“To my loyal partner, Harold, who has been more like a brother than a partner to me.”
Gordon Graydon inscribed those words on a picture he gave to his law partner, Harold Lawrence, in 1941. 17 years previous, in 1924 – a few years after the end of the war to end all wars (World War I as it turned out), years before the Great Depression, the Dirty Thirties, World War II and all that would follow, before talkies, television, word processors, computers, the internet, smart phones and AI - Gordon and Harold, two friends and then newly minted lawyers set up their law practice in Brampton under the name ‘Graydon & Lawrence’. Actually, what they would likely have said is that they had “hung out their shingle.”
Brampton at the time was a small agricultural community of less than five thousand people and Graydon & Lawrence located itself in a small office near Brampton’s still main intersection – Queen Street and the 19th century stagecoach route known as the Toronto-Sydenham Rd. that had not yet been re-christened Highway 10. Both roads were still unpaved.
The firm’s practice was primarily in the areas of real estate and estates and the two young lawyers served Brampton and the broader community as well travelling from their Brampton head office throughout Peel County to see rural clients in branch offices in Bolton, Palgrave, Malton and Streetsville.
In 1935, while continuing with their now thriving practice and with Harold’s support and encouragement, Graydon was elected to the House of Commons for the riding of Peel, a seat he held for 18 years until his death in 1953. While an MP, Graydon served as acting opposition House Leader from 1943 until 1945 and then as Canada’s delegate to both the World Conference and the Preparatory Committee that lead to the establishment of the United Nations in 1946.
Harold’s commitment to community service found him entering politics as well just as his partner had and he was elected Mayor of Brampton in 1949.
Throughout both these broader community and local community involvements, with the support, devotion and commitment of its partners, Graydon & Lawrence continued and prospered.
The firm’s success had been established on the basis of a true partnership built on a foundation of mutual respect and loyalty and a demonstrated commitment to legal excellence and to client and community service. Harold and Gordon maintained the highest standards of work quality by bringing the best of the firm’s resources to each engagement - only possible if a client is always considered a client of the partnership and not that of the individual partner.
After Gordon’s death in 1953, Harold continued the practice as ‘Harold R. Lawrence & Associates’. In 1956 Harold’s son, Bill, graduated first in his class from Osgoode Hall Law School and as Ontario’s top law student was invited to serve for a year as the judicial clerk to Ontario’s Chief Justice James McRuer before joining the Lawrence firm in 1957. Soon thereafter Bill brought in his law school classmate and friend, Basil Stevenson, and the firm became ‘Lawrence, Lawrence, Stevenson’.
In the decades that followed Brampton grew rapidly and under Bill Lawrence’s and Basil Stevenson’s stewardship, with Harold’s and Gordon’s example as their guide, the firm flourished and grew along with it.
During those years various of Lawrences’ lawyers became Court of Appeal and Superior Court Justices (Janet Simmons and John Webber), served as President of the Ontario Bar Association (Ed Upenieks), as Presidents of the Brampton Board of Trade (Dennis Cole, Heather Picken, Michael Luchenski and, in 2024, Louis Vouloukos), as Presidents of the Peel Law Association (John Webber, William Lawrence, Gerard Fitzhenry, James Gaskin, Dennis Cole and Janet Simmons) and as leaders of a multitude of community and service organizations too numerous to mention.
As Brampton grew, the services the firm provided expanded as clients’ needs became more complex and specialized. Peel was being developed and built out and Lawrences formed its Real Estate Group with development expertise. The legal requirements of growing and expanding local businesses lead it to establish its Business Law Group, the first firm in Peel to do so. The needs of business owners and property owners for estate and wealth succession plans, brought the firm’s Wills, Trusts and Estates Group into being. And since disputes are a part of life, Lawrences created and maintains a highly skilled Litigation Group.
On the foundation built by the firm’s founders, Lawrences thrived and has extended its services now into multiple additional areas such as Employment law, Franchise law and Not-for-Profit and Charities law.
100 years on, Brampton is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities, with a diverse population of over 600,000 and from its offices in a former tin smithy at the corner of Queen and George Streets, just around the corner from where Graydon & Lawrence had started their practice 100 years earlier, Lawrences continues.
Harold Lawrence and Gordon Graydon would find little recognizable in the world Lawrences finds itself in in 2024 but they would likely find the firm itself at its core not dissimilar to what they had created 100 years earlier. As it celebrates its first Centennial, the firm’s continued success and longevity is rooted in its commitment to legal excellence and to client and community service and the enduring relationships its members have with each other, with the firm’s clients and with the broader community. This is the tradition that has been inherited from the firm’s founders and the culture the firm’s partners - Michael Prsa, William Sirdevan, Heather Picken, Michael Luchenski and Ed Upenieks – continue to cultivate and nurture, purposefully and with intent.
Happy 100th Birthday, Lawrences!