November Spotlight: Philip Huynh (City Solicitor and Director of Legal Services, The City of Surrey)

9 Nov 2020 11:59 PM | Anonymous

Spotlight: Philip Huynh

Philip Huynh is the City Solicitor and Director of Legal Services for the City of Surrey and was a past board member.

1. What is something that not many people know about you?

I published a collection of short stories in 2019 called The Forbidden Purple City that was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. The stories are about the Vietnamese diaspora after the war, living in Canada and elsewhere.

2. How did you first get involved with FACL BC?

I was the first president of FACL when it was founded in Ontario back in 2007. By acclamation! I remember being at a volunteer dinner during the early days and no one took the job. Then someone just pointed at me, saying we need a president. Maybe it was because I was sitting at the center table. 

Back then, FACL was still trying to define itself as both a professional networking organization and a forum for advocacy and activism on social causes. I think it’s a balance that FACL nationally is still striking. I enjoyed so much working with the early board and executives, including Judge Maryka Omatsu, Elaine Hua, Jason Leung, and others.

3. What has been your favourite FACL event or initiative so far?

I really enjoyed (and miss) the annual galas and keynote speakers. It has always been a highlight in my calendar, a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues and to meet the future of the Asian Canadian legal bar. One of my favorite speakers was the Honourable Justice Patrick Chen of the Provincial Court of British Columbia, who gave us a funny, wise, and heartfelt story about his life. He has done everything from working in Jamaica as a cartographer, to being a high school teacher and a lecturer in Economic Geography, to being a pioneering lawyer at a law firm in Vancouver’s Chinatown before becoming a judge. He is a lesson in being open to the possibilities of life and treating it as a great adventure.

(In place of an in-person gala this year, FACL BC has their first-ever virtual conference! For more information, please visit:

4. What advice would you give yourself if you were to go back in time?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Be open to the possibilities of life (see above). Be comfortable with uncertainty. During my career, I made a series of huge leaps – moving from Vancouver to practice commercial litigation in New York, then moving to Toronto, then becoming a municipal lawyer at the City of Surrey. All big, scary moves – and at the time impossible to tell if they were the right ones. You can analyze all you want, but ultimately you have to trust your gut, and that everything will turn out fine. Also, stop and smell the flowers. Enjoy the moment.

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