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Inside the Law

Inside the Law: Canadian Law Firms in Historical Perspective

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 602
  • Book Info
    Inside the Law
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays, Volume VII in the Osgoode Society's series of Essays in the History of Canadian Law, is the first focused study of a variety of law firms and how they have evolved over a century and a half, from the golden age of the sole practitioner in the pre-industrial era to the recent rise of the mega-firm.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-3291-2
    Subjects: Law, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    R. Roy McMurtry and Peter N. Oliver

    The purpose of The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History is to encourage research and writing in the history of Canadian law. The Society, which was incorporated in 1979 and is registered as a charity, was founded at the initiative of the Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, former attorney general for Ontario, and officials of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Its efforts to stimulate the study of legal history in Canada include a research support program, a graduate student research assistance program, and work in the fields of oral history and legal archives. The Society publishes volumes that are of...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. [Illustration]
    (pp. xviii-2)
  7. 1 Introduction: Inside the Law – Canadian Law Firms in Historical Perspective
    (pp. 3-56)

    The legal profession in Canada today is dominated by two dozen or so very large law firms, located in the country’s major cities. These firms are important economic institutions, collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in fees annually. They order the affairs of businesses and of many government agencies. Their offices operate around the clock, maintaining links with affiliates in Europe and Asia. Many of these mega-firms employ hundreds of partners and associates, along with vast numbers of office staff. Their members include some of the country’s most influential former politicians. Their alumni run major Canadian corporations, staff the judiciary,...

  8. 2 The Making of a Colonial Lawyer: Beamish Murdoch of Halifax, 1822–1842
    (pp. 57-99)

    A study of the Halifax law practice of Beamish Murdoch (1800-1876), who began articling in 1814 and retired in the 1860s, may almost be said to be an examination of the prehistory of the Canadian law ‘firm.’ With one exception, the only form of law-firm organization aside from the sole practitioner in pre-1850 Nova Scotia was the familial firm, based on fraternal or paternal relationships.¹ This pattern is unsurprising in a society where kinship was of such fundamental importance, but it is probably misleading to identify such ‘firms’ with the modern partnership. Such associations were transitional and functioned principally to...

  9. 3 Aemilius Irving: Solicitor to the Great Western Railway, 1855–1872
    (pp. 100-121)

    Although the private law firm – whether the conventional partnership or the sole practitioner’s office – was, and remains, the predominant mechanism for the delivery of legal services, other options have appeared. Through a review of the work of Aemilius Irving at the Great Western Railway, this essay explores the early Canadian development of one of these alternatives, the in-house counsel.

    In the course of a legal career that extended from his call to the bar in 1849 to the time of his death in 1913 as Canada’s oldest practitioner, Aemilius Irving retained the respect of colleagues for his skills...

  10. 4 The Campbell, Meredith Firm of Montreal: A Case-Study of the Role of Canadian Business Lawyers, 1895–1913
    (pp. 122-160)

    As Gregory Marchildon has observed, while there is an obvious connection between business and corporate-commercial law, ‘there has been surprisingly little research on the nature of this relationship and even less on the links between the practitioners of law and business.’¹ Legal historians have generally concentrated their efforts on other areas, and business historians seem reluctant to acknowledge that lawyers had even a minor role in the development of commercial enterprises.² In the Canadian context, almost the entire body of published research on the connections between lawyers and business is contained in a single volume of essays.³ These articles represent...

  11. 5 The Transformation of an Establishment Firm: From Beatty Blackstock to Faskens, 1902–1915
    (pp. 161-206)

    On 13 March 1913, Edward Marion Chadwick, a seventy-three-year-old conveyancing lawyer, wrote to a relative in Ireland about a ‘remarkable entertainment’ that had recently been held at his house to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatty Blackstock firm. He noted that, had William Henry Beatty lived just three months longer, Beatty and Chadwick would have been partners in the firm for fifty years, something that Chadwick believed was ‘without parallel in this province.’ Chadwick explained:

    The fiftieth anniversary was celebrated by the gathering at my house of all of the members of the firm and their wives, and the...

  12. 6 Élite Relationships, Partnership Arrangements, and Nepotism at Blakes, a Toronto Law Firm, 1858–1942
    (pp. 207-247)

    Toronto’s Blake, Cassels & Graydon, popularly known as Blakes, is one of Canada’s oldest, largest, and most influential law firms. Edward Blake, the firm’s founder, and those who became senior partners in the first eighty years of the firm’s history, all enjoyed excellent family, political, and business connections. These were perpetuated when the senior partners brought their sons and grandsons into the firm, which served primarily the interests and needs of the élite in Canadian society.

    A complete history of Blakes must include a great many subjects beyond the scope of a single essay: the clients whose interests lawyers at Blakes...

  13. 7 The George F. Downes Firm in the Development of Edmonton and Its Region, 1903–1930
    (pp. 248-279)

    A growing number of lawyers organized law firms in the Canadian West of the early twentieth century. These law practices, which ranged from solo businesses to two- or three-member partnerships, to more substantial establishments, became involved in the economic life of the region.

    This essay examines the evolution of the George F. Downes law firm from its formation as a small business in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1903 through its development into a regional firm. After operating for almost three decades, mostly as a solo practice but sometimes as a two-member partnership, the firm ceased to exist in 1930. This study...

  14. 8 Corporate Entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada: The Stewart Law Firm, 1915–1955
    (pp. 280-319)

    With branch offices in St John’s, Sydney, Halifax, Moncton, Saint John, and Charlottetown, Stewart McKelvey Stirling Scales is the largest and most conspicuously ‘entrepreneurial’ law firm east of Montreal. Created in one of the many mergers which transformed the Canadian legal landscape during the late 1980s, the firm has long roots in the Maritime business establishment.¹ The oldest firm in the 1990 merger was Halifax’s highest-profile corporate law firm, Stewart, MacKeen and Covert, which in turn had evolved out of the Harris, Henry and Cahan law firm, serving the interests of the finance capitalist John F. Stairs, whose business empire...

  15. 9 Goodall and Cairns: Commercial, Corporate, and Energy Law in Alberta, 1920–1942
    (pp. 320-356)

    Goodall and Cairns represented the typical prairie law firm of the interwar years. Small in size, specialized in clients, and controversial in litigation, the firm was one of several hundred which practised law in Alberta in the interwar years. The typical law firm of the era was one person, as is clear from theCanada Law List,Albertafor 1930. Of 386 registered law firms in that year, 277 were one-member firms, 71 were two-member, and the size of the remaining 38 ranged from three to five members (see table 9.1). Thus 51 per cent of lawyers who practised in...

  16. 10 A Family Firm in Transition: Osier, Hoskin & Harcourt in the 1950s and 1960s
    (pp. 357-393)

    There are only a handful of large, old law firms in Canada. Most of them have offices in the upper reaches of the bank towers clustered around Bay and King streets in Toronto, or the equivalent financial districts of Montreal or Vancouver. They are very influential national institutions. Although few Canadians know much about them, many would recognize the names of these firms. One of the reasons for such recognition is that the firms’ names are rooted in Canadian history; names like Blake, McCarthy, Tupper, and Osier were, in many cases, those of some of the great and powerful families...

  17. 11 Dominant Professionals: The Role of Large-Firm Lawyers in Manitoba
    (pp. 394-429)

    Large law firms, virtually unknown in nineteenth-century Canada, now dominate the legal profession. The visible signs of their prestige include superbly appointed offices located in high-rent office towers overlooking Canada’s major cities. It is these large-firm lawyers who service the legal needs of Canada’s corporate giants. The salaries they receive are the envy of the rest of the profession, not least the law students who compete ferociously for coveted places in such firms. These students know that such a position yields not only wealth, but opportunity for advancement in business, politics, or the profession itself.

    Large-firm lawyers are unquestionably influential,...

  18. 12 Raymond and Honsberger: A Small Firm That Stayed Small, 1889–1989
    (pp. 430-468)

    Raymond and Honsberger is and always has been a small Toronto law firm. Established in 1889, it had five members or fewer for most of its history. However, it slowly expanded, and had twelve members when it celebrated its centenary in 1989. By Toronto standards, it is a large small firm.

    There were about four hundred lawyers in Toronto when the firm was founded. They practised, for the most part, by themselves or in small partnerships. This was the traditional way to practise law in the Anglo-American world for the previous two centuries or more, and it still is for...

  19. 13 ‘A Small United Nations’: The Hamilton Firm of Millar, Alexander, Tokiwa, and Isaacs, 1962–1993
    (pp. 469-497)

    The legal profession may be headed by the recent emergence of the megafirm, but the history of the former Hamilton firm of Millar, Alexander, Tokiwa, and Isaacs shows that small law firms can still offer significant leadership to other lawyers. Specifically, this small firm was a leader in addressing the issue of race and the practice of law. It earned itself the title of Hamilton’s ‘United Nations’ law firm, and was one of the first firms to challenge the traditional practice of hiring mostly well-connected, White males. As such, it was an inspiration to other visible minority lawyers who have...

  20. 14 Law on the Pacific Coast: Bull, Housser and Tupper, 1945–1990
    (pp. 498-529)

    A little over two hundred years ago, Alexander Mackenzie became the first European to cross Canada by land to reach the Pacific Coast. For about another century anyone wishing to attempt a similar journey used the same method of travel as he did – foot and canoe. A sea passage became the easiest, and thus the normal, route to reach the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia when they were established in the middle of the nineteenth century. Of all of the realms and territories which came under the British Crown, few were more remote from the centre of...

  21. 15 Hierarchy in Practice: The Significance of Gender in Ontario Law Firms
    (pp. 530-572)

    It is common to note how dramatically the legal profession has changed in this century, with particular concern about the growth of the profession, and especially its large firms. Many worry about the future of this changing profession. To some it has seemed that the forces of change are out of control,¹ leading to excessive litigation,² and competition among lawyers who are increasingly organized in firms that aggressively compete for access to an uncertain income base.³ Many worry not only that the pocketbooks and bank accounts of lawyers are threatened, but also that the very heart and soul of the...

  22. Index
    (pp. 573-600)
    (pp. 601-602)