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Osgoode General Law LLM grad Yonida Koukio has walked a mile in her start-up clients’ shoes

April 30, 2024


Yonida Koukio doesn’t just speak the language of her clients; she has walked in their shoes.

Before establishing herself as a corporate and intellectual property lawyer assisting innovative startups with every stage of their business – from inception to exit – Yonida was the co-founder of her own tech enterprise, an award-winning online platform matching lawyers with outsourcing needs and abilities in her Greek homeland.

“Most lawyers in Greece are sole practitioners, so the idea was to allow them to connect and delegate tasks to lawyers in other locations more easily,” she says. “Ever since I was in law school, I’ve been trying to think in more innovative ways and get involved in creative projects.”  

Following her move to Canada, Yonida’s entrepreneurial spirit was again on show as she landed her current role at boutique technology firm Oziel Law in Toronto. Founder Allan Oziel wasn’t even in the market for a newly qualified lawyer when the pair first met up, only to find they immediately bonded over a shared love of legal technology.

“We were able to chat with no expectations, so he showed me what he had built and it was quickly very interesting, because it was hitting all my points of interest,” Yonida says. “He had created this innovative firm with an entirely automated customer relation management process and he told me about some of the other side projects he never had time to work on because he was so busy with client work.”

By the time they connected again, Yonida had drawn up a proposal that laid the foundation for the hybrid role that she now occupies at Oziel Law, handling the firm’s innovation projects – including software testing and implementation and tech-enabled solution development – alongside her legal practice.

“We thought we could test the waters for a couple of months, with me sharing what I had learned in terms of legal innovation and knowledge management, while he mentored me in corporate, commercial and technology law,” she says.

Three years on, Yonida has a well established practice helping startups and growth stage companies with corporate, technology, intellectual property and M&A. Meanwhile, her innovation team has grown to include two in-house developers who are tasked with turning the firm’s dream solutions into reality.

“The more we can improve our efficiency, the more attractive we are to our start-up clients. When they have ideas, they start testing and we take the same approach. Every day is like a playground,” Yonida says. “Looking back, it’s crazy how much my practice has developed and how much more insight these tools have given us as a firm.”  

Her current role is one Yonida could only have dreamed of on arrival in Canada, when her lack of local qualifications and work history seemed set to derail her burgeoning legal career. Even after her call to the bar, she says she was surprised by the number of positions with Canadian experience requirements.  

Having practised civil litigation for several years in Greece before her move to Toronto, Yonida had fallen out of love with the practice area and was ready for a fresh start as she relaunched her legal career in her new Canadian home.

“I knew litigation wasn’t for me. I didn’t approve of how long it took matters to resolve,” Yonida explains.

And she found the perfect vehicle for her legal reinvention in OsgoodePD’s part-time Professional LLM in General Law, where enrollees choose two or three specializations, with the additional option of completing a major research paper in one of their focus areas.

Although she was also accepted to Osgoode’s Professional LLM in Canadian Common Law, where the core courses are specifically designed to meet the requirements of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s National Committee on Accreditation, Yonida opted for the General Law LLM, accepting the challenge of some extra work to requalify in order to explore specializations that inspired her.

“I didn’t want to use the LLM just for the accreditation,” she says. “I wanted to try to focus on areas of the law that I was interested in and that I could use in my practice.”

And the approach paid off, according to Yonida, who selected specializations in intellectual property law and business law for her General Law LLM.

“The opportunities Osgoode gave me were amazing,” she adds.

In addition to joining the editorial team of IPilogue, Osgoode’s online journal of IP law and technology, Yonida was one of five Osgoode students – and the only Professional LLM candidate – selected to participate in a three-week training bootcamp as part of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice.

Held at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago and sponsored by legal and technology industry heavyweights such as Cisco, Chapman and Cutler LLP and Elevate Services, the bootcamp aimed to provide students with the basic toolset for a 21st Century law practice, including classes in project management, accounting, business principles and professional communication.

“It helped shape the way I practice law and how I think about solving a client’s problems,” Yonida says.

Internships followed at Bay Street giants Bennett Jones LLP and McCarthy Tétrault LLP, before Yonida’s call to the bar in 2020, the same year she joined Oziel Law. Outside of the office, she has remained deeply involved in the broader legal community, serving on the executives of both the Hellenic Canadian Lawyers’ Association and the Ontario Bar Association’s Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law Section.

Whether they are new to Canada or not, Yonida would not hesitate to recommend Osgoode General Law LLM program to prospective candidates.

“The content is amazing, but so are the people you will meet and the network that you will create in an industry you want to enter or grow your practice in,” she says. “For someone who is creative and wants to explore, there are so many possibilities.”

Wondering if the Professional LLM is right for you? Get information on course requirements, application dates, tuition and more!