Karen Martin

Practice Point


Karen Martin leads the Construction Group in the Vancouver office of Dentons Canada LLP. Her practice focuses on giving strategic advice to solve project issues, and where disputes arise, helping clients to resolve those disputes through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. Karen has been a longstanding speaker at CLEBC’s annual Construction Law seminar as well as CLEBC’s Tendering Law seminars. She is also a contributing author to CLEBC’s BC Builders Liens Practice Manual. In recent years she has authored the construction chapter of CLEBC’s BC Business Disputes and is a co-author of the construction chapter of CLEBC’s Annual Review of Law and Practice 2015.

How and why did you get involved with CLEBC?

I realized early in my career that writing and speaking on areas of interest to me or issues that arose in my practice was a great way to build my professional profile. Speaking for CLEBC demands a particularly high level of quality and expertise. I firmly believe that many of the peer ratings I have been honoured to receive are a direct result of my speaking for CLEBC and others. The added bonus has been that I am “forced” to update my knowledge of case law every time I write or speak, which means that when clients call, I am fully up to speed with the latest developments in law and able to help them quickly and to a high standard of excellence.

What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?

(See bio above).

What has been your most memorable CLEBC experience?

I have two. First, I was proud that, under the leadership of Rob Seto of CLEBC, a few years ago our seminar Construction Law Jeopardy won an ACLEA Award of Outstanding Achievement (ACLEA is a North American Association for continuing legal education organizations). Second—and most important—are the cherished memories of rubbing elbows with the leading lawyers in construction law (many of whom are also terrific human beings) while sharing our experiences with our professional colleagues and industry.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you have received?

Madam Justice McLachlin as she then was: “Have more than one child.” (I had three.)

Who has influenced and inspired you in your career?

Beverley McLachlin inspired me. I really had no female mentors in the profession, but I had a handful of wonderful male mentors who personally took on the business of breaking down some gender barriers to help me succeed: Rob Hunter of Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP, John Haythorne of Dentons Canada LLP, and Mr. Justice Bae Wallace, KC, formerly at Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP.

What advice would you give newcomers who are interested in working in the legal profession?

Work hard. Find an area of law that interests you and challenges you—even better if it is your passion. And find a great team to work with.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

First, working on a team. As a younger lawyer, I knew I had back up. As a more senior lawyer, I love seeing how the quality of the advice or services we provide to our clients is so greatly enhanced by incorporating different approaches and considering the viewpoints of our various team members.
Second, doing anything that helps change the negative views that some clients and members of the public have of the legal profession.

Other than law, what are you passionate about?

My three wonderful kids, who are caring and passionate human beings.
Coaching 13 and 14 year old girl volleyball teams. Team sport is such a great teacher and builds confidence for young women in their vulnerable teenage years.

What are some of your favourite legal resources? (blogs, websites, etc.)

Heintzman on Construction Law; Lexology.

Anything you’d like to shamelessly promote? (favourite charity, social cause, etc.)

Please be a coach. Many young Canadians are turned away from team sports due to a shortage of coaches. Our kids need to learn to be team players. Coaching is terribly rewarding, and it will help you maintain some balance in your life.