Lawyer Profile: David J. Kroft
Areas of focus:
Commercial Litigation and Insolvency and Restructuring
Osgoode Hall Law School, Bachelor of Laws, 1989
University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Arts, 1986
Number of years with Fillmore Riley:
Recognized by Lexpert, Best Lawyers and Benchmark Litigation as a leading practitioner in the areas of commercial litigation and insolvency and restructuring
Life Bencher, Law Society of Manitoba; Life Council Member, Manitoba Bar Association; Past Chair, Jocelyn House Inc.; Past President, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg; Board Member, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs; regular lecturer
Member, Management Committee, Fillmore Riley LLP; Immediate Past Chair, Manitoba Bar Association Bankruptcy and Insolvency Sub-Section; Member, Canadian Insolvency Foundation
You come from a family of lawyers. Did that influence your decision to become a lawyer?
My grandfather, Monty Israels, was a lawyer. My father and brother are lawyers. But was that the driving force? Truthfully, no. I never felt any pressure to pursue law. I went into law by default. In arts, my passions were geology and English literature. I actually considered pursuing a career in geology, but, foolishly, feared years of family questioning the utility of prolonged jaunts up north to look at rocks rather than finding a wife and starting a family. So I went into law— a logical step from arts.
I did not fall in love with law school. I found it difficult to relate the case books to real life due to my inexperience with real life at the time. I was studying the law of real-estate transactions without having ever purchased a house.
Also, for the most part, the client component was absent from law school. I’m a people person. It was my time as a summer student at Fillmore that underscored for me how much practising law was about people. It affirmed to me that my choice of profession would be one I could do well at and enjoy.
As a lawyer, I have come to appreciate that the practice of law is not only a profession but important to democracy itself. Lawyers, on behalf of clients, are free to defend rights without fear of reprisal by the state. We take this for granted. This is central to maintaining the rule of law.
How did you carve out a niche for yourself in the areas of commercial litigation and insolvency and restructuring?
It was absolutely fortuitous. When I was a summer student, there was a major insolvency file. One day Wayne Leslie came into the summer student office, which was shared by four students at the time, and said, “I need some help filing some documents in this new receivership.” I did what I was asked to do but also developed a very strong relationship with Wayne and the practice area. Wayne continued to give me work and mentored me over the years.
In school, I never thought I would end up in those areas. I was more interested in human rights and constitutional law. I am still somewhat surprised that I ended up in, and enjoying, the commercial world.
Do you find the adversarial nature of litigation challenging?
Litigation has changed over the years. You can have advocacy without being excessively adversarial. That is reflected in the many alternative dispute resolution mechanisms now available. It is acceptable to raise settlement as a real option. In my practice, clients want toughness but also a prompt and cost-effective resolution. I also am being engaged earlier on in the dispute process to avoid a dispute altogether. The number of civil cases that actually go to trial is small.
What does your role as the TAGLaw representative involve?
Kelly Beattie and I are the faces of Fillmore Riley at TAGLaw conferences. Our responsibility, when we go to the regular conferences, is to forge relationships with our counterparts in the other 290 member firms. We foster a comfort level in exchanging work among our TAGLaw partners. We truly know and have confidence in lawyers on every continent. That gives Fillmore Riley the comfort that when one of our clients needs a referral, we are not just sending them to anyone; we are sending them to someone we know personally who feels a sense of accountability to both the client and our firm. There is also a mechanism within TAGLaw to ensure the highest standards are upheld.
You have also devoted time to giving back to the community and the legal profession, including as a life bencher. What motivates you to give back to the community?
I learned about giving back from my grandparents and parents – it is simply part of my upbringing. It is also incredibly rewarding. I am also proud that the legal profession in particular appreciates the importance of community involvement as reflected in the memberships of community boards and committees.
Let me say that my opportunities to serve at higher levels on boards and within my profession are a direct result of being born and raised in Winnipeg. Winnipeg is a size where participation at a young age is not only possible but is encouraged. There is no doubt that I have had opportunities here that I would not have had in larger centres. I am truly grateful.