Thorough advice, delivered through a multi-faceted approach, by a team experienced in many areas of law.

Practice Areas

Incorporation of Companies

You need to start your new business on the right footing. Incorporating a company can protect you and your family from personal liability and will allow you to structure your financial affairs to minimize taxes and achieve optimal returns on your investment. Share structure, capital investment, shareholder agreements, directors’ obligations and liabilities must all be considered to protect your venture. Our lawyers have assisted business persons in creating the corporate vehicle required to meet their needs. Johns Southward has represented all forms of business, large and small, in achieving growth and stability in their corporate endeavours.

Buying and Selling Businesses

Buying and selling a business is a highly complex transaction that requires early consideration and careful documentation. Will you be buying or selling shares or assets? What are the tax consequences to you? What will happen to the employees of the business? There are numerous questions to be addressed when buying or selling a business. We will work in conjunction with your agent and accountant to ensure that the final purchase and sale optimizes the return on your long term investment. Our lawyers will advise and protect you through each step of the transaction.

Organizing Other Business Entities

If you are not ready to incorporate, there are other forms of business entities, including sole proprietorships, joint ventures and partnerships. It is important, before embarking on a business venture, to ensure that its structure is appropriate for your needs. There are significant consequences to each of the forms of business operation you might pursue and a full knowledge of the options available to you will be invaluable to your long term business success. Johns Southward is familiar with the variety of business formats that exist and can advise you on the benefits and suitability of each of these business forms to your needs.

General Contract Matters

Business deals need to be documented. Each party to a transaction has different objectives and misunderstandings frequently arise unless the arrangements that the parties have made are clearly outlined and agreed to in a written contract. The documentation can be as simple as a letter, or as complex as a collective bargaining agreement. The completion of one document that both parties have committed to minimizes the risks that there will be a falling out between them at some time in the future. A properly drafted contract will assist in avoiding a dispute, and in the event a dispute arises, will be invaluable in reaching a resolution of it. The legal team at Johns Southward will use their broad and extensive experience to assist you in drafting all forms of agreement to maximize the level of understanding between the parties involved.

Construction Law

The lawyers at Johns Southward have expertise in all areas of construction law, including building construction, financing, and project development. Our lawyers can assist with drafting contracts, filing builder’s liens, and handling disputes. At Johns Southward we firmly believe in preventing disputes before they occur and encourage our clients to obtain proper advice prior to commencing any construction project so as to limit their risks down the road. This advice ranges from assisting with standard commercial and governmental forms to drafting complex multi-stage agreements.

Corporate Finance and Securities

Every business will need to borrow money at some point in time. Whether you are a lender or a borrower, corporate finance and securities transactions are discrete and unique and each must be considered from numerous perspectives to maximize protection of all parties involved. The ability of the business to support the borrowing, and the security required will have a significant impact on the stability of the business and investments. The business lawyers at Johns Southward are experienced in all forms of corporate finance and can assist in protecting borrowers, lenders and the corporate entities involved.

Employment Agreements

Employment law no longer consists of a simple relationship between a master and his servant. The lawyers at Johns Southward are experienced in navigating the complex intermingling of federal and provincial legislation and the common law which collectively govern employment. Our knowledge and expertise includes drafting employment contracts and negotiating for both public and private bodies and their contracted workers. (See also “Litigation and Disputes – Employment and Labour Litigation” for more information about our experience and expertise in this field).

Administrative and Municipal Law

Dealing with government agencies is now an increasingly common experience for us all, engaging unique concepts and legal principles. Government administration and municipal agencies are now involved in every aspect of our day-to-day lives, and they act in accord with a myriad of rules and regulations that are frequently difficult to understand. The lawyers at Johns Southward have extensive experience in dealing with branches of the government, administrative boards, regulatory authorities and municipalities. We are familiar with the Administrative Tribunals Act, Local Government Act, Community Charter and the Judicial Review Procedure Act, all of which provide the core protections for the public when dealing these agencies. Our lawyers have appeared in front of numerous tribunals and at all levels of court in British Columbia with respect to administrative and municipal law matters.

Employment and Labour Litigation

Employment law encompasses individual employment relationships, whereas labour law covers unionized employees and collective agreements. The lawyers at Johns Southward are experienced in all areas of employment and labour litigation, including employment standards, labour contracts, pay equity, maternity and benefit plans, wrongful dismissal, discrimination in hiring, and other human rights claims. We represent and assist our clients in collective bargaining, labour negotiations, arbitration, and litigation. Whether you are an employer or an employee, our lawyers can advise you of your legal rights and obligations arising from your employment situation.

Construction and Builders Lien Disputes

Building is fraught with risk and uncertainty and when there is a construction dispute, it is typically complex. One should ensure that the possibility of a misunderstanding between the builder and client is minimized. At Johns Southward, we advise clients about how to proceed in the face of disputes that arise before, during or after construction. Whether it’s a home renovation or commercial development, our lawyers can assist in resolving disputes and collecting unpaid invoices.

Estates, Trusts and Wills Variation Claims

With the rise of the “modern family”, obligations and entitlement have become increasingly complex and contentious. The concept of the “Trust” has been expanded greatly by the Supreme Court of Canada over the past 20 years. British Columbia is one of the few provinces that creates a statutory requirement for will makers to provide for a spouse and child. This has led to an explosion in estate litigation. The litigation team at Johns Southward has extensive experience in dealing with difficult and disputed estates. We will work with you to ensure you receive your full entitlement.

Mediation and Arbitration

Not all disputes end up in a courtroom. The legal process allows for alternative dispute resolution measures, including mediation and arbitration. Mediation allows parties to be brought together in a relaxed, non-confrontational environment together with an independent facilitator who will try to bring about a mutually satisfactory resolution. Arbitration is a more formal process whereby an appointed decision maker resolves your dispute in a legally binding decision. Whether it be mediation, arbitration, or a combination of the two, our litigation lawyers are familiar with these, and other forms of dispute resolution process, and can offer you guidance and assistance in resolving your problem or dispute.

Tax Litigation

Taxation is becoming an increasingly complex area for both individuals and businesses. Our litigators are experienced in negotiating with auditors and collections officers at the Canada Revenue Agency and provincial tax agencies, advising corporate clients on director liability issues, and filing objections to assessments issued by the CRA and appealing assessments to the Tax Court of Canada.

Construction and Builders Lien Disputes

Building is fraught with risk and uncertainty and when there is a construction dispute, it is typically complex. One should ensure that the possibility of a misunderstanding between the builder and client is minimized. At Johns Southward, we advise clients about how to proceed in the face of disputes that arise before, during or after construction. Whether it’s a home renovation or commercial development, our lawyers can assist in resolving disputes and collecting unpaid invoices.

Estates, Trusts and Wills Variation Claims

With the rise of the “modern family”, obligations and entitlement have become increasingly complex and contentious. The concept of the “Trust” has been expanded greatly by the Supreme Court of Canada over the past 20 years. British Columbia is one of the few provinces that creates a statutory requirement for will makers to provide for a spouse and child. This has led to an explosion in estate litigation. The litigation team at Johns Southward has extensive experience in dealing with difficult and disputed estates. We will work with you to ensure you receive your full entitlement.

Mediation and Arbitration

Not all disputes end up in a courtroom. The legal process allows for alternative dispute resolution measures, including mediation and arbitration. Mediation allows parties to be brought together in a relaxed, non-confrontational environment together with an independent facilitator who will try to bring about a mutually satisfactory resolution. Arbitration is a more formal process whereby an appointed decision maker resolves your dispute in a legally binding decision. Whether it be mediation, arbitration, or a combination of the two, our litigation lawyers are familiar with these, and other forms of dispute resolution process, and can offer you guidance and assistance in resolving your problem or dispute.

Tax Litigation

Taxation is becoming an increasingly complex area for both individuals and businesses. Our litigators are experienced in negotiating with auditors and collections officers at the Canada Revenue Agency and provincial tax agencies, advising corporate clients on director liability issues, and filing objections to assessments issued by the CRA and appealing assessments to the Tax Court of Canada.

Professional Liability Claims

Sometimes your professional does not get it right. Engineers, accountants, doctors, dentists, realtors, and even lawyers, can make mistakes while acting in their professional capacity. Professionals are obliged to meet a high standard of care in providing you services, and they are accountable to you if they do not. Most professionals are required to carry some form of liability insurance. However, suing a professional is a difficult and complex task requiring a broad understanding of the role of the professional. Our lawyers have successfully pursued claims against a broad range of professionals and have the expertise and training to assist you in considering any claims you may have for professional liability.

Limitation Periods

You should be aware that many claims and legal obligations are governed by time frames within which you must act. Typically, a claim arising out of an improper or negligent act, must be commenced within two (2) years from the date that the act occurred. However, there are many exceptions to this rule, and in some instances the limitation may be compromised within a few weeks. These exceptions are too many and too varied to properly set out on this website. If you have a claim, you should be ensuring that it is pursued within the applicable limitation period. Our legal team is trained to recognize time frames within which you have to exercise your rights or discharge you responsibilities. We encourage you to make early contact with one of our lawyers to avoid compounding your problems.

Buying and Selling Your Home

Your home is your most important investment. Make sure, when you buy or sell a home, that you obtain the assistance of a lawyer early in the process. Our lawyers can assist you in all aspects of the sale and conveyance. Conveyancing is competitive and our legal team, which includes lawyers and experienced support staff, is well positioned to ensure that the purchase and sale completes efficiently and cost effectively.

Real Estate Development and Marketing

Southern Vancouver Island is an area of rapid residential and commercial growth. The subdivision and sale of real estate, the development and sale of industrial parks, strata title projects and long-term lease arrangements happen daily as a result of our strong local economy. There are numerous statutes, in particular, the Real Estate and Development Marking Act, and regulations that govern the development of residential and commercial real estate. The legal team at Johns Southward has over 30 years’ experience advising developers, investors and advisors on Vancouver Island. We can bring to your project the knowledge and expertise required to ensure that from the early planning stages to the final marketing and sale, all legal requirements are successfully met.

Strata Property Issues

Strata titled properties are common in our community, but this form of “community living” presents unique problems for both owners and managers. This may encompass a falling out between owners, or problems that the strata must face collectively. Recent changes to the Strata Property Act require owners and members to become more proactive in considering obsolescence and maintaining contingency funds. Our lawyers are experienced in providing advice and representing clients in matters related to the Strata Property Act, strata bylaws, purchasing strata property, and statutory building schemes.

Commercial Real Estate Transactions

Commercial real estate transactions range from buying, selling, leasing and occupying commercial property. The lawyers at Johns Southward have extensive experience assisting clients with each of these types of transactions. Our legal team can advise you and your business at each stage of the transaction, from the early stages of negotiations, to the final drafting and execution of a commercial contract.

Foreclosures

Your home is your most important investment. Make sure, when you buy or sell a home, that you obtain the assistance of a lawyer early in the process. Our lawyers can assist you in all aspects of the sale and conveyance. Conveyancing is competitive and our legal team, which includes lawyers and experienced support staff, is well positioned to ensure that the purchase and sale completes efficiently and cost effectively.

Car Accidents and ICBC Claims

The effects of a collision can be devastating – physically, emotionally and financially. Add to that the challenge of having to deal with ICBC and it is little wonder that people feel overwhelmed with what to do after they have been involved in a collision. Our legal team has extensive experience in dealing with ICBC and will deal with ICBC on your behalf, so you do not have to. If you or someone you know has been injured in a collision due to the negligence of someone else, the personal injury team at Johns Southward can help. We will carefully handle your claim to ensure you receive proper compensation for your injuries, treatment costs, past and future wage loss and out-of-pocket expenses.

Insurance Claims for Injuries and Property Damage

You may be surprised to learn what your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover. If someone is injured on your property, or your property is stolen or damaged, our experienced lawyers will review your policies to determine whether your insurance can protect you. We can help mitigate the losses claimed by a guest who has been hurt while attending your property or to assist you in recovering for an accident or damage to your home, office or possessions.

Slip and Fall Claims

Every situation is unique and we individualize our service to each client and circumstance. We provide personalized attention and take the time to learn what you need from us. We also take the time to explain how the litigation process works and the types of assistance and compensation available to you. Our legal team will deal with the insurance company to obtain your medical and wage loss benefits so that you can focus on your recovery. Whether you have been injured in a slip and fall, in a car, on an airplane, as a pedestrian, or on a motorcycle or bicycle, we have the knowledge and commitment to ensure you receive fair compensation so you can move forward with your life.

Workplace Injuries and Occupational Safety

While most workers are covered by Workers’ Compensation, issues frequently arise over the degree of disability and entitlement to pension income. These claims can be highly valuable to you over the course of a working lifetime and you should not ignore the possibility of challenging the decision of the Workers’ Compensation representative. Our lawyers have successfully appealed Workers’ Compensation decisions and obtained significant financial recovery for our clients. We can assist you in assessing your claim and advising you on reassessment and appeal of a Workers’ Compensation decision. There are often short time frames for which to take steps in the Workers’ Compensation process, so we encourage you to deal with these issues promptly.

Medical Malpractice

In this day and age, medical care comes from a variety of sources including doctors, hospitals, chiropractors, physiotherapists and even your herbalist or esthetician. Has your healthcare provider hurt, rather than helped, your recovery from illness or injury? Medical malpractice goes to all forms of treatment and care. If you or your loved one has received sub-optimal care, or has been misdiagnosed, you must consider whether there is some responsibility on the part of your healthcare provider. It is difficult to assess the treatment you have received without the assistance of a legal advisor. Our law firm is experienced in assisting clients who have suffered medical malpractice and can help you.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is emotionally difficult and requires a special sensitivity. Frequently, its victims struggle to deal with the consequences and require a unique and individualized approach to address the rights and remedies available. Our lawyers are familiar with these difficult cases and will bring to the problem their extensive experience in working with a victim of sexual assault to obtain resolution.

Divorce and Separation

The expertise of our family law lawyers includes a wide spectrum of family related issues. The breakdown of a spousal relationship can lead to multiple issues including the care of children, support, and division of property. A wide range of options are available including mediation, arbitration, settlement negotiation, or litigation. Our lawyers will guide you in a sensitive and effective manner through what can be a very difficult and emotional time.

Child Custody, Guardianship and Parenting Schedules

When separating parties have children, the parties must give special consideration to the best interests of the children. There are many different models for parenting arrangements and responsibilities, and no two cases are exactly the same. Our lawyers are experienced in this area of law under both the federal Divorce Act (Canada) and the provincial Family Law Act. We will assist you in setting up a parenting schedule that will work for the needs of your family’s situation.

Separation Agreements

After the breakdown of a spousal relationship, many parties choose to resolve the issues by signing a separation agreement. Such an agreement is a contract between spouses and it can deal with all matters except for a formal divorce. Our lawyers are experienced in preparing separation agreements and will assist you with drafting an agreement customized to your particular circumstances.

Child Support

All parents have obligations to support their children as mandated by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The amounts payable are set out in tables based on the income of the payor parent, or based on an offset of both parents’ income in shared parenting situations. Our lawyers will advise you on the appropriate amount of child support payable and will provide you with options for enforcing those obligations.

Spousal Support

Depending on the specific factors involved, there may be an obligation for one party to pay spousal support to the other after the breakdown of a relationship. The determination of entitlement to spousal support is based on numerous factors which our lawyers will evaluate in any given situation. If the parties have children, the child support obligation will be calculated first, followed by the spousal support obligation. If there are no children, then the spousal support is calculated on its own. If a claim for entitlement to spousal support is established, then the amount and duration of support will generally be calculated using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. Our lawyers have the expertise to prepare these calculations and advise you accordingly, whether you are the party paying or receiving support.

Marriage and Cohabitation Agreements

When contemplating marriage or cohabitation with another person, many people find themselves asking whether or not they need an agreement to protect their interests and assets before entering into the relationship. These agreements are commonly referred to by a variety of terms, including family law agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, marriage agreements, or cohabitation agreements. Many people at this stage do not want to think about the possibility of their relationship ending at some point in the future. However, if you have concerns about preserving your assets, it is important to think about these considerations before entering the relationship. Our lawyers are experienced in drafting these agreements and will help guide you through each step of the process.

Family Law Mediation

An alternative to having a court decide family law matters is family law mediation which is a process during which parties make their best efforts to negotiate an agreement with the help of a neutral third party: a family law mediator. Our firm’s family law mediator is a lawyer-mediator who can help resolve issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship and can create legally binding agreements based on this consensual process that keeps the outcome in the hands of the parties.

Property Division

Division of property between spouses in British Columbia, whether legally married or living common law, is governed by the Family Law Act. Some assets are considered to be family property, while others are excluded property and are not divided between the parties. Our lawyers will advise you with respect to your rights and obligations relating to all assets and debts, whether your situation is straightforward or complex. Because the Family Law Act has only been in place in British Columbia since 2013, this is a developing area of law and our lawyers follow the updates in case law on an ongoing basis.

Protection Orders

Regrettably, family violence is often a factor that leads to the breakdown of a relationship. In other cases, family violence occurs because one or more of the parties reacts inappropriately at the time the relationship ends. In such situations, the parties at risk will need to know their rights in regard to personal safety as well as the safety of children in their care. In British Columbia the Family Law Act gives the court the express authority to make various orders that help protect families, and these orders must now be in a specified format known as a Protection Order. Our lawyers will provide you with advice in these difficult situations and recommend options that are available when safety concerns arise.

Wills, Estate Planning, and Wealth Preservation

It is important to engage in estate planning to minimize the cost and delay in seeing your affairs resolved in the event of your death. There are many ways of structuring your estate to ensure your last wishes are carried out in a way that is economic and timely. Your will is likely the only document you will prepare that involves your entire economic well being and how it is to be distributed amongst your family and friends. It is important that your will is done correctly to avoid being challenged. The wills and estate lawyers at Johns Southward have drawn thousands of wills over the years and are well positioned to assist you in avoiding the pitfalls that surround a poorly planned estate.

Estate Administration and Probate

Probate and administration of an estate are complicated processes. A trustee or executor takes on many legal responsibilities when accepting this role, including the gathering of assets, preparing the documentation for court, and distributing gifts and bequests to beneficiaries of the estate.  Our lawyers are routinely involved in every aspect of winding up a deceased’s affairs and can provide you with the benefit of their practical experience in navigating this challenging experience.

Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements and Living Wills

It is important to be clear about your wishes for your future at that time when you are least able to express them. Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements and Living Wills provide the authority and direction for those whom you have trust and confidence in to make those decisions you are no longer able to make for yourself. These documents can provide you with the comfort and peace of mind in knowing that your person and your estate will be managed as you would desire. They also give direction to those whom you appoint, providing confidence that they are caring out your wishes. With our aging population, these legal directions are becoming increasingly important and must be properly drafted after all appropriate considerations have been taken into account. The lawyers at Johns Southward specializing in this area have the knowledge and experience to identify and assist you in addressing the complexities and considerations associated with these arrangements.

Succession Planning for Family Business

Succession planning for a family business can be very complicated involving tax implications, obligations to dependants and practical considerations related to your family dynamic. It requires discipline and will likely require you to make difficult decisions. Our lawyers can assist you in identifying the issues and the considerations that you will need to keep in mind. We can also assist you in promoting and focusing the discussions that you and your family will need to have to ensure a smooth transition in the day-to-day operations of your business from one generation to the next. (See also our Wills and Estate Planning section for more information.)

Planning for Charities and Societies

Life has been good to you, and you feel an obligation to give something back to the community. There is no better way than leaving a legacy or bequest to your favourite charity or group in need. There may be tax benefits in doing so for you and your estate. However, it is important that your gift is considered in the context of your overall estate planning as the law may impose other obligations on you. Our legal team can assist you through this process to ensure your wishes and legacy remain intact.