December 2019 This month’s spotlight is on CLEBC contributor Colin Galinski of Galinski Pension and Benefits Law Corporation. Colin is a seasoned contributor who has worked on such publications as: Family Law Sourcebook for British Columbia, Annotated Family Practice, and has presented at numerous conferences including: Family Law Conference, Canadian Elder Law Conference, and Employment Law Conference.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
My first involvement with CLEBC was in 2009 when I co-authored a paper for the Human Rights Conference; I was hooked right away. Over the next couple of years I presented at the CLEBC Employment Law Conference and presented and was on the planning committee for the CLEBC seminar Pension & Benefits: Critical Issues & What’s Often Overlooked. Tom Anderson, QC (a 2018 in the Spotlight star!) and I also did a live CLE-TV broadcast in the early days.
I’ve gotten to know Tom very well professionally and as a friend over the past 10 years; his widely-known dedication to CLEBC was contagious.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
I feel very fortunate to be in an annual groove with CLEBC: starting in 2013/14 I have had the pleasure of drafting the annual updates to the pension division content in the Annotated Family Practice and the Family Law Sourcebook. 2020 will also be my 5th opportunity to deliver the pension division module to the Advanced Family Law Mediation course. I’ve recently presented at the Biennial Family Law Conference (2019) and I enjoy presenting at the more specialized courses as well, such as Aging, Death, and Divorce (in 2017; a cheery topic!) and Elder Law Conference (2017), which are very relevant topics in our world of changing demographics.
Pension law intersects with so many other areas of law, and what I value most about CLEBC is that its many courses and publications provide practical information and skills to BC lawyers to identify and address the many nuances and pitfalls of pension law.
Pension and benefits law is a very specialized area of practice. What lead you to practice in this area?
The world of pension law is fascinating. Pensions in Canadian society have a magnitude that is difficult to fully appreciate. Once we break through the technical aspects, there is a common thread that runs through all pension work (whether it’s on behalf of a large pension fund client or a family law lawyer navigating a complex pension division issue), and that is a concept I’ve come to describe as “dignity in retirement.”
It is important to keep in mind that at the other end of this exceedingly technical and nuanced work there is a real live human being that is depending on these retirement funds to enjoy his/her elder years. My strongly held view is that when all professionals working with pensions keep in mind the goal of providing dignity in retirement to Canadian retirees, our work becomes more collaborative and professionally satisfying, with better outcomes for the pension plan members.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received?
I’ve received two highly valuable pieces of advice. Both were given by mentors who were far too gracious (and subtle) to ever appear to be dolling out bits of wisdom or life suggestions.
Tom Anderson, QC, taught me to handle pension division work with an unwavering focus on fairness, transparency, and ensuring that all involved are aware of the various options under the legislation and terms of the plan at issue. In keeping with its nature as family property, a pension should be divided on relationship breakdown in a manner that as much as possible preserves dignity in retirement for both parties. Tom was a trusted resource to lawyers across BC, and it’s an honour to carry on this work in the same vein.
The second, and much earlier piece of advice I received was more a gentle nudge than true advice. About 15 years ago, well before I had considered law school, I spent 5 years working in labour relations at a university in Ontario after I completed graduate school. One evening in October my colleagues and I were back at the office debriefing after a particularly challenging collective bargaining session. The Chief Negotiator, a retired law professor, casually asked me if anyone ever spoke to me about law school. I replied that no one in my world had ever said those two words to me! He let me know the last sitting of the LSAT for that year was coming up in November and I should think about taking a crack at it, which I did. I was admitted to law school in January and began courses that September. It was not so much advice that I received, but a subtle encouragement that changed the course of my life.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about my family and the outdoors, and am constantly amazed at the variety and beauty of BC’s natural spaces. My wife (also a lawyer) and I spend a lot of time with our young children in the mountains – where we can relax, see some incredible sights, and get away from the demands of our work lives.