This month’s spotlight is on longtime CLEBC contributor Jean Yuen of Boughton Law. Jean practises primarily in the area of Indigenous law, with a special emphasis on First Nations economic development.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I had been practicing Indigenous law for about 10 years when I was first asked to be a presenter on First Nations lands issues at a CLEBC course. I was excited but nervous at the same time – excited because I was passionate about this area of Indigenous law and wanted to share my knowledge; nervous because I did not have a lot of experience in public speaking, so I knew that it would take a lot of work to prepare for the presentation.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
Last year, I co-authored a new chapter in the CLEBC Real Estate Development Practice Manual called “Real Estate Development on First Nations Lands”. I am currently working on updates for this chapter and also putting together a presentation on development on First Nations lands at the upcoming CLEBC Residential Real Estate Conference in December.
What inspired you to focus your practice on Indigenous law, with emphasis on First Nations economic development?
Early on in my career, I had the privilege of working with a senior practitioner in Indigenous law. It was great experience learning from him, especially learning to effectively serve Indigenous government clients. From the very beginning, I had direct contact with Indigenous clients, which I thoroughly enjoyed and continue to enjoy.
Working on economic development projects for First Nations is exciting and rewarding, as I believe that economic self-sufficiency is crucial for self-determination for First Nations and for finding solutions to many of the social problems faced by Indigenous communities.
Are there any misconceptions about Indigenous law practice that you would like to address?
A practice in “Indigenous law” is much broader than most people would expect, as there are a number of sub-specialties within it. The one commonality among all the sub-specialties is the fact that the client will be an Indigenous-owned or controlled entity or an Indigenous person. The issues faced by Indigenous clients are wide ranging and may include employment, taxation, corporate, commercial, land, governance and rights and title, just to name a few. It is a great advantage to work in a full service law firm if you wish to be the “go to” legal advisor for Indigenous clients.
The concept of cultural competency has been gaining increasing amounts of attention in the legal community. Do you find that cultural competency plays a role in your practice? If so, how?
As service providers, all lawyers need to interact effectively with their clients in order to provide services that meet their needs. This is of particular importance, in my view, when working with Indigenous peoples as their history and backgrounds are unique. It is difficult to understand their present day needs and desires without an appreciation of their unique history.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I love being physically active. In the summer, one of my greatest pleasures is road biking with my husband and friends. When the weather is less ideal for cycling, I love attending boot camps and having fun with people of all different fitness levels. I also enjoy reading. I have been in two book clubs for over 10 years and treasure the friendships that I have formed through them.