Law Institute appoints new executive director

Jim EmmertonJim Emmerton

The creation of the British Columbia Law Institute in 1997 under the leadership of Arthur Close, QC, signalled a new era for law reform in British Columbia, and another one is set to begin with the appointment of a new executive director this spring. After 35 years as the public face of the Law Reform Commission and the Law Institute, Close handed over the reins to Jim Emmerton, who brings an entirely new background from the world of corporate law.

Called to the Ontario Bar in 1975, Emmerton has served as a senior executive and corporate counsel with several national and international companies, including as senior vice-president, corporate development and general counsel with Methanex and as vice-president and general counsel of John Labatt Limited. In these roles, he had many dealings with international business and legal issues in countries such as Italy, France, the United States, New Zealand, Trinidad and Qatar.

Ron Skolrood, a member of the Law Institute board and chair of the hiring committee that selected Emmerton, notes that while Emmerton’s appointment does not signal a change in direction, it is clear he will bring a different perspective to law reform. Emmerton, who has been involved in a volunteer capacity with the White Rock Hospice Society and as a founding member of the Better Business Bureau in London, Ontario, says that his interest in law reform stems from a desire to make a contribution to society.

“There’s a continuing need for law reform in British Columbia,” Emmerton said. “My goal is to continue Arthur’s legacy of delivering the highest quality in legal research and writing on law reform.”

Emmerton’s current focus is on developing a new strategic plan for the Law Institute, which will include rolling out several major projects. For example, the Institute will look at a review of the Commercial Tenancy Act. He notes that the Institute is also looking at building sustainable funding. One option could be to establish a foundation, which would not only provide more stability for the Law Institute, but also help support other law reform bodies.

“Jim doesn’t have a classic law reform background, but he has always had a keen interest in the issue of law reform,” said Skolrood. “We needed someone who could lead the strategic planning process that we are embarking on and Jim’s extensive knowledge in organizational structure and administration will be a huge asset as we move forward.”

Emmerton also plans to promote more contact and collaboration with the practising Bar and to broaden the Institute’s public outreach through an expanded community relations program.

“It’s difficult to plan for the future when funding is not secure. Jim’s work to build a sustainable funding model will really strengthen law reform in BC,” said Skolrood. “Under his leadership we also plan to expand our relationships with key stakeholders. The recent demise of the federal Law Reform Commission has underscored the importance of engaging government, the legal community and the public at large in support of law reform.”

The British Columbia Law Institute

The British Columbia Law Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to law reform. It was created in January 1997 by incorporation under the provincial Society Act.

The Institute’s mandate is to promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its adaptation to modern social needs; to promote improvement of the administration of justice and respect for the rule of law; and to promote and carry out scholarly legal research. The Institute was created as a successor to the Law Reform Commission of BC, which was first established in 1969.

The by-laws of the Institute provide that it is composed of 14 members: two appointed by the attorney general, the Law Society and the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch and one each appointed by the faculties of law at the University of BC and the University of Victoria. The six remaining members are appointed by the members as a group. Every member of the Institute is also a director. Nanaimo lawyer and UBC lecturer Peter Ramsay, QC and UBC law professor emeritus James MacIntyre, QC are the Law Society’s nominees. Arthur Close, QC, retired executive director of the Law Institute, will continue as a member of the board.