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Legal History

The Birth of the Compensation Fund
Convocation’s adoption of the report of the Special Committee on Compensation Fund in January 1953 represented a pioneering effort by the entire legal profession of Ontario to accept responsibility for the illegal activities of a minority of its members.

Caribbean Law Students in Toronto
During the Second World War, an influx of international students at the University of Toronto’s law school led to a student body more racially diverse than was the case before or for some time afterwards. In 2007, the Law Society Archives acquired a series of photographs that documents this little-known development.

The E. Henrietta Osler Donation
In January 2007, the Law Society received five objects from the estate of Elizabeth Henrietta Osler. The collection consists of: a black tricorne, a tin storage box, a cap, a rosette and a leather hat box. The artefacts are interesting because of their provenance, because they are unique in our collection, and because they document legal dress in the 19th century.

Elkanah Billings: Lawyer/Journalist/Paleontologist
Some Ontario lawyers who left no lasting mark on the practice of law in the province nevertheless have reflected well on the profession by making a contribution in other areas of Canadian life. One such example is Elkanah Billings, who practised law for less than a decade before he became a journalist, then a geologist and a renowned paleontologist.

First Convocation in Osgoode Hall
On Feb. 6, 1832, Treasurer George Ridout and seven benchers met for the first time in Osgoode Hall, marking the beginning of the Law Society’s permanent residence in the building.  

First Treasurer John White: Killed in a Duel
John White, first Treasurer of the Law Society, was killed in a duel in January 1800. Item will provide brief account of his Canadian career and death. Photo(s) of re-enactment of duel on the front lawn of Osgoode Hall during bicentennial celebrations will form the visuals, as no image of John White himself can be found.

Governors General of Canada and the Law Society
This time capsule looks at the relationship the Law Society has had with the Queen's representatives.

John Maxwell's Notebook
In 2002 the Law Society Archives acquired a fascinating and historically valuable document: a bound volume in which L'Orignal lawyer John Maxwell had written notes in preparation for a murder defence in 1883. Lawyer Ian McKechnie, who found the notebook in his L'Orignal office, generously donated it to the Archives.

Lally McCarthy's Boyhood Trip to England
Future lawyer and Law Society Treasurer D'Alton Lally McCarthy accompanied his parents on a voyage to England in the summer of 1885. Then 14 years old and a student at Port Hope's Trinity College School, Lally wrote a series of letters home to his cousin Leighton. These letters survive in the Law Society's archival collection and portray an enthusiastic and intelligent boy's response to the tourist attractions of Victorian London.

Law School Student Life in the Gay 90s
The lives of students at Osgoode Hall Law School in the 1890s involved more than the serious scholarly pursuits of attending classes, articling, and writing examinations. Debates, dinners and dances, held under the auspices of the Osgoode Hall Legal and Literary Society, provided respite from the hard work of the school year.

Lieutenant Victor Topping
 After a horrific war accident and many subsequent reconstructive surgeries, Lieutenant Victor Topping pursued careers in engineering and the law, married and had a family, and became an accomplished athlete.

Obiter Dicta
Student newspaper Obiter Dicta was founded in 1928 when the law school's home was still at Osgoode Hall. Obiter Dicta,'s first editors hoped that with its inaugural issue of Feb. 2nd, "one more great step has been taken towards the development and ultimate realization, within our school of a distinctively "Osgoode Spirit". 

Ontario Lawyer-Artists
As part of a continuing series about Ontario lawyers eminent in fields other than law, this spring's time capsule features lawyers also known as artists.

Ontario Lawyer-Writers
As part of a continuing series on lawyers in fields other than law, this time capsule focuses on lawyers also active as writers of fiction, drama and poetry.

Pressing Matters
The Law Society has in its possession a copy press, which was a gift from the estate of Stanley C. Biggs, QC, LSM, L.L.B, J.D. The copy press was used to copy letters, and was the leading technology of the reprographic world for 150 years. It was invented in the late 1700s but was not in general use in offices until the development of better inks in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Queen Mother Named Honorary Bencher
Thirty years ago this month Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, visited Osgoode Hall. In an event that caused great excitement among Benchers, Judges, and staff, Her Majesty was called to the Bar of Ontario and named an Honourary Bencher of The Law Society of Upper Canada on June 28th, 1974.

Remembrance Day Services at Osgoode Hall
Each year since 1956 the Law Society has held a Remembrance Day service at Osgoode Hall. The Benchers had honoured members of the legal profession and law students who had died on military service in the First and Second World Wars by erecting memorials inscribed with their names, but there was no annual service until the Treasurer and Benchers seized on the proposal of Mr. Justice Colin W.G. Gibson in 1956.  

Robert Baldwin
Robert Baldwin was the first Ontario-born Treasurer of the Law Society. Although best known for his contributions to Canadian political life as one of the fathers of responsible government, Baldwin also made significant contributions to the Law Society itself as a student, Bencher and Treasurer.

Sir Æmilius Irving: The Law Society's Longest-Serving Treasurer
In early 1844, future lawyer, politician and Bencher Æmilius Irving was admitted to the Law Society as a student member. Æmilius had come to Canada from England with his family at age ten, and was 21 years old when he began to study law.

Superior Court on Autumn Circuit
For much of the past two hundred years, circuit courts or Assizes have been a regular feature of Ontario's criminal justice administration. During each of four seasonal sittings of the superior courts, judges and other legal personnel went on "tour" to try serious criminal and civil cases in the judicial centres of each district or county of the province. The autumn circuit generally lasted from early September to November.

Touring Osgoode Hall in 1879
What did a tourist to Toronto do in the 1870s? Complain about the heat... and tour Osgoode Hall.

William Ralph Meredith
William Ralph Meredith had a long and distinguished career in law and politics from 1861, the year he was called to the Bar, until his death in August 1923. A prominent London lawyer, Meredith was the first Bencher of the Law Society from that city. He went on to become Chief Justice of Ontario.   

York County Judge Frederick Montye Morson
Frederick Montye Morson was a York County Court judge from 1891 to 1931. Known for his wit and forthright language, Morson was celebrated as a local "character" who attracted visiting American lawyers and judges to his courtroom to see him in action.

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