my role in supporting core social services in housing, education and transit,” she explains. “And that’s exactly what it has done for me. It has broadened my perspective and allowed me to feel like I appreciate the realities that are at play for those private sector partners I have dealt with as an owner on the public side.”

As a child of two law professors, it may have appeared to casual observers like Salter’s professional future was pre-destined, but that’s not the way she saw it.

“I was a very political person and involved in social justice from an early age, so I think going into my time at university, I assumed I would pursue a career that would leverage or align with those values,” she says.

Following her graduation with a BA in Political Sociology, Salter spent a few years in the workforce before realizing that learning the family trade could give her social justice activism a boost. 

“Law school seemed like a good way to build a strong foundation to foster change or social benefits,” she explains.

Salter initially intended to pursue an international criminal law practice and her war crimes prosecution professor – a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court – encouraged her to pursue litigation at the best firm she could find articles with and build a solid litigation practice in her home jurisdiction to launch an international law career from.   

After an articling rotation in medical malpractice, Salter approached the construction law group as an associate, concluding that bricks and mortar law was a sustainable choice for her primary focus.

“Owners and developers lose money, time, and leverage, not family members,” she says. “This decision ultimately allowed me to develop a practice that could support the delivery of critical social services, while not burning out carrying the personal loss of impacted parties with me long past the resolution of such files.”  

More than a decade on, Salter looks at her career arc with a sense of pride.  

“I see the impact of my work everyday and this aligns with a more appropriate venue for activism – working locally to foster change and reconcile for the damage upon which our settler privileges were built and maintained,” she says. “Now I ride on a public transportation network knowing that my current work is supporting its expansion and sustainability, through vibrant communities in redeveloped neighbourhoods that enhance dignity, safety, and support access for the underhoused, into a downtown core where a university managed to expand its footprint to facilitate greater access to education while proving that academic integrity is maintained and enriched by proactive admissions and supportive programming fostering a culture of access, accessibility, equity and barrier free teaching, learning, working, and living.” 

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging and the responsibilities of both a full-time job and a one-year-old at home to juggle, Salter admits the timing was challenging for her enrollment in Osgoode’s Business Law LLM. Still, she says the rigour of the program and the flexibility of its schedule give students the tools they need to set themselves up for success. 

“It’s intense, but it can be done and I think there’s great value to it,” Salter adds. “The Osgoode Professional LLM program allows you to step back and assess what you need to develop mid-stream while actively practicing.”

Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Business Law? Sign up for an Information Session!