The Canadian legal system is likely the most similar to the legal systems in the United States. Since Canada had been a British colony, it adopted the same British common law system as the United States. And because it shares a border and culture with the United States, there are many other similarities as well.

Continuing my series of interview with litigators from around the world, I’d like to share some things I learned about litigation in British Columbia, Canada, from an interview with Ali Sodagar, an attorney from Vancouver.

Why should you continue to read this interview with Mr. Sodagar about litigation in British Columbia?

  • You are interested in whether Canadian courts are more similar to American or British ones

  • You believe Canadian people are too polite to sue each other

  • This is a great post to start a project where you read posts about litigation in each Canadian province, going from west to east

Ali Sodagar.jpg

Mr. Sodagar practices law at Sodagar & Company in Vancouver.

This interview has been lightly edited.

Background

What kind of disputes you handle in your legal practice? 

Civil litigation and administrative law. My firm’s practice has included appearances in all of the Superior Courts of British Columbia and before arbitration panels involving shareholders’ and partnership disputes, professional negligence claims, real estate, employment, securities, banking, and insurance litigation.

What type of clients do you generally represent in disputes? 

Individuals and small to large corporations

Besides Microsoft Office, what software do you use in your practice? 

G Suite, Adobe Acrobat, and transactional software. Another lawyer working with my office uses Worldox.

What books and websites do you use for legal research? 

We use Quicklaw and CanLII.

Canadian Complaints

Generally speaking, how many pages are the complaints or initial pleadings you see in your work? 

It varies from five pages to upwards of 30-40.

Generally speaking, how long does it take for a case to go from complaint to judgment?

Easily two years and sometimes longer

Are there specialized commercial courts for commercial disputes in British Columbia? 

No. 

Who decides the facts in your disputes?  Is it a judge or a jury?  

Ordinarily most commercial disputes are decided by a judge. Also, most commercial disputes settle first.

Do Canadian litigants get document discovery and depositions as generously as litigants in the US? 

Yes. 

Is it common to exchange tens or hundreds of thousands of pages documents?

It depends on the matter being litigated, but yes if the matter is complex and spans many years or issues.  

Is it common for each side to depose multiple witnesses? 

Yes

If you win, does the other side reimburse your attorneys’ fees? 

Yes, on a scale set by certain rules. Typically the adversary pays “party-party” costs, which works out to about one third of the prevailing party’s fees.

Do you believe that British Columbia courts have a particular weakness for resolving commercial disputes? 

The courts are very busy, so there are delays in getting heard.

How often do you go to the courthouse? 

It varies. At times it’s a few times a month, and at other times, it’s not for months! 

When you are there, do you need to wear a special robe or wig?

Speaking only from a civil litigation perspective (criminal matters have their own procedure for having to gown), we only have to gown for civil trials and when appearing before the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.