Lady Justice: Event Planning and the Law

Early in my Red Deer legal career, I was Chair of Tourism Red Deer. One of our accomplishments during my term was to negotiate a collaboration with the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame for a roadside building on well-travelled Highway 2 (moving from the nearby Heritage Ranch for us; the Sports Hall of Fame had not faired as well in a larger city from my recollection and was looking for a permanent home). As the saying goes: location, location, location. As an aside, unlike my being ordered to lose my Q.C. (Queen’s Counsel) designation for a K.C. on death of the Queen, I think the Highway 2 is still the QEII.

In order to become a lawyer (having four siblings and a single mom, so nowhere near a trust fund baby), I had almost a decade of experience in the hospitality industry before being admitted to the Bar (from bars to THE Bar). The combined experience in this industry, family-wide, would give a level of expertise to open our own place and franchise across the globe.

Alberta lawyers cannot hold themselves out to be experts or specialists in any area of law. But… there is no ruling body that says we cannot hold ourselves to be experts outside the law. Five-time New York Times best-selling author and public speaker (Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian) wrote Outliers: The Story of Success (one of his bestsellers). He explains why the “self-made” person is a myth and reviews the series of lucky events and other out-of-control factors that contribute to success. He also popularized the 10,000 hours rule, noting that if you do anything for that long, there is a good chance you will become an expert at it (except if you practice law in Alberta…). Including child birthday parties, fundraisers for various organizations, organizing performances, and other events, I have some expertise in this area.

Along with event planning come many details to consider, with various levels of legal implications, especially if alcohol is involved. Complying with AGLC licensing requirements for servers, a driver take home service, ensuring designated drivers, are just some of the considerations to reduce your exposure to a commercial host liability case (social host liability cases are also a consideration).

No matter how perfectly you plan, I always recommend you consider having event liability insurance. Also, make sure those who are insured by the event insurance are those that might be sued if an accident at the premises were to occur, or if your patrons drive under the influence and injure themselves or someone else. That is the last back up to have.

Most importantly, for the entertainment, I always recommend some participation songs such as your good old YMCA by the Village People, a good two-step (have someone to lead, I can never remember them) or along those lines. Speaking of music, I recall thinking that party anthem by Kiss, Rock and Roll All Nite, included the lyrics: “I want to rock and roll all night and part of every day”. I learned it was “party” every day. It seemed to me you need some time for sleep during the day and could only rock and roll for part of it. With music, you need to consider whether you have your SOCAN and RE: SOUND licensing in place (it protects the artists and creators). The devil is always in the details.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact

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