This month’s spotlight is on longtime CLEBC contributor Dierk Ullrich of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. Dierk’s corporate law practice involves assisting privately-held businesses, not-for-profit entities, and financial and educational institutions on mergers and acquisitions, financing, and general commercial matters.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
At Fasken, we have a long history of contributing to CLEBC. So, like many of my colleagues, I started early, as an articling student, by assisting on the torts chapter for the Annual Review of Law & Practice in 2003. My first contribution as co-author was the Forestry chapter in CLEBC’s Due Diligence Deskbook.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
My co-authors, Gary Ott and Grant Foster, and I just completed the 2018 update of the Due Diligence Deskbook Forestry chapter. I am also a member of the planning committee and faculty for CLEBC’s Charities & Not-For-Profit Law Conference, which will be held this fall.
How much of your practice involves not-for-profit entities/law? How did you begin developing your expertise in this area?
Approximately 50% of my time is spent working with non-profit clients, large and small. These include charities, education, health, and professional institutions. While my involvement with non-profit organizations stems from my role as a corporate solicitor, it was our firm’s introduction to the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act in 2009 that provided me with solid footing in the area. Preparing for that introduction allowed me to immerse myself into the practice. Non-profit and charitable involvement is an important part of our Canadian culture. Many of us are members or volunteer in several of non-profit organization at the same time. So, advising non-profits has given me the wonderful opportunity to work in an area that I care about.
Prior to your current practice in corporate and business law, you were part of your firm’s litigation team. What inspired your transition?
Early on in my career—in part thanks to my European background and German legal education—I had the privilege of working with European clients keen to invest or do business in BC. I enjoyed being part of a team that created new business opportunities and contributing to their growth. These experiences inspired me to focus on an area that would better serve my clients in achieving long-term success with their endeavours. I am very grateful to Fasken, which saw the “natural” fit and potential and actively supported and facilitated my transition.
In your experience, how do the rewards and challenges differ between a solicitor’s practice and a litigation practice?
There are many common elements. In each case, the ultimate reward is to achieve a positive outcome for your client. The difference, as I have experienced it, is largely one of perspective. One of my mentors made this comparison, which stuck with me:
The difference between a litigator and a solicitor is that one is trying to get the ship off the reef, while the other one is trying to navigate the ship around the reef.
What I find particularly attractive and rewarding about being a solicitor is the opportunity to build lasting relationships with clients, to become a trusted advisor, and to contribute, in some measure, to the long-term success of our clients’ undertakings.
You speak German in addition to English. Has your second language ability benefitted your law practice? If yes, please tell us more about how.
My experience is probably comparable to that of other bi- or multilingual lawyers. Clients who do business in Canada or with Canadians are generally sophisticated and fluent in English. However, sharing a common language and having a civil law background has been very useful in helping clients understand differences in legal concepts and culture. This applies both to European business coming to Canada and Canadian companies expanding their business activities to Europe. It is an interfacing role that I enjoy a lot.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
Soccer. Especially right now, during the FIFA World Cup. I get up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to watch German and English league games or to listen to the radio broadcasts over the Internet. And it’s wonderful to have the Whitecaps in town. It’s a passion that we share in our family and it was a dream come true when we travelled to the last World Cup in Brazil.