How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I have been involved with CLEBC off and on for many years and before COVID-19 I enjoyed attending CLEBC conferences. I was delighted to be asked to speak at the CLEBC Personal Injury Conference in 2012 and in 2014. Sadly, the topic I was assigned in 2012 was very dry so I added a poetic flourish to my presentation to try to keep the attention of the audience. You would have to ask Jim Vilvang, KC but I think the conference co-chairs invited me back in 2014 to make up for that dull topic, not because of the limerick.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
In 2021 I joined the Editorial Board of the CLEBC publication of the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Practice Manual. I very much enjoy working with the editorial board of the practice manual which is led by the great Alison Murray, KC. It is fun working with and learning from all the highly skilled lawyers involved in that publication.
What inspired you to become a lawyer.
When I was a teenager and I first read To Kill A Mocking Bird I told my parents that I wanted to be a lawyer like Atticus Finch. I forgot all about that of course, but years later I was unsure of the path to choose in my life (I was considering following my father’s footsteps into the Canadian Foreign Service) and my parents reminded me of how inspired I was by the law. They encouraged me to give law school a try. I was lucky to be admitted to UBC Law School and while there I met some amazing students and faculty who were instrumental in my choosing to stay in Vancouver and practice law here after graduation.
How did you decide to focus your practice on personal injury law?
I did not know what area of law I wanted to work in and I knew very little about personal injury law before I went to law school. I did know that I wanted to work in an area of law where I would interact directly with and feel like I was helping people, and I was drawn to litigation work.
After graduating from UBC Law School I was hired for my articles at a small but busy personal injury law firm. After my articles, I was extremely fortunate to be hired by Tony Vecchio and Mike Slater and to be able to work with two of the best personal injury lawyers in the province.
I was thrown into the proverbial “deep end” and quickly realized that personal injury was the right fit for me. It stoked my desire to help people, and I really liked getting to know our clients and helping in their recovery. I became passionate about advocating for them.
In my experience, when clients hire personal injury lawyers, it is often soon after they have experienced the most painful or tragic events of their lives. They might be unable to work and are frequently worried about their family or their future. They are unsure of how the insurance and legal system works and are often fearful about whether they will be treated fairly. Litigation is a foreign and stressful concept to most people and in many cases hiring a personal injury lawyer is the client’s first experience dealing with anyone in the legal profession. I quickly learned that to enjoy working in this field it was important not to overlook any of that and to work hard to achieve a bond of trust with our clients and to be driven to achieve the greatest results possible for them.
To this day I feel that it is a privilege to be asked to be someone’s advocate and guide them through our medical, insurance, and legal systems, and to try to help them restore their (or their loved ones) lives as much as possible. I still love it, more than 25 years later.
You are active in the legal community both as a contributor to publications and as a speaker. What motivates you to give back to the profession?
I am happy to contribute when I can. As a young lawyer I benefited from the mentorship and friendship of some of the top personal injury and insurance defence lawyers in BC and I am blessed to count many of these lawyers as friends. I strive to follow their example and adhere to the principle that we are all part of a community of lawyers. No matter what “side” we are on, we are all made stronger when we share knowledge and ideas. I believe we stand on the shoulders of the generations of great lawyers that have come before us and that when it is our turn to contribute something that can assist other lawyers in their practices, we should.
You are a founding board member of the Team Finn Foundation. Can you tell us more about that?
The Team Finn Foundation was created in the name of Finn Sullivan, the son of my dear friends Patrick Sullivan and Samantha Mason. Finn and his twin brother Baird were born in 2005. In 2007, when he was only 18 months old, Finn was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer. Finn died in October 2008.
In 2009, a small group of Finn’s friends and family chose to honour Finn by riding the inaugural “BC Ride To Conquer Cancer”, a fundraising bicycle ride from Vancouver to Seattle. Team Finn’s mantra is “Run, Jump, Bounce, Dance, Sing, Love, Smile and Ride” and was inspired by how Finn lived his life. From the start, this mantra imbued our team with an infectious spirit and Team Finn quickly became, and continues to be, one of the most popular teams on the RTCC. Many active and former members of Team Finn are lawyers or have a close association with the law.
Since 2009, the Team Finn Foundation has raised over $3 million for the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer, the BC Cancer Foundation, BC Children’s Hospital, and other organizations devoted to research and treatment of childhood cancer. The Foundation is dedicated to improving childhood cancer awareness and raising funds for cutting-edge pediatric cancer research and hopefully changing the story for other children with cancer and their families. The board, led by Finn’s parents, steers funds raised by the foundation to where they will provide the most direct benefit to pediatric cancer patients and their families. This includes the BC Cancer Agency’s genomic sequencing of tumors found in children; the BC Cancer Agency’s Personalized Oncogenomics (POG) project; the BC Children’s Hospital Smile Fund; the search for personalized treatment options for children with incurable cancer in partnership with the Terry Fox Research Foundation, and other causes. Patrick Sullivan is now a leading advocate for pediatric cancer patients and their families in North America. My friend Finn would be very proud.