After 45 years of practice at Robic law firm, retired lawyer Me Hugues Richard continues to inspire his colleagues with his long career in intellectual property.
Over the years, Me Richard has become a seasoned litigator who is always ready to win, regardless of the legal field he practices.
We spoke to him …
Why did you choose the career of a lawyer?
I was influenced by my father who told me about this career from a very young age. I think he himself would have liked to be a lawyer but he couldn’t. It is something which has slowly gained ground, and which came naturally after my classical course. From there, I applied in law to the University of Montreal and it was a predetermined path.
How did you find yourself working for Robic?
Robic has been in existence since 1892 as an office of patent and trademark agents. Only engineers, patent agents and people initiated into science worked there.
In the years 1972-73, my good friend Jacques Leger has met Raymond A. Robic who was the sole owner of the Robic firm. They got along very well. Raymond proposed to Jacques to become his only lawyer and he accepted. At that time, I was a lawyer at the Department of Justice.
My career was oriented towards tax law and I worked extensively before the Federal Court of Canada. I had developed an expertise to plead before this Court. Jacques Léger suggested that I join him. In 1976, a beautiful story was born. Eventually the law firm merged with Robic which became today’s firm.
If I understand correctly, you were a lawyer and then became a partner …
I became a partner with Me Léger in 1978. After the merger between the two firms, I also became a partner in the intellectual firm. Legally, we were not linked with the intellectual property firm because the law did not allow it. But, we owned the same building, we shared the same premises and the same customers.
Also on your journey, you briefly told me that you had worked in tax law. Why did you choose to change your domain?
Jacques Léger had a large European and foreign clientele. We consulted him for questions of patents or trademarks but also of Canadian taxation. They were looking very much to diversify their investments. Thanks to my expertise, Jacques suggested that I develop a tax component at the Robic firm.
The phone rang for tax advice, but most of it was for advice on intellectual property, patents, trademarks and copyrights. I started practicing intellectual property before the Federal Court. And quite quickly, I became, in spite of myself, an intellectual property specialist.
Do you have contemporaries who have inspired you throughout your career?
For example, Yves fortier was an influence. With his successful career at Ogilvy Renault, he was a perfectly bilingual man with a good presence. He was a role model for me.
Me Philip F. Vineberg was an extraordinary litigator and one of the toughest adversaries I have had to face during my years in the Department of Justice. I learned a lot from him, on how to synthesize the elements of a cause, to go straight to the goal without wasting time on the details. I learned to aim for the chinstrap.
Raymond A. Robic was not a lawyer but a patent agent. He was an extraordinary man because he had a remarkable bond with clients. It’s all well and good to be competent, to have all the necessary knowledge, but if you don’t have a client you are a poor lawyer. He went to seek clients in an exceptional way. Even though he left the firm for 30 years, there are still clients from that time who are still clients today.
What does it take today to be a good litigator? What are the essential qualities?
The main qualities are to have self-confidence, not to be easily destabilized by an opponent, to be ready, to have prepared your case well and to have worked hard.
It is also occasionally necessary not to be too influenced by the judge of first instance who can sometimes show a certain inclination for the adversary. It must be remembered that there is always a possible appeal. If you have no evidence, you will not be able to plead missing evidence on appeal.
Even if a judge makes life difficult for you, you have to move on. You have to keep doing what you think is best for your client’s interests. This could be useful on appeal if you lost in the first instance.
What was your strategy before a trial? How did you do?
I always found the points which are favorable and I anticipated the strikes of the opponent. A trial is a fight like a game of chess. We must assess the arguments, the strengths of the opponent and seek to counter them and then develop our strengths.
You have to remember that it is not the abundance of witnesses that makes your case but it is the quality of your testimony. I have seen cases where adversaries, by abundance of testimony, with ill-prepared witnesses who have literally lost the cause of our adversaries. I prefer to have a single witness that I control and on our side.
A well-prepared witness gives credible and honest testimony. He must be able to withstand cross-examination. Above all, you should not bring in witnesses whose reactions to the opponent’s questions you do not know.
What are your tips for young lawyers who want to specialize in intellectual property?
Keep on working hard. Preparing for a trial and preparing a good contract are arduous tasks that require time.
We must also maintain a certain independence towards our customers. Our clients, not all, might seek to influence us in the wrong way.
You must also follow the code of ethics to the letter. The code is there to help us and protect customers.
Finally, we must never neglect the family, the work-family balance. I believe there are a lot of lawyers who are so involved in their office work that they neglect their families. Now, once all of this is over, you are left with family and friends. The most important thing is to put the priorities in the right place.