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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

John R Singleton QC

John R Singleton QC

Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP925 West Georgia StreetSuite 1200VancouverBritish ColumbiaCanadaV6C 3L2

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

John Singleton QC is a prominent name in Canada’s construction industry with extensive experience as a mediator, arbitrator and counsel in large infrastructure projects and construction disputes.

Questions & Answers

John R Singleton, QC, is the founding member and managing partner of Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel. John’s practice focuses on construction, insurance, professional liability and environmental matters, on behalf of property owners, architects, engineers, contractors, regulatory agencies and insurers. John is a chartered arbitrator and mediator of complex commercial disputes. He has extensive experience with public-private partnerships and major infrastructure projects, and has acted as fairness monitor and adviser on over 80 projects in the past 10 years. John is highly recommended in Chambers Canada, Lexpert, WWL, Martindale Hubbell and Benchmark Canada.

What has been your most interesting case so far, and why?

I was involved in the one and only large piece of asbestos litigation Canada, which was in trial and appeal for more than 200 days. The outcome was somewhat of a surprise to the construction industry and turned out to be a landmark case in many ways. Another example that comes to mind is a tunnelling case in North Vancouver involving two water tunnels, each seven kilometres long. There were multiple issues with the excavation of these deep hard rock tunnels, which created a fascinating case involving multiple technical issues and world-leading experts on hard-rock tunnelling, and the use and limitations of tunnel-boring machines.

What is the most challenging part of providing legal advice in major infrastructure projects?

First, the management of voluminous digital materials has become quite challenging. In the twin tunnels case we had more than one million digital records to manage. It takes an inordinate amount of time to go through this volume of documents and to assemble the skills and technology necessary to perform this task in a cost-efficient way. Second, the multiple parties and different disciplines associated with infrastructure projects often present a complex and difficult web to unwind, and then it is a challenge to analyse who is responsible for the event giving rise to the dispute. This again necessitates skilled, targeted identification of legal and factual issues, and of relevant skilled experts to opine on the technical aspects of the case.

You have expertise and experience as an arbitrator and mediator in construction disputes. What are the key skills to have in these proceedings?

These are quite different roles. As a mediator, you have to have the ability to keep people talking, and to know how and when to gently nudge them towards a mutually beneficial solution in order to avoid costly, time-consuming litigation and the uncertainty associated with that. The mediator’s role is to encourage parties to arrive at a practical and sometimes creative solution themselves, and to be cautious, as a mediator, to remain neutral and not enter the fray.

In the case of arbitration it is important, if not critical, to appoint an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators who have the background and expertise in the area to be adjudicated. Good arbitrators also usually have experience and knowledge with the legal issues to be encountered, and are quick learners with sharp minds – so they enhance the prospect of a more expeditious and cost-efficient process.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?

Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel has become internationally renowned as a leader in infrastructure and construction law, and it is very exciting to ride that horse as the firm expands further into the national and international marketplaces. Our growth is unprecedented in the history of the firm, and we are attracting very skilled lawyers at all levels who are dialling into what we have created. This is a very exciting place to be.

What do you think is the most important trend in Canada’s construction market at the moment?

The most important trend is the sheer amount of activity in the infrastructure and construction markets in Canada, at both provincial and federal levels. We are seeing a lot of pipelines, bridges, hospitals, highways and major industrial projects being constructed both across the country and internationally, all of which embrace our areas of expertise. As a sign of the heightened activity, many major projects are experiencing difficulty in finding sufficient competition in the procurement process. On top of this, you have residential and commercial markets that are overheated. Also, skilled labour shortages, a supply chain low on inventory, and the rising prices which accompany these (and other factors) creates a risky, busy environment.

How have your roles as adjunct professor of law at the University of British Columbia and Thompson Rivers University, and visiting professor at Stanford, enhanced your practice?

These roles have enhanced my practice in two ways. First, they have enabled me to keep up with the ever-changing law in this area and to make sure I am not falling behind on the law. It is like going back to school for 10 weeks each session, which I find very interesting and helpful to my practice. Second, word gets out that you are doing this and that you are the person to go to for this kind of work because you have taught and written on the topics. Third, and finally, you get face-to-face time with great students in law school who are encouraged to consider our firm when making their career choices. So teaching is beneficial and rewarding on multiple levels.

What advice would you give to lawyers looking to set up their own firm?

If you can, find a good bookkeeper. The business aspects of practising law are critically important, so you must have good financial advisers and financial programmes to manage your practice. You must also choose a course for the firm sooner rather than later. General practitioners are few and far between now. The level of complexity in all areas of the law no longer invites a general practitioner. Expertise is required in all areas and it is important to identify your chosen area of expertise at an early stage of your career.

You have had a very distinguished career to date. What else would you like to achieve that you have not already?

I would like to continue to expand the firm’s horizons in the national and international marketplace. I have a passion for what I do, so I would like to see the firm expand and make sure it has the basis for a successful life that will continue long after me. We have created something special at Singleton Reynolds, and it is important to me that it continues to expand upon what so many of our lawyers have accomplished together.

Global Leader

Construction 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

John Singleton QC is an "outstanding lawyer" with deep expertise in Canadian construction disputes. 

Biography

John Singleton is a principal legal figure in the country’s construction industry, having played key roles in major developments across Western Canada. He founded the firm in Vancouver, in 1982, with a vision of creating a practice that would stand out for its expertise in construction and infrastructure law. Today, Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP serves clients across the country and is recognised internationally for its knowledge and insight.

As managing partner of the firm, John has acted as counsel in precedent-setting cases involving insurance, construction, liability and environmental matters. He offers extensive experience in major infrastructure projects and public private partnerships, as well as complex commercial disputes.

John is an accomplished mediator and arbitrator. He earned the chartered arbitrator designation (CArb) from the ADR Institute of Canada and over the past decade has served as fairness adviser on more than 90 infrastructure projects, ranging from the construction of hospitals and hydro energy enterprises, to the building of the RCMP headquarters in Surrey, BC.

He has dedicated significant time to sharing his knowledge through academia and professional journals. He is an adjunct professor of law at the University of British Columbia and the Thompson Rivers University and was a visiting lecturer at Stanford University’s law school.

John is consistently recognised as a leader in the construction legal field, regularly earning top rankings from LexpertBest LawyersWho’s Who LegalMartindale-Hubbell and others. Benchmark Canada has designated him a “litigation star” and Chambers Canada recently labelled him a “top gun”. John was also recently recognised by Benchmark Canada Awards as Hall of Fame Lawyer of the Year.

Outside of the firm, John maintains a long-term relationship with Arts Umbrella, the not-for-profit arts education centre dedicated to inspiring children and young adults. Over the past 20 years he has served as a member of the organisation’s board, as president and as legal adviser.

National Leader

Canada - Construction 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

John Singleton is a leading construction lawyer who possesses considerable experience acting across a spectrum of high-profile construction disputes.

Biography

John Singleton is a principal legal figure in the country’s construction industry, having played key roles in major developments across Western Canada. He founded the firm in Vancouver, in 1982, with a vision of creating a practice that would stand out for its expertise in construction and infrastructure law. Today, Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP serves clients across the country and is recognised internationally for its knowledge and insight.

As managing partner of the firm, John has acted as counsel in precedent-setting cases involving insurance, construction, liability and environmental matters. He offers extensive experience in major infrastructure projects and public private partnerships, as well as complex commercial disputes.

John is an accomplished mediator and arbitrator. He earned the chartered arbitrator designation (CArb) from the ADR Institute of Canada and over the past decade has served as fairness adviser on more than 80 infrastructure projects, ranging from the construction of hospitals and hydro energy enterprises, to the building of the RCMP headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia.

He has dedicated significant time to sharing his knowledge through academia and professional journals. He is an adjunct professor of law at the University of British Columbia and the Thompson Rivers University and was a visiting lecturer at Stanford University’s law school.

John is consistently recognised as a leader in the construction legal field, regularly earning top rankings from LexpertBest LawyersWho’s Who LegalMartindale-Hubbell and others. Benchmark Canada has designated him a “litigation star” and Chambers Canada recently labelled him a “top gun”. John was also recently recognised by Benchmark Canada Awards as Hall of Fame Lawyer of the Year.

Outside of the firm, John maintains a long-term relationship with Arts Umbrella, the not-for-profit arts education centre dedicated to inspiring children and young adults. Over the past 20 years he has served as a member of the organisation’s board, as president and as legal adviser.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

John Singleton QC is a long-standing fixture in the Canadian market with extensive knowledge of the construction industry, which he has harnessed in leading insurance cases.

Biography

John R Singleton, QC, is the founding member and managing partner of Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP.

John’s practice is focused on the areas of insurance, construction, professional liability and environmental matters, on behalf of property owners, architects, engineers, contractors, regulatory agencies and insurers. He has acted as counsel in several precedent-setting cases involving insurers, architects, engineers and other participants in the construction industry and has been counsel on a wide variety of issues related to environmental concerns.

John is a chartered arbitrator and mediator of complex commercial disputes and is actively involved in both mediation and arbitration on behalf of his own clients and as retained by others. John has extensive experience with Public Private Partnership (P3s) and major infrastructure projects and he has acted as fairness monitor and adviser on more than 80 projects in the past 10 years.

John is an adjunct professor of construction law at the University of British Columbia and a guest lecturer at Stanford University as well as an active lecturer and author of papers on loss control, construction law, insurance law, environmental law and other subjects for trade and legal publications. He has been repeatedly recognised by his peers in Chambers CanadaLexpertWho's Who LegalMartindale Hubbell and Benchmark Canada as one of Canada's leading construction, commercial insurance and professional liability lawyers.

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