THE ADVOCATE 449
VOL. 78 PART 3 MAY 2020
Neo was the first in his family to attend university, which he paid for by
working at a lumber mill in the Fraser Valley and planting trees in northern
B.C. He was part of a tight-knit undergraduate honours cohort in political
science with other future lawyers at the University of British Columbia. He
showed up to law school at UBC in the preppy early eighties in a worn-out
t-shirt, excelled and graduated in 1984.
Neo met Joanne on a rainy backpacking trip in 1981 during the summer
before law school; they married the following summer. Their children Dyna
and John came along a few years later when Neo was a young associate. As
a young lawyer and father, he chose backcountry camping destinations for
family holidays, spending the travel days carrying the heaviest backpack,
the rest days flying a lightweight kite on ridges (and rescuing said kite when
it went over a cliff) and the evenings watching meteor showers. The kids
complained about being eaten alive by mosquitos while eating lentils at
backcountry campsites at Cathedral Lakes and in the Kootenays but will
readily admit that these trips did indeed “build character” and helped them
grow to share their parents’ love of the outdoors. Family vacations grew less
rustic and more far-flung over time. In more recent years, with the children
grown up, one of Neo’s greatest delights was exploring France with Joanne,
close friends, a large camera and his trusty B.C. Lions baseball cap.
Neo articled at Shrum, Liddle and Hebenton and was called to the bar in
1985. He found his way into commercial litigation at Freeman and Company
and went on to work at Macaulay McColl, Clark Wilson, Bernard and
Partners, Fraser Litigation, and finally Robert Fleming Lawyers. Over the
course of his career he focused on insurance coverage skills, gaining extensive
experience as defence and coverage counsel for insurers and brokers,
then later in his career acting almost exclusively for policyholders, resolving
complex, high-value claims. He developed a national reputation as an
authority on insurance coverage. He also took on environmental law files
and was involved in resolving environmental contamination claims in two
of the most complex and costly contaminated site remediation projects in
B.C. His work included appeals in cases previously handled by other
lawyers, and he acted as co-counsel with, or as a consultant providing
advice to, lawyers from other firms.
Neo particularly enjoyed his successes in the Supreme Court of Canada
in Family Insurance Corp. v. Lombard Canada Ltd., 2002 SCC 48, Shafron v.
KRG Insurance Brokers (Western) Inc., 2009 SCC 6 and Progressive Homes Ltd.
v. Lombard General Insurance Co. of Canada, 2010 SCC 33. By 2009 Dyna was
in law school, and a family movie night—exceeding even the nerdiness of
earlier years’ movie nights devoted to Star Trek and Star Wars—was convened
to watch a DVD recording of the Shafron hearing.