Law Firm Names: The Long and the Short of It.
I happened to be chatting with a couple of young lawyers the other day really young, in that they re just about to article. It threw me back to when I was about to article and got me thinking about whether I could remember the whole and proper name of the firm whose offer I d accepted. (As it happens, I turned left into teaching instead; but that s another story.) That was back in the day when firms were not afraid to have long names, really long names, long enough that we who were considering them as employers had to buckle down to a fair bit of rote memory work (if anyone still knows what that is).
So I called on Memory. And she spoke. Well, she mumbled here and there a bit. But with a little research I ve resurrected the firm name, which turns out not to be so very long after all: Wahn, Mayer, Smith, Creber, Lyons, Torrance Stevenson. I have the sneaking feeling, though, that there were a couple of further names tacked on at one time, but can t find evidence of it.
This sent me off in two directions.
One has to do with how you research old law firm names on the internet. So far as I can tell, no one has bothered to scan old directories, something that legal historians might consider. One answer I found is in the older judgments on CanLII. At the end of the (still regrettably few) old Supreme Court judgments, you ll see the names of the firms of solicitors involved, which is where I came upon the confirmation of my WMCLT S guess. I stabbed around more or less at random, while I was back there in the old days and got the very unscientific perception that law firm names didn t start to grow as long as German nouns until the 1960s, more or less, perhaps with the coming of prosperity and the enlarging of the profession. Then, of course, as everyone knows, firm names began to shrink around and about the time that the web became popular: branding and presentation demanded snappy names; curt is efficient, effective; it s the locomotive at the head of the train that we care about and not the string of carriages. And the spate of recent mergers confused things, the solution being often that if you couldn t identify all the important players, then you wouldn t identify any except the irreducible one.
Thus, to reprise my case: Wahn, Mayer, Smith, Creber, Lyons, Torrance Stevenson became at some point (at least by 1996) Smith Lyons Torrance Stevenson Mayer, which in turn was subsequently slimmed down to Smith Lyons LLP, just prior to the merger with the one-name Gowlings in 2001 (which, out of the glare of publicity, has been formally Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP since 2000).