Mtre Danielle Lavoie

Mtre Danielle Lavoie: From law to property management

By Pierre-Luc Beauchesne, lawyer
(Article published on november 27, 2018)

Today, Mtre Danielle Lavoie is Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager, Eastern Canada at The Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited, a Canadian business with one of the largest real estate portfolios in North America. Acting as a lawyer, a professional chartered accountant and a real estate broker, Mtre Lavoie is an inspiring example of a businesswoman who has forged her own path by combining two streams of academic training and playing an active role in her community.

In looking at Mtre Lavoie’s career path, from her summer jobs at Ivanhoé Cambridge while she was in law school at McGill University to the present, it might seem that she has always been very interested in real estate and simply followed the path laid out for her. However, it was the luck of the draw, or rather the state of the economy, that guided her into real estate after she completed her legal studies. In the early 1990s, young lawyers had a hard time finding jobs, especially lawyers who, like Mtre Lavoie, were more interested in business law than in litigation. After articling with De Grandpré Godin (now De Grandpré Chait), Mtre Lavoie signed up for a bachelor’s program in business administration at Université du Québec à Montréal to round out her “business education”.

While she was studying at UQAM, the real estate world again opened its arms to her. Mtre Lavoie joined Cadillac Fairview as a lease manager, before doing her internship as an accountant, and then held the positions of accountant and chief accountant in succession. In 2003, she left CF to make a career change and seek work in property management. She spent more than 10 years as a manager at various real estate companies (Desjardins Asset Management, Arcturus Realty Corporation and Strathallen Property Management Inc.). She returned to Cadillac Fairview in January 2014, and now leads a team of seasoned professionals while managing some of the most prestigious shopping centres and office buildings in the country.

Mtre Lavoie is convinced that her dual background in law and accounting is an asset that makes her stand out from the crowd and has helped her to climb the ladder in the real estate world. Even though the different positions she had held in her career were not specifically as a lawyer, she is involved on a daily basis in files that have a legal aspect, from lease negotiation process and management of litigation to setting up agreements with business partners, as well as negotiating servitudes or easements and drafting declarations of co-ownership.

This businesswoman is also very involved in her community as serving the community has always been a major component of her career. The years she spent from 2007 to 2012 at CREW M (Commercial Real Estate Women - Montréal), particularly as Treasurer and President, allowed her to become quite familiar with the real estate world and to make her mark on it. In November 2017, CREW M bestowed the Tribute Award on her to highlight her commitment to the real estate community and her contribution to the advancement of women in the industry.

Mtre Lavoie has not limited her involvement to her professional field. Sports have also played an important part in her life. During her collegiate and university studies, this former figure skater became a coach and was able to provide support and guidance to about 30 young people “who were able to develop in their sport in addition to subsequently making it a beautiful career.” More recently, she was assistant coach for her daughter’s hockey team and obviously took care of the skating aspect. Mtre Lavoie has also been involved in her community by serving in particular on the board of directors of early childhood centres, even after her children moved on to primary and secondary education. For Mtre Lavoie, you must never hesitate to “provide your skills to organizations that need them.” She now sits on the board of directors of the Montreal Real Estate Foundation for Kids and on the real estate committee for the McCord Museum Foundation and will co-chair the Valentine’s Day Ball of the Fondation Jeunes en Tête.

Today, she is most proud of having managed to achieve a number of important objectives in her career while prioritizing her role as a mother who is always there for her three children, now 17, 20 and 22 years old. Balancing work and family has always posed a challenge for Mtre Lavoie because the “real estate milieu was very male-oriented.” However, she was able to balance both aspects of her life by choosing to work in businesses with values similar to her own, and which allowed her to achieve her full potential. Even though things have changed concerning the place of women in the business world, Mtre Lavoie knows that there is still work to be done: “As a woman, my next challenge is to ensure that the coming generation can fully access management positions. At the present time, there are still very few women who have managed to reach senior positions in the industry but there is a group of extraordinary young women who may soon be able to do so. I want to make the most of my role and my position so that the doors will be wide open for them and that the question of pay equity no longer arises when my daughters enter the labour market.”

Confident in the future of the business world and the part that the next generation will play, Mtre Lavoie will continue to be an inspiring model for those who would like to combine law and other fields of interest while balancing personal and family life.