Back to Navigation

The Legal Profession in Ontario

The legal profession in Ontario has a rich history dating back to before the formation of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1797. For generations, lawyers have been entwined in the political, business and social life of the province.

Much has changed since 1797, particularly with respect to the diversity of the profession. Many decades after the founding of the Law Society, the membership remained entirely male, and predominantly white and Christian. It was not until 1897 that the profession in the province witnessed the first woman being called to the Bar. Today, the legal profession in Ontario is as diverse as the province itself.

This section lists material available in the Archives that are helpful resources on the history of the legal profession in Ontario, as well as published works and online resources that researchers may find of use.
 
Abella, Rosalie. ‘Women in the legal profession’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Dec. 1988, 315-322.
 
Abella, Rosalie. ‘Women in the legal profession’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Sept./Dec. 1991, 411-418.
 
Arthurs, Harry W. ‘Law, society and the Law Society’. In Gazette: Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, June 1993, 85-90.
 
Baxter, Michael St. Patrick. ‘Black Bay Street lawyers: looking back, looking ahead’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Mar. 1994, 32-44.
 
Cole, Curtis J. (1987). A learned and honorable body: the professionalization of the Ontario Bar, 1867-1929 (unpublished dissertation). University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
 
Diversifying the Bar, a project of the Law Society.
 
Finlayson, George D. ‘The lawyer as a professional’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Sept. 1980, 229-235.
 
Gidney, R.D. and W.P.J. Millar. Professional gentlemen: the professions in nineteenth-century Ontario. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.
 
Hagan, John. ‘Transitions in the legal profession’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, June 1993, 91-102.
 
Hamilton, James Cleland. Osgoode Hall: reminiscences of the bench and bar. Toronto: Carswell, 1904.
 
History and organization of the legal profession in Ontario: appendix B to the Research Directorate’s staff study. [Toronto: Professional Organizations Committee], 1978.
 
Kay, Fiona M. et al. Barriers and opportunities within law: women in a changing legal profession: a longitudinal survey of Ontario lawyers, 1990-1996. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 1996.
 
Kay, Fiona M. et al. Diversity and change: the contemporary legal profession in Ontario: a report to the Law Society of Upper Canada. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004.
 
Kay, Fiona M. et al. Turning points and transitions: women's careers in the legal profession: a longitudinal survey of Ontario lawyers 1990-2002: a report to the Law Society of Upper Canada. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004.
 
Kay, Fiona M. ‘Women in the legal profession’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Mar. 1990, 55-64.
 
Law Society of Upper Canada. Numbers in the legal profession: a background paper. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 1996.
 
Law Society of Upper Canada. Promoting dialogue, creating change: equity and diversity in the legal profession: report on equity initiatives and resources in the legal profession. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 2003.
 
Law Society of Upper Canada. Promoting dialogue, creating change: equity and diversity in the legal profession: summary of responses to the information-gathering questionnaire. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 2002.
 
Law Society of Upper Canada. Transitions in the Ontario legal profession: a survey of lawyers called to the Bar between 1975 and 1990. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 1991.
 
Malcolm, Ian. ‘Robert Sutherland: the first Black lawyer in Canada?’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, June 1992, 183-186.
 
McEachern, Allan. ‘The changing face of the judiciary and legal profession’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Mar. 1995, 1-7.
 
Meechan, Mary. ‘More than a mere citizen: the special responsibilities of the lawyer in today’s society’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Sept. 1980, 284-293.
 
Moore, Christopher. The Law Society of Upper Canada and Ontario’s lawyers 1797-1997. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.
 
O’Brien, Brendan. ‘The role of the legal profession in public affairs’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, June 1979, 107-112.
 
Ornstein, Michael. The changing face of the Ontario legal profession, 1971-2001: a report to the Law Society of Upper Canada. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004.
 
Ornstein, Michael. Racialization and gender of lawyers in Ontario: a report for the Law Society of Upper Canada. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 2010.
 
Riddell, Wiiliam R. The legal profession in Upper Canada in its early period. Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, 1916.
 
Robins, Sydney. ‘Our profession on trial’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Mar. 1973, 1-10.
 
Robins, Sydney. ‘Our profession and the winds of change’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Sept. 1972, 137-146.
 
Russell, Peter H. ‘Changes in our legal culture and our professional inheritance’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Mar. 1993, 54-58.
 
Stager, David A.A. and Harry W. Arthurs. Lawyers in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.
 
Stephenson, Bette. ‘A self governing profession’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, June 1984, 200-204.
 
Talbot, Lance. ‘The history of Blacks in the Law Society of Upper Canada’. Paper prepared for History of Legal Institutions course at Osgoode Hall Law School, 1989.
 
Weinrib, Lorraine E. ‘Women in the legal profession: old issues, current problems’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Mar. 1990, 71-78.
 
Wilton-Siegel, Carol. ‘Lawyers and business in Ontario today’. In Gazette, Toronto: Law Society of Upper Canada, Sept. 1989, 212-230.