This month’s contributor spotlight is on John-Paul Boyd, QC of John-Paul Boyd Arbitration Chambers. John-Paul is a long-time CLEBC contributor who chairs and speaks at numerous conferences and webinars.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I think that my first CLEBC involvement was in 2003 when I was recruited to edit the chapter “Variation of Orders and Agreements” in the British Columbia Family Practice Manual. I did the same thing in 2004, and CLEBC also asked me to contribute to a family law public legal education website CLEBC maintained at the time. In 2005, I shifted to the “Chambers Practice” chapter of the Practice Manual and gave my first presentation at a CLEBC course, the Family Law Boot Camp.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
My most recent project was a series of three webinars on the practice of family law in the age of COVID-19. My thinking was that with people stuck working from home, a webinar series would be a reasonable replacement for all of the in-person course that had been cancelled and maybe give people the opportunity to socialize a bit and feel connected again. I hope it did that!
What inspired you to practice family law?
I expected I’d practice criminal law while in law school. I was heavily involved in LSLAP throughout my time at UBC and that was the area I found most intriguing and in which I did the most work. However, upon doing some of that work during my articles, I realized that the attitude of those with lengthy criminal records was much different than that of the criminal-record-free people we were allowed to help at LSLAP. To my surprise, they didn’t particularly appreciate my help and weren’t necessarily put off by the prospect of being a guest of Her Majesty again. After my articles were done, I looked for an area of law that would give me the same sense of satisfaction helping people that criminal law did at LSLAP. That turned out to be family law, and I fell in love with the practice in a matter of weeks.
Throughout your career, you have made significant contributions to the legal profession and the public in the area of family law. What motivates you to give back?
I don’t think of it as giving back. It’s more about wanting to share what I know. For the profession, it’s about how much I enjoy teaching and presenting and writing articles and papers, especially when I get to talk about subjects that are funny or involve a lot of speculative thinking. For the public, it’s about how so much of the legal system – all of it, really – is so terribly complex and impenetrably confusing for people who aren’t lawyers. We, we lawyers that is, forget how confusing the law is and how the legislation, the rules of court and the case law aren’t written for people who haven’t gone to law school. I worry about this, especially when so many people are forced to go to court without lawyers, at a time of profound emotional, psychological and financial distress in their lives, and argue about the things that are the most important to them. It’s tremendously difficult, and they need help.
What advice would you pass on to a newly called lawyer?
If you’re planning on practicing family law, don’t hang your shingle right away. Find a firm that is well-respected with partners who are knowledgeable, competent, ethical and principled. Family law is not about applying information you learned in law school. It has a critically important psychosocial dimension that you’ve never learned about. It requires the continuous exercise of discretion and wisdom, which also can’t be taught. The only way you’ll gain that understanding and wisdom – or something that looks like it – is by intentionally seeking out excellent practitioners with excellent reputations who can mentor you while you learn the ropes.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
Stuff. You know, things.