by Shelley Bentley
The BC Branch sponsors 72 Sections which play a vital role in keeping members informed on both changes in the law and legal and political issues affecting a given area of practice. They are the main resource utilized by the BC Branch in legislative review, law reform initiatives and in responding to matters affecting the profession. What follows is a sample of the recent activities of some Sections.
Dr. George Irani provided Section members with a thought-provoking look at non-western approaches to conflict resolution with particular attention to Arab-Islamic models. Dr. Irani is currently a faculty member in the Conflict Analysis and Management Program at Royal Roads University and has spent the past 10 years working on conflict management models. He recommended looking into local traditions and indigenous rituals in designing reconciliation models especially in dealing with Arab-Islamic interests rather than using the Fisher-Ury style of interest-based “empowering of the individual” model.
Ken Hauser discussed some tax and estate planning issues that lawyers must deal with in the course of advising clients upon marital breakdown. He cautioned lawyers about the complexities of the tax treatment of child and spousal support payments as well as the ease with which capital gains tax can be triggered when transferring assets between spouses. He also cautioned against using RRSP’s as security for support payments. CCRA has recently viewed this as “receiving a benefit” and has taxed the entire amount of the RRSP. He reminded lawyers to be careful when advising clients whose spouses are non-residents of Canada. Tax treaties can complicate things.
Often lawyers draft separation agreements requiring the spouse who is obligated to pay maintenance to make a will incorporating the relevant terms of the agreement. This is unnecessary if the obligation to pay support is properly drafted in the agreement. It would then be binding on the estate as a contractual promise. Requiring the provisions to be placed in a will could be problematic if the support obligation subsequently ends or is set aside. Mr. Hauser also cautioned lawyers about some of the traps involved in designating beneficiaries under life insurance and RRSP’s. It is very easy to make a mistake with unintended consequences. There are different rules for life insurance and for RRSP’s and they can be complex.
Lyle Woodley, QC and Jan Lindsay led a discussion on the issue of joint retainers. This has become a hot topic in light of the recent decision of the Ethics Committee of the Law Society of BC to review the applicability of the Professional Conduct Handbook in an insurance context. Where a lawyer is defending a third party claim under a joint retainer with an insured and the insurer, ethical issues frequently arise. Mr. Woodley pointed to potential problems involving joint retainers outside the context of automobile insurance. He discussed situations where there are both insured and uninsured claims. In such situations it is important to advise the insured to obtain independent legal advice. This is also true where there is an insurance coverage limits issue. He also discussed difficulties where the insured says something that raises an issue with respect to whether the insured has breached the terms of the insurance policy. Both the insured and the insurer must be reminded throughout the joint retainer that no information will be kept confidential from any of the parties concerned. He spoke of a situation in which he was asked to provide a defence to an insured after providing a legal opinion on coverage to the insurer. Mr. Woodley agreed to defend the insured if the insurer would agree to release a copy of the coverage opinion to the insured.
Women’s Practice and Equality Issues Law
Linda Oprica, an experienced professional counselor who was recently named “Businesswoman of the Year” in the Comox Valley, spoke about finding a work/life balance or how to set ourselves up so that we are not on “spin” cycle. She identified her top 10 ways to take the “spin” out of your life cycle (or weed out the things in your life that do not support you or your values):
10 ways to take the “spin” out of your life cycle
- Identify your values. (To help with this Ms. Oprica recommended that you think of your legacy: What do you want people to say about you when you’ve gone?)
- Set priorities in the areas of self, work, family, financial, health, social and any other significant area of your life. Set one or two goals in each of these areas – be specific and start small.
- Let go of perfection.
- Keep YOUR standards, not those of the Jones’.
- Take time for yourself; 15 minutes per day.
- Exercise 15 minutes per day minimum. Feed your body “healthfully.”
- Do the best you can and then let go of the rest.
- Choose wisely. Replace the “should’s” and “have-to’s” with “I choose to….”
- Say no.
- Have a buddy to share ideas, plan & goals; hire a coach to keep you on track, challenge you and support you.
10 ways to build strong relationships
- Be clear about the kinds of relationships you want.
- Teach others how to treat you.
- Don’t allow others to become “tolerations” that drain your energy.
- Come up with a strategy for managing “tolerations” that you cannot eliminate.
- Be clear about your boundaries.
- Communicate clearly and effectively. Request instead of complain.
- Relationships teach you about yourself. Be irresistibly attractive to others by being your “best self.”
- Surround yourself with positive people- choose to spend time with them.
- Be assertive.
- Know when to let go. “Weed the garden of friendship.”
This article was published in the October 2002 issue of BarTalk. © 2002 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.