Karen MacKay was a Lifetime Member and served as a President of TLOMA 1995-1996. She will be sincerely missed by all who knew and loved her.
Karen will be missed by her husband of 25 years, Ken MacKay, and her son Adam (Mindy) LaFlor and her two stepsons, Matthew (Theresa) and Timothy (Katherine) MacKay. She also had six grandchildren.
Here are a few beautiful reminders of who she was and what she meant to her friends and colleagues.
Jordan Furlong, Law21 Principal, summed up her presence:
"Poise, strength, grace, and command — those are the impressions that remain with me. How Karen would preside over and adroitly govern a gathering of unruly, ambitious partners at a retreat or strategy session and conduct their interchanges like a maestro with an orchestra. Poise, strength, grace, and command — those are the impressions that remain with me. How Karen would preside over and adroitly govern a gathering of unruly, ambitious partners at a retreat or strategy session and conduct their interchanges like a maestro with an orchestra."
Stephen Mabey, Managing Director of Applied Strategies, Inc., and a close collaborator of Karen’s, wrote:
"My overriding memory of Karen will always be her being there for me. Never looking for anything in return — rather, just guiding and leading by her example of how to conduct a consulting practice, and more importantly, be a good person. But there is solace in being reminded that, 'Those we love never truly leave us. There are things that death cannot touch'."
Gary Luftspring, the Managing Partner at Toronto based Goodman & Carr during Karen’s 10-year long career with the firm, says:
"Karen started at Goodman and Carr LLP as director of HR. She quickly moved to COO and ultimately to CEO. Along the way she soaked up responsibility, did an Executive MBA at the University of Toronto, and managed to “herd the cats” with good humor and expertise. Karen was always a positive force, encouraging and optimistic. We kept in touch to the end, mainly because that is who Karen was. She would call when she was “in the neighbourhood.” We would get together and chat and it was always as if there had been no gap since our last conversation. We laughed and cried and commiserated. I will miss her in my life."
Alex Overchuk, a colleague at Phoenix Legal writes:
"Karen had an insatiable curiosity that she shared and encouraged with her clients. She created safe spaces for people to explore opportunities outside their comfort zone and inspired new ways to approach professional challenges both at the individual and firm-wide level. She was generous with her time in supporting young professionals as they embarked on new challenges, always available as they moved into more senior roles. It felt like she knew everyone -- a hello to someone at the coffee shop, a wave or quick embrace walking down the street, a raised glass at a restaurant, and even a quick chat at the airport. Karen was an amazing woman, and an awesome mentor. She influenced so many professionals, and her presence will be missed."
Gerry Riskin, Founder of Edge International, remembers:
"Karen had a joyful spirit that enabled her to magically enhance the performance of her clients as well as her colleagues. She was a gifted member of Edge International, and then went on to create her own specialized boutique consultancy, Phoenix Legal. We all remained good friends, and at times we would include Phoenix on Edge assignments where her unique specialties were critical to great outcomes. I feel very fortunate to be among those who benefited personally and professionally from knowing and working with her. I will miss so much being able to reach out for her sage counsel."
Michael Bussman, a tax partner in Gowlings’ Toronto office, comments:
"I was a participant in Karen’s first LEAD program at Gowlings. What I remember best were the several one-on-one sessions Karen held with us. She brought an intense engagement and interest to each discussion, always alive to the person sitting across from her. I could tell that she cared about us, and wanted to bring out the very best in us. I am saddened to hear that she did not have more time."
Karyn Bradley, Toronto Office Managing Partner of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP when Karen created a successful leadership programme for young leaders:
"Shortly after my appointment as the Toronto Managing Partner of Gowlings, Karen MacKay invited me to a congratulatory lunch. During our lunch, Karen asked me what I most wanted to accomplish during my four-year term. Without hesitation, I replied that I wanted to ensure that the next generation of leaders at Gowlings was better prepared to assume leadership roles than I had been.
The problem was, as I explained to Karen, I really had no idea how to accomplish this goal. Karen's face lit up, she smiled broadly, and she told me that she just might be able to assist. That was the beginning of a fabulous partnership and journey into the world of leadership development and training for the next generation of leaders at Gowlings.
To date, over 100 young partners at Gowlings have graduated from the program, and as one alumnus told me recently, leadership training is now part of the DNA at Gowlings. Karen's vision and commitment to the development of this unique leadership development program for future law firm leaders is an extraordinary achievement. I, along with many partners at Gowlings, will miss her terribly. Rest in peace, dear friend."
Aviva Rotenberg , Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Canadian Bar Association, comments on the work Karen did for the CBA:
"Karen worked closely on several important projects with the Canadian Bar Association. Most notably, she lent her deep expertise, keen insight, and wealth of experience to our Law Firm Leadership conference and other programming designed specifically for managing partners. Her positivity, warmth, and commitment to excellence in our profession truly seemed to come from a place of genuine feeling, and it showed in everything she did. We will miss Karen and extend our deepest condolences to all who knew and loved her."
Joan Feldman, Editor and Publisher of AttorneyatWork.com and, previously, the ABA’s Law Practice magazine comments:
"I first met Karen MacKay more than a decade and a half ago when we asked her to take the lead in writing a new column for Law Practice, appropriately called “Taking the Lead.” She had proven herself an insightful and prolific writer and a true joy to work with, and we were thrilled when she said yes. Over the next several years, she more than met the mission to provide tangible, intelligent advice from “inside the room” on leadership and management issues. But Karen shone brightest as a selfless advisor and friend once she joined the Law Practice Magazine Advisory board, demonstrating the ability that made her an invaluable asset in law firm boardrooms across North America. Her uncanny ability to both read the room and guide the room was a true gift."
Maggie Callicrate, CEO of San Francisco law firm Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass, and past President of COLPM, writes:
"Karen was a most gracious and giving mentor to me when we worked together for a couple of years in law firm consulting. She had previously made the transition from in-house law firm management to acting as a consultant to law firms. She was so generous with her insights, a ready smile, and a can-do approach to anything and everything.
She was also a fantastic host who made visits to her home outside of Toronto special. I remember one evening in particular when Karen and her husband Ken invited a number of colleagues to their home. Not surprisingly, the evening included a Scotch whisky tasting, courtesy of friend and colleague to many in this industry, Scotsman John Plank. And one more lovely memory (and teaching moment!). We once met up at Boston Logan Airport for a client meeting the next day. It was getting close to midnight, but Karen called ahead from the cab to ask the front desk to have warm cookies in our rooms. I was dubious, but sure enough, delivery happened and the cookies were excellent!"
Simon Chester, past President of COLPM and Counsel at Gowling WLG in Toronto, writes:
"Reading these tributes, I recognized all the ways I encountered this extraordinary woman, Karen. I treasure the memories of someone always in motion. At her College induction, striding across the campus of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, delighting in the stimulation of new friends and sharing ideas. Karen loved people. Walking over from the W in the Loop to a College Futures Conference at Chicago-Kent, her energy — a magnet to her friends.
In all her presentations and workshops, a mind in motion, opening eyes and sparking new insights. A soul in motion. Who touched all she met. Dear Heart, rest well."