Jonathan Reilly thrives on crafting solutions for clients
For Vancouver corporate lawyer Jonathan Reilly, taking the time to get to know the details of a client’s business needs is a critical part of helping them achieve their end goal — whether that client is a family business or an aspiring hockey star.
Practising in the areas of corporate/commercial law, private equity and mergers and acquisitions as well as real estate for both personal and corporate clients, Reilly, founder of English Bay Law Corporation, initially thought he would pursue litigation after law school, but credits his early experience at a London, England firm with sparking his interest in M&A and corporate work.
After attending law school at the University of British Columbia, Reilly travelled to Europe, where he stayed for two years, working in London as a paralegal with law firm Freshfields, before returning to Vancouver to qualify as a lawyer.
Calling his experience in London “second to none,” Reilly says by working on complex purchase and sale transactions from start to finish, he was able to gain an integrated and detailed understanding of the organic relationship between all aspects of a transaction.
“Like most students, when I was in school I thought I’d probably end up a barrister and do litigation — but my experience in England gave me a real taste for the corporate work and the M&A work and I really like it,” he says.
After starting his career as an associate for a Vancouver boutique firm, Reilly established English Bay Law Corporation a decade ago — a thriving boutique firm that now employs three lawyers.
Although Reilly divides his time between managing the firm and his legal work, he says he most enjoys problem-solving for clients — thinking about where they are and what their end goal is.
“I like to start out with two pictures; where am I now and where do we want to be and then the fun part is drawing out what has to happen in between,” he says.
As Reilly explains: “Sometimes you can’t get there, or sometimes it takes a lot of hoops — the hoops are usually caused by tax issues where you’re trying to do things in a certain way so that you don’t create tax liabilities. To me, that’s engaging and fun and I enjoy it, but I also do commercial real estate and commercial finance and that’s good too.”
At the moment, half of English Bay Law Corporation’s work is in the real estate area, with the rest in corporate/commercial and wills and estates. Reilly explains that his clients often include family businesses, real estate investors, family trusts, clients incorporating companies, or companies working on annual filings (the firm serves as the registered records office for some 450 companies, completing all annual filings and other requirements for these clients.)
Many are drawn to the firm by the individual attention they receive, as well as the reasonable prices that come with hiring a smaller firm located outside of downtown Vancouver.
“We don’t track every second on the clock the way the big firms do — when I have a client, I like to get a sense of what it is they do. So if the client comes and says to me, ‘I need an incorporation, here are the details, incorporate this for me,’ I say ‘slow down — tell me about your business, what do you do,’ just out of interest but also that level of information builds comfort and confidence with the client,” says Reilly.
“Sometimes, clients come in with very specific ideas of what they think they need and when you get to know what it is they’re doing, it may be that they actually need something else,” he explains.
Through his website Hockeylaw.ca, Reilly also provides legal services to hockey players and their families, which can involve anything from buying real estate to setting up a company, depending on the stage of their career.
Interestingly, Reilly says he didn’t play hockey growing up, but learned in university. He later went on to coach his nephew’s minor hockey team.
“I was the assistant coach and the next year, I ended up as the head coach and I enjoyed it. I wanted to get better at it, so I was going to conferences and taking coaching courses and I got involved with the B.C. hockey high performance program. I’ve worked with their high performance U-16 and U-15 tournaments ever since,” he says.
And ultimately, he says, some interesting parallels can be drawn between business law and the hockey world. “In terms of building teams or what you’re looking for when you’re hiring staff, how do you solve problems, how do you encourage team work and build an atmosphere where people work together, hockey is directly translatable.”