Neil Davie is one of those guys for whom success appears to have come easily.
With more than a dozen years of practice under his belt, one of the leading real estate lawyers in Canada and one of Lexpert Magazine's "rising starts" under 40, Davie is unassuming, jovial and genuinely curious as to why he has been tapped to do an interview for Your Alumni News.
“I would have never thought that I would be in the Alumni newsletter,” he said, laughing, as we sat down for coffee at Bull Housser, the Vancouver firm at which he is the Real Estate Group’s lead.
His humility is refreshing, considering the recognition he has received in recent years.
Frequently working on multiple commercial real estate projects which include some of the largest projects in Metro Vancouver, such as the downtown Canada Line stations and the sale of the Capilano Business Park, Davie is well-respected and lauded by his peers not only for his leadership in recent years, but also for his efforts toward hiring and training new talent and chairing the firm’s United Way Campaign.
Davie doesn’t take much credit for his success. He says he was fortunate that he found out early in his career that he was much more interested in the business side of law than being a court lawyer, which is what he had originally thought he would do when he started law school.
“When I was deciding on law school, I really thought I was going to be Matlock or some court lawyer,” he said, laughing again. “Then I realized early on that that just wasn’t for me. I was more interested in the business side of law.”
In his first year, he found himself enjoying real property law with Professor Bertie [Albert] McClean [now Professor Emeritus]. Then he really liked a course in real estate transactions, in which he was taught by two practitioners, Gerry Ghikas and David Mydske, both lawyers with Ladner Downs at the time. Then a summer at McCarthy Tetrault in their real estate group solidified his interest and future direction.
“I really just kind of hit it off with the people I was working with, and the subject matter,” he said. “The transactions are such that there’s quick turnover and you also get to build relationships with clients, like repeat customers almost. I really enjoy that aspect of it and getting to know clients and getting to know their businesses.”
But funnily enough, he doesn’t know exactly how or why he was interested in being a lawyer since childhood, especially since there were no lawyers in his family or any that he knew.
“I know I was drawn to legal fiction when I was a kid,” he said. “I always knew that I wanted to be a lawyer from an early age. We didn’t have lawyers in our family – none – and so it was really just that I thought it sounded cool, not knowing what it was.”
Although he admits the profession is demanding, he manages to juggle his personal life as a husband and father to two kids, age five and two, and find time to see friends, including some of his former teammates from the Illegal Beavers, the school’s rugby team.
“Yes, the profession is demanding and I think you make sacrifices in life to continue practicing law,” he said. “That being said, intellectually it’s very rewarding, professionally it’s very rewarding. But when it’s busy, priorities do need to be managed. I have a young family, so I try and juggle my life as a father, my life as a lawyer and my life as a husband, and it’s just about making sure that you’re focusing on each of those aspects in your life.”
The talent and intellect he has exhibited so far certainly seem to work for him, yet he hardly seems aware of it. When asked what he sees for himself in the future, he suggests that he couldn’t do anything else.
“I think I will retire as a real estate lawyer, I don’t think I could do anything else,” he says, laughing yet again. “I think as you become more knowledgeable about a subject area you become more of a go-to person in that area. For lawyers in private practice, it’s pretty rare that we switch areas of practice, and this is definitely the area that I’ve worked in my whole career, and I wouldn’t change it for anything at this point.”
Image: Neil Davie and his family, 2015.