This month’s spotlight is on CLEBC contributor Pam Jefcoat of Civic Legal LLP.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I first got involved with CLEBC by attending conferences as a junior lawyer and was fortunate enough to have worked in a firm that was very supportive of formalized professional development training for its articling students and associates. From there, I began assisting a former partner with editing chapters of the BC Real Estate Development Practice Manual. I eventually took over the Editorial Board role and continue with that work today. Back in 2009, I also began writing and presenting at various CLEBC conferences, including Renewable Resources and Regulatory Issues (2009), Subdivision Regulation and Discretion (2012), Local Government Law (2014), Subdivision Regulation and Discretion (2016), Planning and Development (2017) and Subdivision Regulation and Discretion (2019).
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
In 2017, I co-authored with Jean Yuen the Chapter in the CLEBC Real Estate Development Manual entitled “Real Estate Development on First Nations Land” and am currently working with one of my colleagues to prepare a paper and presentation on “Latecomer Agreements and Excess and Extended Services” for the CLEBC Conference on “Subdivision Regulation and Discretion” being held on May 30, 2019. As well, I recently assisted with the 2019 review and update to the Real Estate Development Manual as an editorial board member. I really enjoy working with the CLEBC team and other practitioners on this Manual. It is a great resource, providing practical advice covering a full range of land development issues (and the editorial board meetings are always good for a few laughs).
How did you decide to focus your practice in the areas of local government and commercial real estate law?
In combination with law school, I also completed a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. Prior to law school, I had interned with the Provincial Legislature and really enjoyed the work I was doing in that capacity. I also worked at a few different Ministries during my time in Victoria, including the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Although I had a passion for public policy issues, I preferred private sector work to that of the public sector. I was a summer student and articling student at Bull, Housser and Tupper and during that time had an opportunity to do a significant amount of work with the Regulatory Group and the Real Estate Group, which at the time, included the Local Government Group. The synergies between these practice areas really interested me and was a perfect fit with my background, allowing me to practice in a private sector setting while assisting public sector clients with a wide variety of public policy issues.
What is your advice to a young lawyer interested in practicing in these areas?
“Be comfortable being uncomfortable!” The practice of local government law is complex and wide in scope and it is rare that you get the same question twice. I have been practicing in this area now for 18 years and am still learning something new every day – which is one of the reasons that I absolutely love this area of law. In one day, I may be advising on a conflict of interest issue, completing a land development transaction and then providing an opinion on constitutional jurisdiction. The next day, I could be providing advice on liability issues, emergency planning, climate change matters, or issues related to public hearings, defamation or local elections. Simply put, there is never a dull moment when you practice local government law.
Don’t be afraid to dive into this practice area head first. While the local government practice area is broad in scope, you can develop specialties within it. I have a background in public policy and real estate and that works well with my focus on land development and planning. My partners come at the practice from different angles, including engineering, finance and insurance. No matter what your focus is within the practice area, the key is to be eager and willing to learn.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, always be civil and maintain good relationships with opposing counsel. It is a privilege to be able to practice law and to work with and learn from other bright and talented lawyers throughout the province. The municipal bar in BC, in particular, is very collegial and a is a genuinely good group of people, willing to share ideas and “war stories” and refer work when appropriate. As such, being civil, professional, acting with integrity and maintaining good relationships should not be undervalued.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
My kids – hands down! I have two young children, both of whom are active in soccer and baseball and as such, much of my time outside of the office is spent cheering them on from the sidelines of a baseball or soccer field in Dunbar. For the last two years we have also been the host family for two soccer players who billet with us year-round so that they can train with the Whitecaps Development Team, based at the National Soccer Development Centre at UBC. Managing a house with 4 kids, 3 of whom are now teenagers, makes life hectic, to say the least. I am also actively involved in my kids’ school and am the vice-chair of the School Board, chair of the Risk Management Committee and also sit on the Committee of Governors. So, beyond this, there is not much time left at the end of the day. When there is, I love to work out, read books and binge on podcasts.