The death of Paul Robert Evans on October 14, 2021 was sudden and is a great loss to family, friends, members of his firm and his colleagues in the legal community.
Paul was born on July 20, 1985 in Toronto. He spent his early childhood in Ontario, where he discovered a lifelong love of baseball and the Blue Jays. He lived in parts of Asia, Hawaii and Boston before moving to Vancouver in 1998.
Paul spent the rest of his life on the West Coast. He made lifelong friends in high school and during his time at the University of British Columbia.
That is also where he met Megan, the woman who quickly became his best friend and later his wife. Paul graduated from UBC with a bachelor of arts (honours) degree in political science in 2008.
Paul had a deep desire for knowledge and was always reading and learning, whether about history, politics or baseball. He loved an intellectual challenge. He attended law school at the University of Victoria, and although he did not know immediately what type of law he wanted to practice, he soon took to criminal law. He enjoyed his term at the Law Centre,
where he had his first experience as a litigator. His years of watching Law & Order on television finally paid dividends, and Paul confirmed what he always suspected: he was a trial lawyer. Paul travelled to Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto for the Peter Cory moot competition, where his team won the first-place factum prize in 2010. During his time at UVic, Paul built many friendships that continued even as people moved to new cities or left the profession. Paul obtained his juris doctor degree from UVic in 2011.
Paul returned to live in Vancouver and articled with Stern & Albert, a criminal law firm in Surrey. He was called to the bar in May 2012 and was hired on at Stern & Albert as an associate. Changes in British Columbia’s impaired driving laws had a significant impact on criminal law practice at the time, and Paul found himself working as a sole practitioner before teaming up with Philip Cote. Paul and Phil met at the Surrey courthouse, both sole practitioners who had articled at Stern & Albert. Phil pitched to Paul that he might consider expanding his practice areas to include some family law and child protection work. Always ready to fight for the disadvantaged, Paul gave the suggestion consideration.
In 2015, Paul and Phil teamed up to form Cote & Evans Trial Lawyers. Together, they grew their Surrey-based firm to a team of eight lawyers and seven staff in just over six years. Paul was proud of the work of everyone at Cote & Evans Trial Lawyers. He often referred to the firm as the “People’s Law Firm”. Paul and the firm practiced a broad scope of law, from criminal to family to civil litigation, with the focus always being on individual members of the community. Paul ran numerous successful jury trials and appeared several times before the Court of Appeal.
Paul championed the little guy. He took great pride in forcing ICBC to honour its insurance contracts, particularly for an elderly woman being taken advantage of by a family member; in obtaining compensation for injuries suffered by inmates while in the care of corrections and police; and in obtaining parenting time for fathers, in cases where another party was wrongfully interfering with the relationship with the children. Paul continued to take on legal aid cases throughout his career, despite not needing to. He was particularly passionate about helping parents who had their children removed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Never afraid to run a trial, Paul used his intellect and pragmatism to help parents navigate and negotiate their way to having their children returned to their care.
Paul was a great business partner. He and Phil formed an immediate bond and quickly realized they shared a similar dream and passion for the practice of law and building a law firm from the ground up. Paul was the kind of business partner who never got angry and could accept not getting his way, knowing that decisions made collaboratively, though not always
correct, would over time produce better results than decisions made by any individual. Paul and Phil never had a single argument about money. As any business partner could tell you, that is no small feat. Paul had an innate sense of fairness and strove to be fair in all his dealings, regardless of the actions of those around him.
Paul was just coming up on ten years since he was called to the bar. In that time, he gained a reputation for being a well-prepared, thoughtful and thorough litigator. He did not display bellicosity or bravado in the courtroom. He used his calm but assertive demeanour and a carefully laid out argument to present his cases. After his death, the firm was inundated with
e-mails and phone calls from opposing counsel who expressed how much they enjoyed having Paul on the other side of a file. He was an example of civility and professionalism.
Paul joked that the law sustained him, which was only partially a joke. He was passionate about his work; he loved the problem solving involved in seeking out solutions to complex legal issues. He took great pleasure in sitting with firm members and working through a legal issue. Every lawyer at the firm knew they could walk into his office anytime to discuss a case. Paul looked towards the future and was expanding his own practice while also helping to drive the firm’s growth. His career was truly thriving, and so was he.
Paul was very sure of his own beliefs. He had such patience and tried not to judge or act on a situation until he understood the full picture. It is part of what made him such a good husband, a good friend to so many, a good business partner and such a good lawyer.
When he was not at the office or thinking about his cases, Paul enjoyed cooking, barbequing and hosting dinners and parties for friends and family. He liked to go on long-weekend getaways with his wife Megan to Harrison Hot Springs, Kelowna or Whistler. Paul enjoyed golfing with his father and
father-in-law, even if his score was not always up to par! And yes, Paul loved using puns.
Paul’s love of food meant that dining out was one of the rare instances when Paul would insist on his way—a particular pairing of dishes or drink—in the genuine belief that his decisions would satisfy everyone’s taste buds. And he was right.
Paul died on October 14, 2021 at Vancouver General Hospital at the age of 36. He had a genetic condition, vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Few people knew about this, as he wanted to live life as best he could, without anyone treating him differently. It meant his vessels and connective tissue were prone to dissections and ruptures. His hepatic artery ruptured. A team of specialists worked incredibly diligently through three emergency surgeries, and Paul fought hard, but his vessels were too fragile.
Paul is survived by his wife Megan, his parents Catherine and Paul Evans, his brother William Evans, and his in-laws Barbara and Brian Smyth. Paul is also remembered by countless family, friends and colleagues.
A celebration of life was held on Sunday, November 21, 2021 at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre at the University of British Columbia, his alma mater. Thank you to all who were able to attend. Paul would have been very honoured to see so many faces from the legal community.
If desired, donations may be made in memory of Paul Robert Evans to the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, supporting the Vascular Surgery Development and Research Fund: join.vghfoundation.ca/paul_evans.
Paul’s bright smile, kind heart and keen wit will be missed.
-Megan Smyth and Phil Cote