Meet Evan Olson, CIC.C, CCCA Vice-Chair

  • March 28, 2022
  • Evan Olson, CIC.C, CCCA Vice-Chair

Meet Evan Olson, CIC.C, CCCA Vice-Chair

In today’s hectic world, it can be hard to see the bigger picture at work and in life. However, Evan Olson, CIC.C, is the 2021-22 Vice-Chair of the CCCA Executive Committee, is a prime example of living his values and being an in-house leader.

We spoke with Evan about his career journey, living in the Prairies and the CCCA–Rotman Business Leadership Program.

Let’s start with your current role and working at Viterra.

After practicing with Miller Thomson LLP and the Federal Department of Justice, I moved in-house to Viterra, a leading global agribusiness, in 2011. I currently work in the role of Senior Counsel & Regional Compliance Officer, North America, based out of our North America headquarters in Regina, Saskatchewan. I split my time between legal work and managing Viterra’s North American compliance function.

My 11 years working in-house at Viterra have been characterized by the persistent evolution of our business. While extremely challenging at times, the demands of a fast-paced, performance-based environment have made me a better a legal advisor and strategic business partner. At Viterra, I’ve experienced in-house practice (1) within a publicly traded company; (2) during a significant transformation through extensive M & A activity; and (3) during integration as part of a significant global agricultural firm with 17,500+ employees working in 37 countries.

The most rewarding part of my role as an in-house counsel is the development of relationships with my clients throughout the business, with the daily goal of providing timely, effective and practical legal advice that has a business-first approach.

I’ve worked on many cool things over the years with really great people. I never thought I would be working on Lexpert’s #2 Deal in Canada in 2012. I never thought I’d be part of building the world’s largest integrated canola crushing facility. I never thought I’d be in a leadership role with the CCCA, a pan-Canadian organization of more than 5,000 members. Opportunities have a way of finding us all, and it’s important to make them count.

Can you give us a snapshot of your life outside of work?

I am passionate about my family, my work and my volunteer commitments. My roles on the CCCA Executive Committee and within the broader Canadian Bar Association provide the opportunity to work with a fantastic group of volunteers and staff to (a) connect in-house counsel across Canada, and (b) provide tools to make us all better.

I also love spending time with my wife and two school-aged children – who get busier by the day! To decompress, I really enjoy cooking and other culinary adventures.

How has your background helped make you the person you are today?

I am a very proud prairie boy. Anything that I’ve achieved in my life is a direct reflection of the support I’ve enjoyed from a wonderful family and great friends while growing up in Saskatchewan.

It’s a true privilege to be working in my home province for a global leader in agriculture. Canadian farmers grow crops in their fields so that they can feed people across the world, and in my work with Viterra I get to be a part of that global supply relationship. Coming from Saskatchewan, this is very personal and very rewarding.

What are your thoughts on the future of the in-house profession?

The opportunities for in-house lawyers continue to grow and become more complex. There is no better time than the present to be building a legal career in-house. The future is very bright.

In-house teams assist greatly in proactively managing risk and are deeply invested in the goals of their organization. More legal work is being done in-house than ever before because organizations see the value in having that expertise in the building.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile career investments you’ve ever made?

The Business Leadership Program for In-House Counsel (BLPIHC) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, which I completed in 2017, has been a great compliment to my work experience. The course provided a roadmap to navigate organizational dynamics, and more deeply understand the integrated corporate and operational functions of a large organization.

The BLPIHC solidified my desire to build my career as an in-house counsel in an environment where I can take a leadership role within a bigger team working towards bigger goals. Another great benefit of the program is that I developed a close bond with many of my classmates, giving me a network of in-house counsel across Canada whom I’m still in regular contact with.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Early in my in-house career, one of my mentors always said, “Don’t think about what you want to be in five years, [instead] think about the skills you want to have in five years.” This has been truly excellent advice, which has guided me to focus on skill development in my career and getting exposed to opportunities to work on interesting things.

What advice would you give to other in-house counsel?

If I was giving advice to my younger self, I would make it very simple: Doing really good work, building strong relationships and trying to get better each year will put you on a great path to success in anything you do.