Celebrating the Past, Visualizing the Future

By Anthony P. McGlynn
February 24, 2021

Perley-Robertson, Panet, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. opened its doors and commenced providing legal services to its clients officially on January 1st, 1971. Though truth to be told, there was a “soft opening” in the late 1970s spearheaded by Tom McDougall – acquiring office space, employees, systems, and equipment as well as clients that allowed the Firm to hit the ground running. Despite a few bumps along the road, the Firm has never looked back.

The original offices were in the Plaza Building on Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa, and the Firm has remained a downtown firm throughout its history. The four Founders were to a very great extent generalists with preferred areas of practice. All clients were welcome – a tradition the Firm continues to this day with few exceptions. The first articling student was Paul Kane (now Justice Kane of the Superior Court of Ontario) and early on the group welcomed Trevor Klotz, a patent and trade-mark lawyer, to establish the Firm’s Intellectual Property practice.

The 1970s brought a move to offices on Bank Street – the then Met Life Building, and still home to the Rideau Club – where the Firm was housed for 20 years. The 1970s was a time of Firm growth and expansion which included the transition from a Firm of individual general practices to a departmental structure – the Litigation, Corporate, Real Estate and Intellectual Property departments continue to exist to this day.

By the 1980s, the Firm crested the 20 and 30 lawyer thresholds and added specialties and practice area expertise; all the while continuing to be a full-service firm for local, regional and international clients. The Firm experimented with satellite offices and mergers with our smaller firms to fuel its growth and to add coverage for emerging client needs.

The 1990s was a period of consolidation, moving back to offices on Sparks Street, along with the continued development of niche and specialized expertise and practice areas. The Founder leadership of the Firm initiated a graceful transition to a new generation of leaders. And the managing partner model gave way to a committee system of management with non-lawyer senior management as part of the team.

The 2000s to the present day has been a time of continued growth with 60 professionals now offering a broad range of sophisticated services to individuals, business and not-for-profit corporations, unions, institutions, charities, and other professionals. Growth has traditionally been driven by hiring former articling students and making a home for experienced practitioners with expertise to complement the Firm’s offering to clients. Our present offices on Albert Street are in normal times a busy and vibrant place for our team and our clients.

The history includes the slow and increasingly faster evolution from no-tech, to low-tech to the sophisticated technology that now makes possible the high levels of service that current clients demand and receive. The professional face of the Firm was male anglophone only in 1971 and is now a more balanced reflection of Canadian society; though this evolution is not complete and remains a priority.

The Firm has always encouraged all members to be involved in the community and their professions. The Firm boasts alumni that are judges in provincial and federal courts. The late de Lobe Panet’s appointment as a Justice of the Superior Court of Ontario required that the Firm name be changed to the current Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. Firm alumni includes politicians, legal professionals in government service and leaders in other law firms. Many Firm members have and continue to instruct at the University of Ottawa Law School and Algonquin College. Local business groups, health care institutions including hospitals, charities, community and professional associations, and sports and other clubs have all benefited from the voluntary work and participation of Firm members.

Finally, and not to be forgotten, is the Firm’s contribution over its history by employing thousands of employees, training of hundreds of articling students and lawyers and the significant economic impact resulting from providing high quality legal services and advice. While respecting our clients’ confidentiality and privacy, it is safe to say you can’t live and work in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario without encountering the tangible and living results and examples of our work.

 

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