I am a 60-year-old lawyer and mediator, with 30 years of experience.
I come from a family of legal professionals. My father was a Judge, my mother a legal secretary, and my sister a lawyer.
Thinking that I might have promise as a musician, I left High School before graduation to play guitar. That did not go entirely as planned so I returned to school. In the early 1980’s, I obtained an English Literature degree at the University of Victoria.
Then, In 1986, I obtained my law degree. I graduated in the top 10% of my class. It was a small class. I had also earned some bursaries and awards, and an invitation for graduate studies, but I needed work. The market for young lawyers in Victoria was grim, and by then, I had three young children, and my wife was ill.
I obtained articles with a Burnaby law firm, and thereafter took a happy position at Kane, Shannon & Weiler, in Delta, where I worked and learned for the next seven years. During that time, I handled a variety of cases, but focussed on trial work. My first legal assistant at that firm was Elaine Ekman, and we became a competent and successful team (and remain so today).
Eventually, I wanted my own firm. Elaine and I left in 1993 to form a new practice group.
I joined up with some colleagues, and hoped for the best. That partnership proved to be incompatible and my wife passed away in 1996. In the coming year, I developed a new firm, remarried, and had another child. The new firm was busy, and within a few years, we had expanded to 10 lawyers and 20 staff. Elaine and I continued our work together in litigation.
In 2010, Elaine and I left that firm, and acquired a little office in Surrey, and started South Coast Law Group. Elaine and I have been there ever since, along with many of the others from the “old firm”. Some of us will likely be removed in a wooden box someday. It is a good place to work, and we are content.
Over the years, I have worked on many different types of cases. For a time, I handled criminal law, corporate litigation, real property law, and even some conveyancing and wills. I later turned my focus to family law, estate litigation, and personal injury. This diversity has helped me to build perspective and experience.
During my career, I have conducted almost all of my practice in Supreme Court, and in the Court of Appeal. We have acted for and with injured persons, construction companies, children, doctors, lawyers, insurance companies, the office of the Attorney General, disadvantaged and disabled folks, single parents, and a few celebrities.
I also had the opportunity to appear on Television a few times, and on radio. I also hosted a newspaper column for some time, and have authored three publications on family law, which are marketed and sold by my publisher, Self Counsel Press. My Separation Agreement book sells well throughout Canada and is now in its 14th reprint. My Separation Guide is marketed throughout Canada and into the USA. Together with my friend, Ross Davidson, I co-authored a Pre-Nuptial book called "If You Love Me, Put It In Writing".
Over the past 30 years, I have appeared regularly in Provincial Court, Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal. I have argued before the CPP disability (appeals) tribunal, and have served as counsel for the Provincial Attorney General’s office, and have been retained by small and large corporations, and by Government. I think I have handled over 1,000 divorces, and I know that I have attended over 100 mediations. In addition, I have represented clients at hearings at the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, (and acted on behalf of the Board), and at the Real Estate Council. I have also testified as an expert.
For many years, I served as an elected representative on the Provincial Council of the Canadian Bar Association, and for two years I was the President of the Fraser Valley chapter. In addition, I have been active in the International Bar Association, and am a past member of the Trial Lawyers Association, and the American Trial Lawyers Association.
I have taught and lectured at Continuing Legal Education, and served as an occasional educator at the Law Society PLTC program for new lawyers, and have assisted the University of British Columbia with their law student training program. Further, I have served Legal Aid, the “dial-a-law” program, the Salvation Army pro bono program, and supported other local non-profit charities and organizations. Like many of my colleagues, I also continue to support various public education initiatives.
Throughout the years, I have always offered free initial consultations, and Saturday appointments.
The areas of law with which I am most experienced and knowledgeable would include:
a) family law
b) estate litigation
c) construction litigation
d) injury law
But this isn’t all about me. The greatest part of my success in law is doubtless attributable to my failures in music and, more importantly, the tireless commitment and devotion of my support network. Elaine Ekman has stood by me and every one of our clients for the past 30 years, and she is a senior and respected member of our team, and the paralegal community. As well, Wilma Gulka has worked collaboratively with us for over 17 years and is an integral part of the firm.
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During my career, I have attended many mediations. Usually, these have arisen in the family law context, in personal injury matters, and estate cases (when someone is challenging a will). Several years ago, I was also involved in multiple “leaky condo” cases, although those have now mercifully slowed.
I believe that the mediation process should be considered for any conflict or contest where parties or corporations cannot resolve their issues through “one-on-one” negotiation.
Because mediation is a voluntary, private, and confidential process, it has many benefits over litigation and arbitration. Mediation can be significantly less costly than litigation, and it truly engages the participants in the process—in court, a stranger decides the fate of the parties, whereas in mediation, the parties create their own solution.
In the past, my involvement in mediations was always as counsel——but I often thought that I possessed the perspective necessary to actually “conduct” the mediation as an effective mediator. Over the years, I had noticed that some mediators were better than others….and some employed skills and techniques which seemed acutely effective in bringing parties to an amicable solution. Those observations, and my 30 years of court work, have equipped me with a skill set suited to respectful and creative dispute resolution.
In 2016, I traveled to Toronto and undertook intense studies at York University lending to my official accreditation in mediation and arbitration.
I have not given up my law practice. I still enjoy court work, and know that some cases are simply not suitable for mediation. Sometimes, despite best intentions, parties require an impartial Judge to “tell them” how it’s going to be. All Canadians enjoy the Constitutional right to have a Judge decide their fate if they so desire—-and it’s a liberty we have earned and deserve. Trusted, honest, intelligent Judges work very hard to insure that our court process works effectively in the dispensation of Justice. Our court system is one of the best in the world (if not the best).
Canadians also require some cases to be determined by Judges so that reported and recorded judgments can make the law known, public, and predictable. If every case settled privately and quietly, nobody would know how to interpret the Common Law or our legislation. In that way, our Court system serves us well.
But that court process is costly, slow, and cumbersome. It’s also very public, and for many family litigants, simply not suitable. Litigation leaves little happiness in its wake. Few Canadians really “need” the trauma, cost, and trouble of trial. Most folks can’t afford litigation, but have complicated issues that require resolution. For that reason, like most of my colleagues, I try to settle all cases. Often, mediation is the answer.
As a mediator, I can offer my considerable experience (in the courtroom, and in Alternate Dispute Resolution) in problem solving which is voluntary, affordable, swift, and confidential. In the process, I will bring my experience as a litigator and mediator to assist parties in finding a workable and survivable solution through listening, understanding, and respectful communication. That process is hard work for all, but it’s a walk in the park compared to a trial—and it can offer parties the prospect of a continuing capacity for future communication and cooperation. Few litigants ever say that.
Please, read this website with an open mind, and consider whether mediation might be right for you.