The HCLA maintains a reliable network of lawyers, judges and law students of Hellenic origin. In addition to creating professional opportunities, this network serves as a platform for members to knowledge share.
The HCLA provides and participates in ongoing educational programs, seminars and courses with a view to promote legal education in the Hellenic Canadian community.
The HCLA works to create, stimulate and increase public awareness of matters relating to the Hellenic Canadian community.
On November 9, 1990, lawyers of Hellenic heritage in Canada gathered at the Offices of the Canadian Bar Association in Toronto to revive and reinvigorate the Hellenic Canadian Law Association (now the Hellenic Canadian Lawyers’ Association), an association originally founded by Hellenic Canadian lawyers, including Tom Karvanis and Madame Justice Andromache Karakatsanis.
Ten lawyers were elected at that time to form the Board of Directors and, at their first meeting a month later, the Board appointed Constantine Grimanis as the first President. Serving as officers and directors were: Katherine Kavassalis (Vice-President), Louis Alexopoulos (Secretary), Greg Kanargelidis (Treasurer), Constantine Alexiou, Speros Kanellos, Bill Tsapralis, William Tatsiou and Rita Vassilopoulos.
The HCLA’s Constitution was drafted and ratified, and put into motion the Association’s goals of, among other things, strengthening bonds within the Hellenic Canadian legal community, promoting and advancing the well-being and education of the Hellenic Canadian legal community, increasing public understanding of the legal profession and bringing awareness to matters material to the Hellenic Canadian community at large.
Since its inception, the HCLA has been dedicated to meeting its goals of networking, educating and advocating. The HCLA has developed and maintained a number of annual social and educational events and programs, including the President’s Dinner, the Christmas Cheer, the Hellenic Professionals’ Gala (with our medical and dental colleagues), the Under 8 After 8 Socials, the Mentorship program, student events (including our student resume and interview workshops) and continuing professional development (CPD) seminars.
To further our commitment to supporting lawyers of Hellenic descent in Canada, the HCLA awards scholarships to law students, including our standing Justice Andromache Karakatsanis Student Scholarship and other special scholarships, including the First Year Law Student Scholarship.
The HCLA is an active member of the Roundtable of Diversity Associations (RODA), an umbrella organization founded in 2011 that brings together a coalition of equity-seeking Canadian legal associations with the goal of fostering dialogue and promoting initiatives relating to the advancement of diversity, equality and inclusion in the legal profession, the judiciary and within the broader legal community.
The HCLA remains committed to advancing and strengthening the Hellenic Canadian legal community so its members may continue to attain new heights of professional success and achievement.
Francesca Smirnakis is Senior Counsel supporting RBC’s Canadian Wealth Management and Mutual Fund Distribution businesses, including full-service and discount investment dealers, retail mutual fund dealers and discretionary portfolio managers. Prior to joining RBC, Francesca’s practice focused on supporting asset management businesses at another financial institution and prior to that, at a large Bay Street law firm. She also has experience in debt capital markets and M&A in the investment management industry. Francesca previously served as Vice-President, Treasurer, Social Director and Student Director on the HCLA Board. She was awarded an HCLA student scholarship while at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Trish Vrotsos is Lead Real Estate Legal Counsel at Metro Ontario Inc. Trish practices commercial real estate law with specific experience in acquisitions, dispositions, leasing, development, property operation matters and franchising. Prior to joining Metro in 2017, Trish worked for a number of years in private practice in the areas of real estate and corporate and commercial law. Trish has been serving as the HCLA’s Treasurer since 2018 and has been an active member for several years.
Danielle Tavernese is an associate at Nussbaum Law Professional Corporation. Her practice encompasses a wide range of family law, including legal aid matters, marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements, custody and access and asset division. Prior to this, Danielle articled and worked at a well-known boutique defence litigation firm and practiced in various aspects of litigation.
Danielle graduated from the University of Ottawa French Common Law Program in 2019 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2020. During law school, she advocated for her fellow law students as the Vice President of Internal Relations on the Common Law Student Society. She also assisted local Legal Aid clientele by working at the Community Legal Clinic in the Family Law Division.
Danielle received the Justice Andromache Karakatsanis Student Scholarship in 2018 and has been a member of the HCLA Gala Committee. She joined the HCLA board of directors in 2021.
James Trougakos is an associate at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, where he is developing a broad tax practice. He assists clients on a range of tax matters, including tax planning and dispute resolution before the tax authorities. Prior to joining Davies, James served as a judicial law clerk at the Tax Court of Canada. While attending law school at McGill University, James volunteered at the McGill Legal Information Clinic.
Agapi Mavridis is an Assistant Crown Attorney with the Durham Crown Attorney’s Office. Agapi attended law school at the University of Manitoba, and was called to the bar in 2018. She articled with the Policy Division at the Ministry of the Attorney General, and worked primarily on the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017. Outside of practicing law, Agapi volunteers with the Cretans Association of Toronto “Knossos”, implementing their scholarship program for post-secondary students. Prior to attending law school, Agapi worked with the Government of Ontario as a policy analyst, and is a graduate of the Masters of Public Policy and Administration program at Ryerson University.
Steve Lyberopoulos is an associate at Stikeman Elliott LLP in Montreal. Steve practices corporate law in the field of mergers & acquisitions, with a particular focus on private equity and cross-border transactions. Before entering the legal world, Steve worked in the sports industry and earned a Bachelor of Commerce from Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business. During his studies at McGill University’s Faculty of Law, Steve was elected President of the Law Students’ Association and represented McGill and Canada at national and international negotiation competitions.
Gina began her membership with the HCLA as an articling student, served in various Executive roles, including President, and is excited about returning as an Honorary Director. For over 20 years, Gina has been inspiring and supporting individuals and organizations to strategically define their hopes and achieve their goals. As the Senior Program Director of Ryerson’s Law Practice Program, Gina is responsible for the development, implementation and general management of the new innovative transition year training program for licensing Candidates in Ontario. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring academic excellence and the quality of service and program delivery for participants, and outreach to hundreds of contributing members of the legal profession. Gina has also been actively involved with the development of Ryerson’s proposal for its new innovative law school. With a passion for adult education, leadership and diversity, she completed her Masters of Education in 2012 and received her Coaching Certification in 2017. Gina developed and directed the award-winning Internationally Trained Lawyers Program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and spent more than 12 years with Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, first as Director of Career Services, followed by nine years as the Assistant Dean of Student Services. Between 2013 and 2014, Gina was the Director, Strategic Planning and Knowledge Management for the Legal Services Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario. Following her graduation from Osgoode Hall Law School, Gina began her legal career practicing family law and civil litigation in Toronto, Canada. She is a proud Greek-Canadian soccer mom living with her family in Toronto.
George is an experienced civil trial lawyer and founding partner of the downtown Toronto litigation boutique: Bougadis, Chang LLP Barristers. George joined HCLA as a student member, served on the Board of Directors for eight years, was elected as President from 2004 to 2006, volunteers in the Mentor Program, participates in the National Lawyer Referral Program, and was invited to act as an Honourary Director in 2013. He has also been a member of the Hellenic Canadian Board of Trade for more than a decade.
Eleni Damianakis is Vice-President, Associate General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited where she is advises the company and its board of directors on corporate and securities law as well as governance matters. Prior to joining Canadian Tire in 2008, Eleni served as Associate Vice-President, Senior Legal Counsel and Assistant Secretary at Sears Canada Inc. She began her legal career at McCarthy Tetrault LLP in Toronto where she practiced in commercial real estate. Eleni is a past President of the HCLA and has served as a mentor in the HCLA’s Mentorship Program.
Tom was a founding member of the law firm of Sotos, Karvanis (now known as Sotos LLP) in downtown Toronto on his call to the bar in 1982. His legal practice concentrated on commercial and matrimonial litigation and alternative dispute resolution. He was recognized by L’Expert as a leading practitioner in franchise litigation. He led the litigation team of Sotos Karvanis and was responsible for the recruiting and mentoring of associate lawyers. Tom was a frequent speaker to community and legal groups on a range of subjects such as litigation, corporate governance and the latest developments in technology for lawyers. Tom has a strong commitment to participating in the community. Among other activities, he helped establish the Hellenic Canadian Federation of Ontario and the Hellenic Canadian Congress. After his retirement in 1999 due to multiple sclerosis, he volunteered in organizations such as Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technology where he served in various capacities including Chair of its Board of Governors during a critical period for the organization. Since 2005, Tom has served as an Honourary Director of the HCLA. He was one of the founders of the HCLA in its original form in the 1980’s and was responsible for reviving it in 1990. Tom is a strong believer in the HCLA and a strong advocate of its mentorship program.
John Yiokaris is a partner at Sotos LLP. He leads the firm’s automotive sector practice, drawing on his considerable experience working as lead counsel for one of Canada’s largest automotive manufacturers and numerous dealers. John is also a registered trademark agent and has extensive knowledge of intellectual property issues. He is also an experienced practitioner in the restaurant, grocery, hotel, real estate and professional services sectors, advising businesses at every stage of franchising system development. John has particular expertise in the work out of distressed franchisees and in structuring transfers in the best interests of the franchise system. A significant portion of John’s practice is dedicated to providing strategic commercial advice on complex franchise defaults and disputes, enforcements, and terminations. John was awarded the Lexology 2019 Client Choice Award for Franchising in Ontario and is consistently listed in Chambers Canada, the Canadian Legal LEXPERT Directory, and Who’s Who Legal: Canada as a leading Canadian franchise law practitioner.