Alan Vanderburgh has practiced law since 1958 and at 82 years old said he’s not ready to retire yet.
“I am working so I can see my grandchildren,” he said at his Vanderburgh and Company office in Williams Lake.
Vanderburgh and his wife, Shirley, have five grown children and nine grandchildren.
If they retired to Palm Springs or Florida it would be harder to see their grandchildren, he said as he held up a recent photo of his grandchildren about to play hockey on an outdoor rink at the Vanderburgh’s Chimney Valley home.
Vanderburgh grew up in a small Ontario farming community about five miles from Niagra Falls.
He graduated with an arts degree from Queen’s University in Kingston.
Eventually he chose to study law because at the time there weren’t many career paths open for people with an arts degree, he recalled.
He attended UBC’s law school for one year, attended the University of Toronto for second year and then returned to UBC, graduating from UBC’s Faculty of Law in 1957.
After practicing law in Vancouver and living in North Vancouver where it “seemed to rain every day,” he moved to Williams Lake for the weather, he said.
“I came up here on a trip in August and it looked like it hadn’t rained in six months,” he recalled.
He was hired at a firm established in 1946 by John Cade, who sold it to Lee Skipp and Les Langley in 1956 or 1957.
When Skipp and Langley parted ways, Vanderburgh came to work for Skipp in 1961. Skipp was there until 1972 when he was appointed a judge and moved to Vancouver.
Vanderburgh did all types of law. It’s what you did in a small town, he said.
“You took whatever came in the door and in my younger days I did a lot of court work.”
He worked on criminal trials, murder trials, and all sorts of criminal jury trials, conveyancing and business law.
After a while he tired of court work because he was spending a lot of time standing around, waiting for a judge or witness. He also had to travel to do assize work in Kamloops, Prince George, “hither and yon.”
“I had a young family and I’d be gone all week for five or six weeks at a time, which wasn’t too fair to my wife,” he said. He eased out of the travelling work and spent most of his time working from his office.
“I’ve been in this office since 1968,” he said. “Different chair and desk though,” he added with a smile.
Over the years, he has had a variety of partners, and these days works with lawyers Angela Ammann and Julian Tryczynski.
“We get along quite well,” he said of the two.
He has also worked alongside legal assistant Ingrid Vickers for 42 years and Valerie Hoyland for 20 years consecutively, although Hoyland has been a legal assistant for about 40 years.
When asked if he still works full-time, he paused.
“Full time to lawyers meant going home for an hour at dinner time, going back to the office for three or four hours, working on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays.”
Now he works 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, no evenings or weekends.
“So I guess that’s full-time for some jobs these days, but I don’t think about it as full time.”
Lawyers like what they do in almost all cases, Vanderburgh said.
“They like to give advice. They like to get paid for it, but they’ll give advice even if they don’t because that’s the way they are.”
Practicing law is fun because lawyers see different people every day who have different sorts of problems, he explained.
“You have to exercise your brain and try and figure out what is their problem. Once you do that, then finding the solutions is not all that difficult.”