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History of the Law Society

The Law Society of Upper Canada was founded on July 17th, 1797, at Wilson’s Hotel in Newark, Upper Canada (now Niagara-on-the-Lake). Ten lawyers, which was about two-thirds of all the lawyers in Upper Canada at the time, gathered at the hotel to read “An Act for the better regulating the Practice of the Law” and form the Law Society. The six senior lawyers present became the first benchers, and John White was named the first Treasurer (President). The main function of the Law Society of Upper Canada was to ensure that all persons who practiced law in the province were competent, followed proper procedures and behaved ethically.

Until 1957, the Law Society controlled entry to the Ontario legal profession through its exclusive jurisdiction over legal education. Osgoode Hall Law School, the second oldest common law school in Canada, was established by the Law Society in 1889. Osgoode Hall Law School moved to York University in 1968, but the Law Society remained the licensing body for lawyers in Ontario.

On May 1st, 2007, the mandate of the Law Society expanded to include the regulation of paralegals.

A historic milestone occurred on January 1st, 2018, when The Law Society of Upper Canada changed its name to the Law Society of Ontario.

This section lists material available in the Archives that are helpful resources on the history of the Law Society, as well as published works and online resources that researchers may find of use.
 
‘A history of legal education in Ontario’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Dec. 1972, 35-54.
 
Arthurs, Harry W. ‘The affiliation of Osgoode Hall Law School with York University’. In University of Toronto Law Journal 17, 1967, 194-206.
 
Baker, G. Blaine. ‘The Juvenile Advocate Society, 1821-1826: self-proclaimed schoolroom for Upper Canada’s governing class’. In Historical Papers, Montreal: Canadian Historical Association, 1985.
 
Baker, G. Blaine. ‘Legal education in Upper Canada 1785-1889: the Law Society as educator’. In Essays in the history of Canadian law: volume II, David H. Flaherty, ed. Toronto: Osgoode Society, 1983, 49-142.
 
Bell, Edwin. History of the Law Society of Upper Canada [unpublished draft], 1921.
 
Bosschart, Jeanette. ‘Lawyers and lawmakers: a statutory history of the Law Society Act, the Barristers Act, and the Solicitors Act, 1785-1993’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, June 1994, 171-198.
 
Bucknall, Brian D., Thomas C.H. Baldwin and J. David Lakin. ‘Pedants, practitioners and prophets: legal education at Osgoode Hall to 1957’. In Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Toronto: The Legal and Literary Society of Osgoode Hall Law School, Dec. 1968, 139-229.
 
Cole, Curtis. 1987. ‘After the crisis: legal education at Osgoode Hall, 1949-1957’. Paper presented at Canadian Law in History Conference, Ottawa, 1987.
 
‘Commemoration of the founding of the Law Society of Upper Canada’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Sept. 1969, 159-163.
 
Gower, Ross. ‘History of lay benchers at the Law Society of Upper Canada: marking 40 years of public representation’. Paper prepared by Law Society of Upper Canada articling student, 2015.
 
Hamilton, James Cleland. Osgoode Hall: reminiscences of the bench and bar. Toronto: Carswell, 1904.
 
Historic Discipline Data Project, a project of the Law Society.
 
Honsberger, John D. Osgoode Hall: an illustrated history. Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2004.
 
Johnston, George A. The Law Society of Upper Canada: a short account of the history of the Law Society of Upper Canada, issued by the Society. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 1947.
 
Kyer, C. Ian and Jerome E. Bickenback. The fiercest debate: Cecil A. Wright, the benchers, and legal education in Ontario 1923-1957. Toronto: Osgoode Society, 1987.
 
Laskin, Bora. ‘The new look in legal education in Ontario’. In Journal of the Society of Public Teachers of Law, 1957-58.

The Law Society Act.

Law Society of Ontario entry on Wikipedia.
 
McCormick, A. Rosemary. ‘The libraries of the Law Society’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Dec. 1972, 55-85. 
 
Moore, Christopher. The Law Society of Upper Canada and Ontario’s lawyers 1797-1997. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.
 
Orkin, Mark M. (1971). Professional autonomy and the public interest - a study of the Law Society of Upper Canada (unpublished dissertation). York University, Toronto, Ont.
 
Printed Minutes of Convocation for the periods 1879-1927, 1936-1982, and 1987-1991 are available on the Internet Archive.
 
Reilly, Mary P. ‘The origins and development of legal aid in Ontario’. In Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 8, Windsor: University of Windsor, 1988, 81-104.
 
Robinson, Darryl Eric. ‘Ethical evolution: the development of the professional handbook of the Law Society of Upper Canada’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, June 1995, 162-195.
 
The Rules of the Law Society of Upper Canada (various editions).
 
Smith, W. Earl. ‘The Law Society of Upper Canada: 1797-1947’. In The Canadian Bar Review, 1948, 437-443.