This month’s spotlight is on CLEBC contributor Lauren Blake of Legacy Tax + Trust Lawyers. Lauren’s trust and estate litigation practice focuses on complex estate litigation. Lauren has authored numerous papers in the areas of wills, estates, trusts and the intersection of estates and family law, and is a frequent speaker on these topics.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
As a new lawyer, I found attending CLE courses to be a great way to both learn a tremendous amount in a single day, and to meet other lawyers working in the same areas I was.
In 2013 I began to contribute as an author and presenter, starting with contributing to the “Wills, Estates and Succession Act Transition Guide” (in October 2013) and becoming an annual editor of a chapter of the BC Probate and Estate Administration Manual (since 2015).
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
In April 2018 I chaired the Estate Litigation Basics course, which was a wonderful opportunity to work with some brilliant litigators to create an exciting curriculum aimed at some topical issues faced in this area. I also presented a paper entitled “Till Death Do Us Part – Hopefully: Planning in Uncertain Times” at the CLE Estate Planning Update in November 2018.
Currently, I am working on a presentation for the 12th Biennial Family Law Conference 2019, and look forward to the opportunity to immerse myself in issues arising at the intersection of family and estate litigation.
How did you decide to focus your practice on estate and trust litigation?
As with many good things in life, serendipity played a significant part. I was lucky enough to have been mentored by Rhys Davies, KC, who had been counsel at the Supreme Court of Canada on the Tataryn decision. One of my first cases as a junior was on a wills variation file with him that sparked my interest in the area.
I was also privileged to have worked very closely with Mary Hamilton, KC and Peter Bogardus, KC of Davis & Co. (as it was then known) and under their guidance quickly came to realize estate litigation was an area where the facts were always incredibly interesting, the applicable law had a breadth and depth that made it complex, and that I was able to have a positive impact on my clients’ lives, all of which combined to make my files very rewarding.
As an added bonus, the wills and estates bar throughout B.C. is filled with an incredibly collegial group of people, that make practicing in this area truly a pleasure.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received?
Throughout much of my career I have received many pieces of advice (sometimes welcome and sometimes quite unsolicited!) However, the most valuable piece of advice I have received as a litigator is to be civil to everyone – parties and counsel alike. In estate and trust litigation, the issues between the parties can be fraught with emotion – and the role of the litigators is to be their professional advocates. By ensuring you are civil and professional to everyone at all times, you not only develop a reputation of being a true professional, you also frequently can assist in de-escalating the conflict and assist the parties in reaching a resolution of their dispute.
In addition to practising law, you are a board member of Central City Foundation. What drew you to contributing to this organization?
When my children were young, I volunteered in activities that focused on their experiences: classroom parent, soccer manager, school volunteer. As they grew up, I was able to focus my volunteer activities on other community issues. I was drawn to Central City Foundation as their mission resonated with me – to bring together our neighbours and resources to transform our community and help all communities thrive. I was a director of Central City Foundation for five years, and found it an invaluable experience.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I am blessed to have a wonderful (and large) family with whom I enjoy spending as much time as I can. My husband and I also recently acquired a Goldendoodle, who has been embraced (and perhaps spoiled) by our entire ”pack”!