Faculty of Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

Persistence paid dividends for Ryan alumni award winner

(August 4, 2016)

Brian Rose
Brian Rose at the "Celebrate Queen's Law" event in Toronto, with his award

Brian Rose, Law’74, recipient of the 2016 H.R.S. Ryan Law Alumni Award of Distinction, enjoys an international reputation as one of Canada’s most experienced and trusted senior corporate lawyers. Yet, as Rose explained while accepting his award at the May 31 Celebrate Queen’s Law reception in Toronto, his legal career almost never happened.

“In August 1971, I was an unemployed, unilingual Anglophone ex-CFO in Montreal,” he recalled. Figuring he had nothing to lose, he made late application to law schools across Canada. All were unsuccessful; first-year classes were full.

Refusing to take no for an answer, he began calling. When he rang Macdonald Hall to plead his case he got through to Faculty Secretary Mary Alice Murray, Law’60, who listened patiently before forwarding his call to admissions head Professor Lyman Robinson. “May I come to see you?” Rose asked him.

“Why?!” came the befuddled professor’s reply.

“Because it’s harder for anyone to say ‘No’ to someone when they’re face-to-face,” said Rose.

He was right about that. Three years later, Rose graduated and never looked back.

Getting his start in the 10-person Toronto office of Stikeman Elliott, Rose went on to a stellar 39-year career as builder of and partner in what is now a leading corporate law firm with more than 500 lawyers in Canada, New York, London and Sydney.  

Along the way, the query “Is there anything I can do for you?” became his signature phrase. “These words should be printed on Brian Rose’s business card . . . . [they] aren’t hollow words,” William J. Braithwaite, Chair of Stikeman Elliott LLP has said.

Indeed, while Rose is renowned for his legal expertise, he also enjoys a reputation as a selfless champion of women and diversity in the legal and business worlds. His dedication to helping others often has been saluted – most notably in 2012 when was a recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. These days, although he “retired” in 2013 and now lives in New York, Rose still serves as a Senior Counsel to Bennett Jones LLP.

“I received a wonderful education at Queen’s Law. It’s been the basis for whatever has happened in my legal career,” he said. “I’ll never forget what Queen’s Law has done for me.”

Those, too, aren’t hollow words. Said Dean Bill Flanagan, “Brian has always been and continues to be a great friend of the school.”