Diane Ulman & Brandon P. Lee
Recently, The Top 100 Magazine had the honor of meeting with Diane Ulman and Brandon P. Lee, two high school friends who became business partners after reconnecting. Together, they founded Integris Law, headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, with locations in Mississauga, Burlington, and Waterloo. The duo talked with us about starting their own firm, their journey building it from the ground up, and their plans for the future.
When the two of you reconnected, what inspired you to establish your own law firm?
Diane: After many years of not seeing each other, we reunited and discovered that we were both in real estate law and that we were both at a stage in our careers where it made sense to go out on our own. We had the same views on the profession and also how to modernize aspects of running a law practice to better serve the community. As a result, it felt natural to join forces. We become partners and started Integris Law in 2019.
How long had you both been practicing law prior to opening Integris?
Diane: I have been practicing law since 2011 and have been involved in real estate for about 15 years. I first worked at a property management company as a student before becoming a lawyer. Then, once I passed the Bar Exam and litigated in Toronto for a few years, I was given an opportunity to move to San Francisco to work in the telecom industry. While there, I primarily negotiated land leases for cell phone companies. Today, I specialize in real estate law with a secondary focus on wills and powers of attorney.
Brandon: Law is my 3rd-4th career. I worked in commercial sales for several years, real estate investment, and politics before I decided to enroll in law school. My first real estate job was during my first university degree, where I managed a rental property close to the campus. I started practicing in 2018, specializing in residential real estate law with a secondary focus on corporate law.
What inspired you to name your firm Integris?
Diane: The name of our firm is about integrity. There are always a lot of jokes made about lawyers and their unethical nature, so Brandon and I wanted to put it at the forefront that we are trustworthy and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our clients can talk to us and rely on us to get the job done.
Tell us a bit about Integris Law.
Diane: We started our practice with a commitment to be different from other firms. For example, we have a digital foundation and can complete 99% of our work from home or on the road. This allows us to be very nimble and mobile, and our time savings is passed on to our clients. Also, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, we were well-situated to work digitally, and our productivity actually increased as most clients preferred closing deals from their homes. However, we still meet with clients face-to-face when necessary such as when we draw up wills or contracts.
Brandon: We also have four locations now in Oakville, Mississauga, Burlington, and Waterloo. Three are inside brokerages, which we treat like essential parties. We view them as hand in hand, and we make sure our clients are happy with their overall experience, from finding a house all the way to closing.
What is the edge that makes the two of you stand out from other real estate attorneys?
Diane: One of my strengths is my ability to make even the newest of clients, our first-time homeowners, feel super comfortable. I am also able to break things down easily and comprehensively for people.
Brandon: I try to come up with practical solutions to ensure a smooth closing and also make sure to jump on problems when they arise.
How is Integris Law unique compared to other firms?
Diane: We are incredibly approachable and down to earth when it comes to client relationships as well as our relationships with brokers, mortgage brokers, and agents. Brandon and I give out our cellphone numbers, so we are always accessible, and we frequently work evenings and weekends. Agents can call us at any time because they recognize we are part of a system that only works if everyone works together harmoniously. No one at Integris has ever held a top down, ivory tower mentality, and we always take a practical, hands-on, team approach.
Brandon: We view Integris as more of a business than a law firm because a business wins or dies based upon key partnerships and customer service. Our firm is service-oriented as opposed to being academic or theoretical. Although all the law firms near us are great at what they do, many are lacking in the customer service department because they fail to relate to clients’ personal problems. However, this is where Diane and I excel; we make sure to dive deep in order to give our clients what they need.
What are your plans for the future?
Diane: We plan on continuing to expand. If the COVID-19 pandemic had not happened, we would have already opened a fifth location. Brandon and I want to have more locations and more key partnerships with brokerages.
Brandon: We are planning to go into a second stage that will involve real estate investment and development since my background is in those areas. We also want to further improve the business and have a more diverse revenue stream to better serve our clients. Essentially, our goal is to evolve into a much broader practice.
Diane Ulman & Brandon P. Lee
Founders and Managing Partners
13-209 Speers Road, Oakville, ON L6K 0H9
FB and IG: @IntegrisLaw
Download the Top 100 Canadian Professionals magazine and check out Diane and Brandon's feature on page 22.