Spotlights

Shaun Miller has little time to spare as Chief Counsel for Aon Canada Inc.

February 29, 2016

Shaun Miller isn’t a big fan of the word ‘no’. As a result, his calendar is pretty packed.

On any given day, he’s juggling a hectic work schedule at Aon Canada Inc.; a home life that features three young sons (a three-and-a-half year old as well as one year-old twins); time-consuming volunteer positions at his alma mater, Laurier University—and on top of that, he plays hockey two nights per week.

But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Not saying ‘no’ in my practice allows me and my team to get involved, meet lots of people and encounter new opportunities,” he says. “I really like taking on as much as possible and trying to be at capacity at all times.”

Shaun didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in law. Rather, after graduating from Laurier University in 2003 and starting a career in sales, he decided to write the LSATs on a whim, after going out for dinner with a friend who was studying for the exam.

After completing the LSATs, and pursuing his law degree at the University of Windsor, choosing Osler seemed like a logical next step.

 “The name Osler speaks for itself. I can’t think of a firm with as good of a reputation. It was definitely where I wanted to start my career.

Finding his niche
He ended up landing an associate position in Pension and Benefits at Osler in 2008. While he acknowledges P&B was kind of a weird place to start his career, it ended up suiting him perfectly.

“When I started working in law, it wasn’t a great time from an economic perspective,” he explains. “I viewed pensions and employee benefits as something that was recession-proof. There’s a huge P&B component to corporate finance, M&A and general governance work. When you take that and combine it with an aging population, I imagined it would be a hot commodity for the years to come.”

And for three years he was at Osler, P&B kept him incredibly busy. Because it was a niche department, it also introduced him to different areas of the firm, which he really enjoyed as well.

“I found that most of the people at Osler were great to work with. It’s one thing to work hard and put in long hours, but it’s quite another to do so and hate your working environment. I couldn’t think of something more miserable.”

“I was definitely fortunate to truly enjoy the people I worked with and know I was on a team willing to work the long hours together.    I’m extremely grateful for my time at Osler.  The training that I received at Osler is in large part responsible for my successes at Aon.””

Moving in-house
Shaun’s decision to make the switch to an in-house position started at a hockey game, of all places.

“I was playing hockey and we had someone sub in for our team who happened to be a head hunter. In the dressing room, he asked me what I did for a living. After I told him, he asked if I wanted to leave. I said no,” Shaun recalls.

Despite the refusal, the head hunter called Shaun the next day, connected him with his boss and eventually presented Shaun with an offer he couldn’t refuse. A corporate counsel position at Aon.

Shaun transitioned into the in-house role rather easily and was excited for the new opportunity—an opportunity he’s still enjoying four years later.

“I’m still very busy, but it’s a different kind of busy. In this role, I provide advice on the fly and delve into the unknown almost daily—that was particularly true in the first few years. It’s not nearly as scheduled as work was in the firm,” he says. “The job is very pragmatic too. Not only are you giving legal advice, but it’s in the context of the organization’s risk appetite and business direction. I found that once I got a handle on that, it became easier.”

Today, Shaun sits on the executive committee for Aon Canada as its chief counsel. In this role, he’s essentially responsible for helping drive strategy while simultaneously managing risk.

“Every day is literally something different. I have a great team of lawyers I work with. They’re phenomenal and, as a whole, we’re a very capable group.”

Making the minutes count
It probably goes without saying that Shaun doesn’t have a lot of spare time. When he’s not at work, he’s typically spending time with his wife and sons—or volunteering on the board for Laurier University. For the past year, he’s been on the board as a “community at large” member, and he also is the chair of the HR sub-committee.

“Laurier has always been near and dear to me,” he explains. “I did my undergrad there. It is where I met my wife. Some of my closest friends are people I met there. It just seemed that if I was going to volunteer, Laurier would be the place to do it.”

Over the years, Shaun has received a lot of advice that has helped him get to where he is today—the most memorable of which involves never being afraid to ask questions.

“It’s better to ask questions up front rather than waiting three meetings to ask something you should have asked earlier,” he says. “I was also told once to ‘always try to contribute something meaningful to a meeting’. That advice came in handy when I was first starting out. It’s important to be seen as someone who will add value.”

He also is a great advocate of seizing the moment.

“Don’t put off to tomorrow what could be done today. You never know when the phone will ring or what will come up, so just do it if you have the time.”

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