“Too many people in BC face legal issues without the benefit of legal advice,” says Craig Ferris, QC, FCIArb. “As lawyers, we have a duty to help fix this problem.”
A partner at Lawson Lundell and former president of the Law Society of BC, Craig has been curious about legal issues since childhood and was quick to seize opportunities for debate. He recalls trying to get out of trouble in sixth grade by debating the School Act with the principal: “I argued that my conduct happened after school, and as such, the principal couldn’t punish me.” While he lost that case, his curiousity and love for debate were instrumental in his decision to pursue a law degree.
You could also say he was destined to choose law. “In my family, it was less about ‘if’ you were going to law school and more about ‘when,’” he explains. Craig’s father (Boyd Ferris LLB ‘54), sister (Heather Ferris LLB ‘84), and brother (Blake Ferris LLB ‘86) were all graduates of Allard Law. When it came to deciding on a law school, Craig admits that he came very close to going back East. However, “the pull of UBC kept me here,” he says. “There is no better physical location for a law school in Canada.” So, he enrolled at UBC, obtaining both his undergraduate and LLB degrees.
Craig speaks warmly of the friendships and connections he made during his time at Allard Law. “The legal community in British Columbia is quite large numerically, but it is also quite small,” he says. “I interact with lawyers who I went to law school with all the time, including those I was in my small group with in first year.” He also fondly remembers his then-professors Edinger, Blom, Todd, Sheppard, Weiler, MacDougall—among many others. “Professor Todd told us we would never forget the first case he taught us,” he reminisces. “He was right. Kelsen v. Imperial Tobacco remains imprinted on my memory.”
Looking back on his law school experience, Craig offers two words of advice to current law students: “Enjoy it!” While the practice of law can be hard, he says it can also be good fun. “You’re lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent, creative and thoughtful people. So do your best to remove the stress and enjoy what you are doing and whom you are doing it with.” His second piece of advice is to make your own choices about how you want to practice law. “The practice of law holds so many different opportunities in what to practice, how to practice and who to practice with,” he advises. “Don’t let others make those choices for you by slotting you into a role. You will be better and happier for it.”
Since completing law school, Craig has practiced in the areas of commercial litigation and arbitration for the past 36 years, and has been recognized in Best Lawyers in Canada (2010 – 2022) and other prominent rankings. He speaks enthusiastically about how much he enjoys helping clients advance their goals, as well as the intellectual exercise of building a case. “The framing of the argument, the strategy of how it is presented and the intensity of oral argument—there are few endeavours like it,” he explains.
Craig has been a part of Lawson Lundell throughout his career, and considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by talented and committed lawyers who make legal practice enjoyable: “There are always the rainy November days when it is dark at three in the afternoon and you have too much work to do. Having great people around you gets you through those times.”
In addition to his practice, Craig has been an active member of the legal community. As a former President of the Law Society of BC, he’s been instrumental in bringing about positive societal changes. His contributions have earned him recognition as one of the ‘Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers’ (2021) in Canada. “I’m most proud of the work we did on the Futures Task Force to report on how the practice of law, and the governance of it, are and need to change,” he says. “This report led to the creation of the Innovation Sandbox to test drive new approaches to law practice (although not currently allowed by our Rules) in a supervised environment.” Craig is hopeful that these new approaches will improve access to legal advice for all British Columbians.
Aside from work and volunteer commitments, Craig makes it a priority to maintain a healthy work-life balance, taking up distance running in his 30s and running a total of 14 marathons since then. He’s also done his fair share of travelling over the years: “My office is littered with pictures of places I have been—and often would rather be!” He’s especially grateful to his wife, who he credits for his ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance: “My wife, Shelley, has always kept me focused on the most important aspect of our life—our family.”
For new lawyers just starting out, Craig recommends scheduling activities and hobbies in the same way as other commitments: “Exercise is an appointment that needs to be kept, and vacations are essential.” He says he “always has a trip somewhere booked,” even if it’s far off in the future. “Don’t ever let anyone begrudge you a vacation.”