To understand any organization, it helps to look at its founders and the values on which the organization was built.
In 1974, Larry Torkin and Ron Manes graduated from law school and received offers to join large Toronto law firms. Instead, they decided to try their luck at starting their own firm. With no clients, personal networks, or business connections, their marketing plan was to do good work and build a positive reputation, so that clients will come. They also had a strong vision of what practising law should be like, what lawyers’ relationships should be like with their clients, and what lawyers’ relationships should be like with their colleagues. Their vision became their legacy for the building of a great law firm.
In the early years, they got involved in the legal and general community and developed a reputation for being creative, smart, aggressive, practical, and client-focused. Typically, they worked for the underdog—a legal aid case here, a small real estate or business deal there, some small lending or collection work. They so often impressed the opposing parties that those parties later became firm clients. As their professional relationships expanded, they attracted some like-minded friends who threw in their lot with Larry and Ron to continue building the firm in accordance with their guiding vision and to ensure that they had fun doing it.
From the start, the firm valued integrity, high-quality legal knowledge, personal client service, and effective, efficient results. We made sure that we liked each other, had fun together, and felt ourselves to be part of a common venture. We built our individual professional reputations, strong relationships with clients, and to contribute to building a firm reputation for being not only creative, smart and practical legal and business advisors but also leaders in the profession and in the community.
The Original Six
By 1979, the firm had grown to six partners. Barry Cohen had brought his corporate and real estate practice downtown from Yonge and Eglinton. Lorne Wolfson joined Ron Manes doing criminal, civil and family law litigation. Joe Feldman and Sid Troister arrived from other downtown firms, adding their real estate practices and expertise to the rapidly growing young firm. Having outgrown its original offices, the firm moved into a new building at the corner of York and Adelaide Streets, eventually occupying two entire floors.
How We Grew
Since the mid-1970s, there has been tremendous growth, both in the Canadian economy and at Torkin Manes. Barry Arbus and Phil Christo brought their corporate/commercial practices to the firm, adding to its corporate base. Our family law, corporate-commercial, litigation, and real estate departments grew to meet the increasing demands of our clients. The firm acquired a reputation for smart, practical, strategic advice and quality work. As our clients grew and prospered, so did we.
The firm’s broad client base and our reluctance to become overly dependent on a small number of large clients helped us withstand the recessions of the mid 80s and early 90s, as many other medium-sized firms struggled. To broaden our client base, we acquired or developed practice groups in securities, labour relations and employment, and insurance litigation. In the 1990s, we were co-founders of the International Alliance of Law Firms, which enabled us to assist our clients in other jurisdictions and serve the clients of other members who had business in our jurisdiction. This considerably widened our international client base.
In the 21st century, we developed significant practices in health law, construction law and medical malpractice. Today, Torkin Manes lawyers provide services in a full range of personal and business legal practice areas. From humble beginnings, our firm’s clients now include some of Canada’s largest financial institutions, insurance companies, major corporations, owner-operated private companies, entrepreneurs and land development companies.
Over the years, the firm has attracted top lawyers and highly ranked new graduates who want to practise law in a high quality and friendly environment where all lawyers are expected to realize their individual and firm potential and to excel, not only in the office, but also in the community. The culture and vision have stood the test of time: they continue to be the guiding force in the present and the future direction of the firm.