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The business-minded lawyer

Marvin Mikhail, BComm 02
November 6, 2023
By Samantha Rideout, GrDip 10

A man with short brown hair and short beard is wearing dark framed glasses and a blazer over a white-collared shirt. He is standing in front of a window.

“To be an effective lawyer and give people the best advice possible, you need to immerse yourself in their environment,” says Marvin Mikhail, Mastercard Canada’s vice-president and senior managing counsel, who joined the company in 2016 after nearly a decade in private-practice corporate law.

“When you’re in-house, you can build relationships with everyone from the marketing team to finance and more. You’re pursuing a common objective together, and I value that.”

As part of Mastercard’s “small but mighty” Canadian legal team, Mikhail oversees corporate, commercial, marketing and sponsorship areas and advises on strategic deals with customers, such as banks that issue Mastercard cards, prominent merchants and sponsorship assets.

“We’re generalists, but we also go deep on certain priority topics,” he says. “It keeps the work very interesting.”

An enriching environment

“Concordia embodies diversity through its student body and faculty. That’s something that permeated student life and enriched us all. It was particularly poignant for me because my mother attended Concordia’s predecessor Sir George Williams University in the early 1970s as a young immigrant from Egypt. She’s told me stories of how she’d read her textbooks with the help of an Arabic-English dictionary.”

When the law is lagging

“The payments ecosystem has become very complex over the years. E-commerce was already growing before COVID-19, but the pandemic precipitated the shift. Mastercard’s work goes well beyond credit cards: we’re a technology company in the payments space.

“Like any tech company, we’re in a fast-paced, innovative landscape. Sometimes, the law hasn’t caught up. In those cases, we need to think about what the risks are and how to mitigate them, even though there’s no clear legal framework.”

Personal priorities

“Spending time with my family is extremely important to me. I have active 10-year-old twins who keep my wife and me very busy. I also love to learn from books. Oftentimes, you’ll see me hopping on my bike and riding to the local library.”

Career advice

“You can approach your schooling and your work as a duty, or you can approach them as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop. With the latter mindset, work feels less like ‘work.’ Instead, it becomes a source of enjoyment.”

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