Our History

We’ve been in the business of law since 1862, when a young entrepreneurial Britton Bath Osler began to practise law in the village of Dundas, Ontario (70 km west of Toronto). By the age of 23, Osler had opened two law offices (Dundas and Hamilton) and started his own venture in what would become one of North America’s first commuter railways.

In 1882, Osler moved his practice to Toronto, the provincial capital and at the time Canada’s second most important city for business, after Montreal. It proved to be a good move. He formed a partnership with John Hoskin and several other lawyers. Within a decade the enterprise grew to become one of the top three law firms in Canada. Known for his prowess as a litigator, Osler also served as one of the crown prosecutors for the July 1885 treason trial of Louis Riel. The final name for the firm we know today was settled in 1902 when Partner Frederick Harcourt’s name was added to the door.

Almost from the start, the firm’s clients included many of the country’s largest companies and others that would grow to become leaders in key emerging industries including railways, banking and insurance, manufacturing and natural resources. And as the firm prospered, it also attracted international companies seeking opportunities in Canada, giving us an early and essential global perspective. That perspective proved extremely advantageous when in the wake of World War II, the economic climate ushered in the era of the “dealmaker” and the age of modern corporate law.

In 1968, Osler became the first large corporate law firm in Canada to admit a woman as a partner, Bertha Wilson, who went on to become the first female Justice appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

As a leader in all aspects of business law, then and now, Osler has drawn together some of the best legal minds. From ambitious young barristers and solicitors to former Supreme Court judges and prime ministers, Osler has earned a reputation as the law firm in which to turn with the most complex business challenges and needs.

In 2012, Osler celebrated its 150th anniversary. With the theme of “Making a Difference,” the firm not only marked the milestone as a long and historical legacy of success, but more importantly as a celebration of our people and how together as a team, we strive to make a difference for our clients and our community.

Today, Osler continues to maintain its trusted advisor status with Canadian and international business leaders. We empower ambitious organizations that are expanding, protecting and transforming their businesses – a mission that started five years before confederation with Britton Bath Osler.