This month’s spotlight is on CLEBC contributor Kim Karras, longtime presenter, faculty member, and course material author for CLEBC’s wills and estates courses.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I have been attending CLEBC courses on a regular basis since articling in 1985. Years later, I had the pleasure of getting to know CLEBC Director of Programs Rob Seto who, in 2002, invited me for lunch with a few others to discuss wills and estates courses. Rob’s idea was that solicitors with busy wills and estates practices outside of downtown Vancouver would be good presenters for courses in the area of practice. The first course I was asked to be involved in was Death is Not the End: Estate Administration Workshop in January 2003. I would go on to be a faculty member in this course again in 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015. I also presented wills drafting courses (held 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013) in addition to other courses in the practice area and real estate conveyancing.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
We are currently updating the course material for the upcoming Death is Not the End: Estate Administration Workshop to be held in March of this year. I will, once again, be one of the faculty members facilitating discussions.
What inspired you to build a solicitor’s practice rather than a litigation practice?
I completed a very well-rounded articling year at Davis & Company (now DLA Piper), concentrating my efforts on solicitor’s practice. I have a commerce degree from UBC and believe my academic focus and my personality is better suited for solicitor’s practice. In litigation, there are often too many variables outside of your control. I enjoy the privilege of assisting clients to be strategic and proactive in achieving their objectives, rather than reactive. My goal is to have plans in place and agreements drafted so that my clients never have to be involved in litigation. I also enjoy building and maintaining long time relationships. I have clients that I have represented for 20+ years; litigation files are often a onetime event.
What are the challenges and rewards of having a broad solicitor’s practice that encompasses estate planning and administration, business law, and real estate law?
One of the challenges of having a broad solicitor’s practice is keeping yourself current; this requires an appreciation and dedication to on-going learning. At the start of my practice, a large focus of my work was in the area of real estate. After 13 years, I expanded my solicitor’s practice to involve more corporate work and estate planning. In order to secure a sound foundation for these areas, I attended the week long CBA Tax for Lawyers course in 1999 and again two years later; this is just one example of my commitment to on-going learning. Continuous learning is critical for a successful broad solicitor’s practice. After 30 years of practice, I still regularly attend courses and subscribe to all relevant CLEBC material and digests. I remain actively involved in organizations such as Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, Estate Planning Council of Vancouver, and Fraser Valley Estate Planning Council. The rewards of a broad solicitor’s practice include the long term relationships I have built and the simple fact that every day is different and brings new challenges.
Any advice for new lawyers who want to start developing a solicitor’s practice?
Never stop learning. Never think you know everything. Ask questions. Consult with experienced solicitors in your area. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Attend courses and webinars. Stay current.
In addition to being a lawyer, you also hold a designation as a Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA). What does the FEA entail and how does the designation assist your legal practice?
The FEA designation is intended to distinguish you as a specialist to business families. The FEA program has provided excellent support and training that has helped me to understand and navigate the complexities of the family business. I obtained the FEA designation as it complements the way I practice, integrating my discipline (the practice of law) with those of other professionals such as accountants, insurance and wealth advisors, and financial planners. This allows me to provide collaborative and complementary advice to my family business clients, addressing their legal needs—their corporate work, business succession, and estate planning—all of which areas connect and overlap. The FEA approach provides a broad perspective beyond my clients’ legal issues. I am better able to evaluate the family, the business, the interaction between them, and the impact that interaction has on the success of the family enterprise. The FEA approach brings into play people skills and ability to address the “soft” issues.
You are very involved in the South Surrey/White Rock community as a member of the Surrey Bar Association, South Surrey/White Rock Chamber of Commerce, and Surrey Board of Trade to name a few. What do you enjoy most about being part of the South Surrey/White Rock community?
What I enjoy most is the opportunity to build relationships with other professional advisors and leaders in the community. We moved to South Surrey in 1991 and I’ve had an office here since the late 90s. I enjoy the short commute to my office, and living and working in my own community is very rewarding. Since the birth of our first child (who is now 29 and a second year associate at Norton Rose Fulbright in Calgary), I have practiced in the communities of Surrey, South Surrey, and White Rock. I am truly a part of this community. My greatest involvement has been with the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Board of Directors on which I have served since 2000 (and was Chair 2004-2006). I believe in giving back to the community. My community connections and active participation assists in building the relationships critical to a solicitor’s success.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the “business of the practice of law”—being able to provide the best service that I can to my clients, and which is profitable. Outside of practice, I am passionate and devote time to my family—our two adult daughters and my husband (42 years my best friend). I enjoy cooking and dining, travelling, skiing, and hosting family functions and adventures.
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
I will be here for a long time to come! I enjoy what I do and welcome young energetic brilliant minds to join me.