As the oldest law firm in Brantford, Waterous is deeply intertwined with the region's history.
The firm was founded in 1921 by Reginald Waterous, a veteran of the First World War. He interrupted his studies at Osgoode Hall Law School to enlist in the Canadian Army. When he returned from France, he finished his studies and established a practice in his hometown of Brantford.
From that modest beginning, the firm has grown to the largest in Brant County, with 20 lawyers and more than 50 support staff. In April, Waterous was honoured by the Brantford Chamber of Commerce as company of the year. The award recognized the company's growth, employee relations, and corporate citizenship.
Reg Waterous established the firm's tradition of community and civic service. He served as Brantford's mayor in 1937, 1938 and again in 1939. His last term of office was interrupted when the Second World War broke out. Reginald was called to Ottawa to join the wartime cabinet as the director of human and material resources.
Reg's son, Dick Waterous, followed in his father's footsteps and studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School, expecting to join his father's practice. He was three weeks from finishing his articles when his father died suddenly from a heart attack. After he finished his articles and was called to the bar in 1955, Dick returned to Brantford and took over the practice.
In 1959, Dick's longtime partner, Clark Holden, joined the firm. The two men will celebrate 50 years of practising together in May 2009. Dick is now partly retired, but is still in the office several days a week as counsel to the firm. Clark Holden is now the senior partner, and still actively practising.
Over its long history, Waterous has been involved in the legal affairs of many citizens of Brantford and Brant County. Some of those cases have played a significant role in Brantford's history.
Waterous represented former mayor Charlie Bowen when he was sued by the Boston Pops orchestra. The Boston Pops were invited by a local promoter to play a concert on the Grand, but nobody had the money to pay them. Waterous acted for the mayor and the case was settled without the mayor having to pay anything.
In the mid-1970s, there was a dispute between the traditional chiefs of the Six Nations and the delected band council. When the Confederacy padlocked the band council out of its chambers, Waterous sought and got an injunction against the chiefs. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where the court upheld the rights of the elected band council to govern.
Although the core of the firm's business comes from Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties, they have clients from as far away as St. Catharines and Toronto. Davis says their clients range from individuals involved in matrimonial disputes to corporations employing more than 500 people.
The firm's lawyers are spread among three offices, two in Brantford and one in Paris. The main office on Wellington Street is connected by fibre optics to the adjacent office on King Street. The Paris office is fully connected using the Internet.
"Electronically, it's fairly seamless," says Kevin Davis, the firm's managing partner.
Davis attributes the firm's longevity to Waterous and Holden's business sense. Davis says young partners are involved early on in managing the firm and dealing with things like payroll, banking and personnel. He says their corporate clients appreciate having lawyers with a sound knowledge of how a business is run.
"We see our role as not just giving legal advice, but practical legal advice," Davis says. "You have to have good business sense to succeed."
The other factor that has contributed to Waterous' longevity is the way profits are divided among the firm's lawyers. Instead of a simple percentage, Dick Waterous and Clark Holden came up with a mathematical formula that takes into consideration the amount of work a lawyer has done, the number of new clients they've attracted to the firm, their participation in office management and the community service they've performed.
"We thus avoid the resentments and fractious meetings that can divide a firm," Davis says. "Many other firms prominent in the '40s, '50s and '60s have died off. We've been able to avoid those pitfalls."
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