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Alumnus and lawyer pursues diverse interests

LEGAL EAGLE: Wayne Lewis (HBSc 2001) went on to law school after graduating from U of T Scarborough. He says he enjoys a career that mixes arts, business and law. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

Wayne Lewis came sideways into a career in law.

When he first enrolled in life sciences at U of T Scarborough, his plan was to become a doctor, at the urging of “my dear mother,” he laughs.

He took neuroscience and psychology courses before completing his Honours BSc in 2001. But throughout his life, he has enjoyed music, film and the arts. Along with drawing, he spent a lot of time writing hip hop songs as well as recording a few of them with friends.

A friend gave him the book, All You Need to Know about the Music Business. “It was by an entertainment lawyer, and his story inspired me. After trying for a few years to pursue a music career, I realized it would be hard to make a living as a rapper. I started looking at law as a way to combine my interests. My passion for music and entertainment, as well as for the business and legal side of them, took me down this road.”

Fueled by a diverse range of interests in art, film, music and business, Lewis was accepted to Osgoode Hall Law School, after which he founded his sole-proprietor law firm. As a barrister and solicitor, he now works with a range of clients, including small businesses, musicians, and filmmakers, and he enjoys a career that mixes arts and business.

“Entertainment and business law allow me to help others achieve their dreams, and I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. When I hear a song on the radio and I worked on that artist’s agreement, it’s satisfying to know that I was part of making it happen.”

Lewis describes himself as a “big picture guy” who buckles down and does what is needed. When he is bogged down with a case, he focuses on the end result, and coaxes clients through the negotiations. “Sometimes clients may need to give up a little bit to get a deal or agreement. You’ve got to make sacrifices to achieve your goal. My work involves lots of contracts and negotiations, drafting and redrafting of documents, and phone calls back and forth.”

His favorite part of the job is “when the deal is done,” he laughs. “My father was a cabinet maker, and he did interior work when the old Warden Woods Mall was built. He felt proud to be part of that, and when I drive by a commercial business or see my client being interviewed on TV, I feel like my father did -- like I’ve helped build something special.”

Art was always a favorite subject for Lewis. Although he grew up in a low income home and initially had low marks in school, he credits his success to his mother’s persistence and belief that he could do better if he tried. He said that if parents in low income neighborhoods work to expose their children to positive influences and successful professional adults, the children can succeed and overcome the challenges. “Parents who work to build a positive environment and to expose their children to more highly educated people can really help their children in this way, but both parents and children must work hard to achieve these goals.”

Now 33, Lewis says his undergraduate days prepared him for law school. “Being in sciences involved a lot of research, and lawyers also do a great deal of research. At law school, I had a comfort level with research that others may not have had.”

His favorite memories of U of T Scarborough involve “hanging out with friends at the Meeting Place. I still stay in touch with the same group I met back then.” He also remembers studying in groups and sometimes staying up until three o’clock in the morning. “We looked over at one another to say, ‘Remind me, why are we doing this?’”

Lewis chose U of T Scarborough because it was close to home, but he stayed because of the atmosphere. “I found the professors were helpful and accessible,” he says. “I also appreciated the cultural diversity of the campus.”

“Wayne Lewis is a dynamic young alumnus with enthusiasm and drive,” says Kim Tull, manager, alumni relations. “His energy and determination to succeed are a great example to both students and alumni alike.”

When not working, Lewis unleashes his inner artist. On Sundays, he tries to devote time to writing. He’s currently working on two movie scripts and a novel. He also volunteers as an online legal commentator for a business and entertainment web site, Afrotoronto.com. Lewis’ column, RED/TAPE, can be found under the heading “Money and Business.”

“Although I’m working a lot, I love being a lawyer. I stick to areas of law that hold my interest so that I’ll stay engaged. I have the fire in me for it, and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.”




© University of Toronto Scarborough