Ottawa composer-turned-lawyer plays to his strengths

As a young music student, Ted Mann realized his true passion lay in pursuing a career in law – but he still finds time to tap into his artistic side by taking to the stage at GCTC charity events
Ted Mann began studying music in university before switching to law.
Ted Mann began studying music in university before switching to law. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

Ted Mann clearly remembers Watergate, arguably the biggest political scandal in U.S. history, and how it unravelled back when he was studying music at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College.

It was the early 1970s and he’d been on the path to becoming a composer. Interestingly, the Watergate story connects, albeit very loosely, to Mr. Mann changing his tune about his career.

While Mr. Mann was focused on the breaking political news out of Washington, his classmates were more concerned about which violinist had been absent the evening before at a Toronto Symphony performance.

“Nobody had any interest in what was happening outside of music,” he recalls. “It was kind of like a bell went off in my head and I said, ‘Am I that passionate about music? Am I prepared to be that focused about music that I cut out all the other stuff?’ The answer was no.”

Mr. Mann switched to law, choosing a profession that would instead allow him to help others. He earned his degree at Osgoode Hall and went on to enjoy a fulfilling career that has spanned decades.

“In the end, sitting in the corner composing music is not really me,” he says. “I wanted to have a job where I could work with people and help people.”

Full-service law firm

Mr. Mann is a founding and managing partner of Mann Lawyers, a growing, full-service Ottawa firm of 24 lawyers. It deals with personal injury law, family law, employment law, commercial and real estate litigation, as well as corporate commercial, commercial real estate, residential real estate and wills and estates.

“I love (being a lawyer), and I don’t know if there’s anything else that would give me quite the same satisfaction,” he says in an interview at his office on Scott Street in trendy Hintonburg.

Mr. Mann didn’t always feel so comfortable in the legal profession, saying it took time for him to learn to be himself. It was hard when he first moved to Ottawa, where he didn’t know anyone.

“I have felt like a square peg in a round hole,” he acknowledges. “I really felt like I was not fitting in as a lawyer because I didn’t necessarily think or act as other lawyers did, so I often felt out of place and not really part of the profession.”

It wasn’t until he began performing in the annual Great Canadian Theatre Company Lawyer Play that he started meeting lawyers with an artistic side.

“I realized that I had people in the profession who were like me, and then I began to relax,” he says.

Mr. Mann, 62, grew up in Etobicoke, a former suburb of Toronto. He was the son of a salesman-turned-president of an industrial oil company and a homemaker. His younger brother lives in Australia with his family, while his older brother died of AIDS in 1990.

He began his career working at a small firm in Mississauga, followed by a stint in Charlottetown. He moved to Ottawa 30 years ago to join the firm Gold Kelly (the outdoor enthusiast says he was partly lured to the nation’s capital because of the Gatineau hills).

In 1994, he started his own firm. It became a partnership in 2003 and the name eventually changed to Mann Lawyers.

The office has a neighbourhood feel to it, from its hanging artwork acquired from nearby Orange Art Gallery to its office door signs that bear community names such as Wellington and Kitchissippi. Mr. Mann lives a couple blocks away with his husband, mortgage broker Robert Borden.

The firm prides itself on its collegiality.

“I think that people need to be able to enjoy themselves when they come to work,” Mr. Mann says.

The firm also encourages its staff to pursue outside interests and community involvement. Mr. Mann is on the executive of the County of Carleton Law Association and was board chairman of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society. He swims, cross-country skis and hikes. He also teaches in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa.

“It’s important to us that each person here maintains a full life outside of the office,” he says. “We very definitely encourage and recognize that in order to be a better lawyer you need to be a well-rounded person, because it helps lawyers connect better with their clients.”

Mr. Mann has performed in a dozen of the GCTC Lawyer Plays that raise money for the theatre company and for a local charity. He will be appearing on stage in late May for this year’s production of Macbeth. He’s playing the avenging hero Macduff, who, like Mr. Mann, is one of the good guys.

Five things to know about Ted Mann

  1. He does the Ottawa Citizen crossword puzzle and word jumble every day.
  2. Four mornings a week, he’s at the Taggart Family YMCA-YWCA as a member of the adult masters swim club. “There’s something about getting in the pool at 6:30 in the morning, only in your bathing suit, that leaves you able to hide only so much,” he jokes. “You develop this bond with these people that you’re swimming with.”
  3. He’s an adventurous guy. In his office are photos of his hiking trip to Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains of Peru, kayaking at the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and his expedition to Baffin Island and Greenland.
  4. Mr. Mann is board vice-chairman of Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. “I love dogs and believe strongly in the mission of the organization,” he says.
  5. His two favourite roles in GCTC Lawyer Plays have been Reverend Parris in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and William Russell (inspired by American politician Adlai Stevenson) in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.