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Business Profiles

Untangling the Law

19 Sep, 2017
  • Untangling the Law

What you should look for in a law firm

A good lawyer supports you in those moments of crisis. Whether you are a business owner lost in a mire of a commercial contract, stumbling your way through a heart-wrenching divorce, or seeking long-term guidance on a personal injury claim, choosing the right law firm can help you avoid a minefield of stress and financial ruin.
Studies consistently show that many individuals and businesses don’t consult lawyers when they need them the most; and of those that do seek counsel, many often end up with a sole-practitioner instead of a team of legal experts.“The law is complex and ever-evolving,” said Tako van Popta, Managing Partner at McQuarrie Hunter LLP. “There's no way one lawyer can know everything they need to know.”
The value of a teamAs B.C.’s largest law firm outside of Vancouver, McQuarrie leverages its team of 30 lawyers, 60 paralegals and legal assistants, providing a tailored comprehensive suite of legal practices. 
Top young lawyers from across the country seek mentorship from larger firms like McQuarrie. A team of diverse lawyers with multiple specialities and experience provides value for the client. “I work at a senior level, during the earlier planning stage,” said Van Popta. “I don't necessarily know how to do the work my paralegal does – she knows the computer programs, who to call, and who at city hall is the right person to contact.”
Van Popta has decades of legal experience and regularly works on large commercial deals reaching upwards of 100 million. Smaller deals such as a restaurant lease negotiation are assigned to a junior lawyer with assistance as to provide better value to a client. “In situations like this, I sit down with the team, give them a template to help draft a good purchase agreement and guide them through the franchise agreement,” said Van Popta. 
“You can’t pull that kind of talent together in a smaller firm.”Trust in times of personal crisis.When families fall apart emotions often run high, and certain cases require more discretion than others.
While you will want a firm that can strike the right balance between empathy and determination, remember even family lawyers need to remain objective. That way they can focus on your rights, obligations and the best options for you and your family.
“Teamwork in the family law department is slightly different than in other areas of law,” said Senior Lawyer and Partner David Halkett. “Given the personal nature of this area of law, people often do not want to have their matters shared with other lawyers. However, when a case heads to trial, good family lawyers will work as a team to leverage each other's litigation expertise and communicate to the client what to expect before the trial starts. Much of the relationship between client and counsel depends on an honest and clear line of communication.” 
One way to measure the integrity of a firm is to look at its reputation in the community. McQuarrie, who recently celebrated fifty years of operation, has spent decades serving on community organizations and providing charitable donations to important organizations such as the Surrey Memorial and Royal Columbian hospital foundations.
McQuarrie’s lawyers are encouraged to support the community which has led lawyers to taking active roles on the Surrey Board of Trade as well as fostering relationships by 
sponsoring, supporting, and being active in numerous cultural events in the Indo-Canadian Community. 
“We recognize that as lawyers we have unique expertise and knowledge about process and procedure, and the way organizations operate,” said Van Popta. “We don’t want to just throw money at a good charitable cause, we want to be involved with them.”
Expensive trials call for robust firms
Going to court can be stressful. Not only is it expensive and time-consuming, you never know if you will win. For that reason, most lawyers advise their clients to settle. Take the example of personal injury, where a case can go on for two or three years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
“On a recent file with a trial date looming, we had a second senior trial lawyer attend mediation with the handling lawyer,” said Kevin Hyde, one of McQuarrie’s partners at the firm. “The message to ICBC was clear – if they did not pay fair compensation to our client, our personal injury team would proceed to trial.”
ICBC backed down, fully aware that the McQuarrie personal injury team has a long track record of success in the B.C. Supreme Court.
Many smaller firms boast highly competent lawyers but lack the actual resources and experience to follow through on drawn out cases, preferring instead to settle, even if it’s against your best interests. “We like to settle, but we're not afraid to fight,” said Van Popta.
Finding your firm
Finding the right law firm can literally save your business and ensure a personal crisis doesn’t transform into a financial nightmare.Consider whether the firm has an experienced team of lawyers, each member adding another layer of perspective and protection.
You can spot a trustworthy firm through the way it behaves in the community. If a firm really cares about philanthropic work, you can trust it handles its clients with integrity. 
Finally, size does matter: two heads are better than one, and a team is better than an individual. Larger firms give you the value and experience of a strong team through a deep pool of resources, and have the capacity and breadth of knowledge to protect your business or life during times of need. 
McQuarrie Hunter LLP provides comprehensive legal services for businesses, individuals and institutions in the Lower Mainland and throughout B.C. For more information visit 
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