The roots of RMRF stretch back to two neighbouring law offices on the 9th floor of the McLeod Building in downtown Edmonton. When the two offices combined forces in 1961, they formed a firm with five partners. RMRF now has over 40 partners and associates and occupies a floor and a half in Manulife Place. As much as things have changed, the firm still operates with the values on which it was founded, and we pride ourselves on employing a team-based approach in our areas of practice.
In 1915, William Morrow (Sr.) and George Boothe founded the firm Boothe & Morrow at 910 McLeod Building. The McLeod Building was then brand new and, at nine storeys, it was also the tallest building in Edmonton at the time.
In 1938, a new neighbour moved in next door to the Morrow firm: E.W.S. Kane (Sr.), or Ted, as he was universally known. Ted Kane had been appointed secretary of the Law Society of Alberta and his office at 906 McLeod Building was also the Law Society’s office. The work of the Law Society did not require his full-time attention, however, so he also engaged in practice.
In 1940, William Morrow (Sr.) was joined in practice by his son Bill Morrow (Jr.). The firm at 910 McLeod became Morrow & Morrow.
In 1950, Ted Kane was joined in practice by Bill Hurlburt. In 1958, they were joined by E.W.S. Kane (Jr.), Ted’s son Ed Kane. The firm at 906 McLeod became Kane Hurlburt & Kane.
Meanwhile, Morrow & Morrow was joined by Vince Reynolds in 1955 and Bill Stevenson in 1957. In 1959, William Morrow (Sr.) passed away, and by 1961 the Morrow-led firm had become Morrow Reynolds & Stevenson.
Throughout the 1950s, a close friendship grew between Bill Morrow (Jr.) and Bill Hurlburt. Ed Kane and Bill Stevenson had been classmates and were also close friends. These relationships set the stage for a new direction that the two firms would take together in 1961.
In March 1961, Ted Kane was appointed a judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Alberta. With Ted Kane’s departure, the remaining lawyers in the two offices set about merging their practices into one firm, and by April 1961, they had formed Morrow Hurlburt Reynolds Stevenson & Kane. The merge was expedited by simply opening up the wall that used to divide the two offices.
The new firm practised in the merged offices until the summer of 1966. They then moved their offices to Chancery Hall, and then to a new office building in downtown Edmonton.
By 1975, the firm consisted of eight lawyers, but only Vince Reynolds and Ed Kane remained from the 1961 firm. Bill Morrow had left to serve as judge of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories; Bill Hurlburt had left for the Alberta Law Reform Institute; and Bill Stevenson had left for a judicial progression that would eventually lead to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Given the extent of those who had left, it might be thought that the firm may have faced difficulty in maintaining its clientele and its position in the legal profession during this time. Such a conclusion would be mistaken.
Vince Reynolds, Ed Kane and Jack Agrios were experienced, skilled lawyers. Sonny Mirth, Bill Richards, Jean Côté, Allan Farmer, and Allan Lefever, though more junior in years were seasoned lawyers by 1975 and recognized as first-rate practitioners. Rob Graesser had just arrived. Francis Price and Doug Stollery would soon arrive. The firm had every strength needed to meet the challenges of the future.
Moreover, the firm was developing a culture in which lawyers would build their competence to the point of being able to assume full responsibility for the clients of a departing lawyer. Clients were treated as clients of the firm rather than clients of a particular lawyer, with the consequence that successor lawyers would have already done work for continuing clients and earned their confidence.
A notable result of this practice which continues to this day is that a high number of our clients, whether they are individual, municipal or corporate, have had their legal work done by RMRF for many years.
After Bill Stevenson left the firm practised as Reynolds & Agrios. When Jack Agrios left to practise as a sole practitioner in 1978, the firm adopted the name of Reynolds Mirth & Côté. As the number of lawyers continued to grow, the firm moved to Century Place in 1981 and then to Manulife Place in 1984. Offices remain at Manulife Place to this day.
In 1987, Jean Côté was appointed to the Court of Appeal of Alberta. Since his departure, the firm has practised under the name of Reynolds Mirth Richards & Farmer LLP.
By 1989, RMRF consisted of 23 lawyers. It was by then a mature firm; relatively junior lawyers had become seniors, and experience had confirmed and amplified the initial talents of firm members.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a significant change came about in the external professional environment: large firms, mostly based outside Alberta, began to expand into Alberta usually through mergers with Alberta firms. Could a local medium-sized firm such as RMRF maintain its position with clients, many of which were large corporations needing advice across the country?
In the 1990s, RMRF met this challenge by concentrating on areas of law with special focus to best meet the needs of the firm clientele. To maintain its standards of excellence, the firm lawyers were allocated into four teams, which are still in place today, whose practice areas include one or more of our related areas of focus. These teams communicate continuously to ensure that all members have access to the combined knowledge of the team and are kept up to date with developments in any area.
We have found that our structure as a medium-sized firm focusing on niche areas enables us to provide services of a high quality not only to our local clients in Edmonton, but also to clients who operate nationally and internationally.
RMRF now has over 40 partners and associates practicing in more than 20 areas of law. Although there have been many changes over the years, RMRF is still moved today by the same values that have moved us throughout our entire history. Above all, we’re a client-driven law firm, and we pride ourselves on offering excellent legal services by using a creative, interdisciplinary team approach and treating each other with respect.
Whether or not this is the model that would maximize our incomes, it is the model that best satisfies the professional ideals of the members of our firm, and it gives us the highest possible personal satisfaction.
We will continue to change, but the bedrock of professional and personal values upon which our firm is built will not. We look forward to the future with confidence.
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our mentor, colleague and friend William H. (Bill) Hurlburt, Q.C., L.L.D. (Hon) . Bill passed away on November 1, 2016 at the age of 89, after 66 years as a member of the Alberta Bar.
Bill began practice with our founding firm, Kane Hurlburt, upon admission to the Bar in 1950. He practiced in association with the late Honorable Ted Kane until 1961 when the firm merged with Morrow Reynolds & Stevenson to become Morrow Hurlburt Reynolds Stevenson & Kane. Bill continued as senior partner until 1974 when he became Director of what is now known as the Alberta Law Reform Institute. On retirement from ALRI in 1986, Bill rejoined us as counsel and continued in that greatly valuable association until his passing.
Bill was an exceptional person and one of Alberta’s leading lawyers, skilled as both a solicitor and a barrister.
He appeared in all levels of the courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and handled some of the most intricate and complex commercial transactions. Both in practice and in his role within ALRI, Bill had a huge impact on shaping Alberta’s laws. His many contributions through law reform efforts are catalogued on ALRI’s website.
For his partners and associates at RMRF, equally significant was his setting of our firm’s ethic of professionalism, public service and fairness. Bill’s incisiveness and legal excellence, always expressed with humility and dry humor, but with precision and clarity, were his hallmarks. His mentorship of junior and senior lawyers alike was invaluable.
A brief scan of Bill’s achievements paints a clear picture of one of the truly remarkable and substantial pillars of the legal community. It has been our great privilege to have enjoyed his association with RMRF. He will be greatly missed.