Davis LLP - History


Edward Pease Davis, K.C. founded Davis LLP in Vancouver, Canada in 1892, six years after the city itself was incorporated. Davis was born in Ontario and graduated from the University of Toronto.

The Early Years By 1894, the firm comprised four partners: Edward Pease Davis, Chester Macneill, Gordon Marshall and James L.G. Abbott. The firm's earliest clientele included: the Oppenheimer family, Edison General Electric, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Bank of Commerce (now CIBC), and Union Steamship Company.

1919 - 1945 During the Great Depression, the firm recruited two lawyers of note. David Neil Hossie, a Rhodes scholars and decorated war hero, who established a successful and broad practice. Today, The University of British Columbia (UBC) honours Hossie's memory with an annual Prize in Corporate Law.

Sherwood Lett also joined Davis at this time, and was ultimately responsible for establishing the firm's ties to Japan. Lett was a Rhodes Scholar, decorated war hero, and a recipient of the Order of the British Empire. He was also heavily involved with the local university. He acted as UBC Alma Mater President, UBC Senator, Governor, and Chancellor. In 1947, he traveled to Japan to advise on Canada's policy toward the peace settlement with Japan and in 1954, led the Canadian contingent supervising the truce in Vietnam, negotiated at the Geneva Conference. In 1955, he became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of B.C. and later became Chief Justice of B.C.

As a member of the Japan Society, he wrote a paper in 1934 on "Legal disabilities of Japanese including the Second Generation in B.C." UBC memorializes Lett through a scholarship in Law.

1945 - 1959

After World War II, Bob McMaster advocated for Japanese-Canadians who lost their property when forced to resettle in the B.C. interior. McMaster blocked attempts by the federal government to deport more than 10,000 Japanese-Canadians, then persuaded a Royal Commission to recommend substantially higher compensation for the land, homes and businesses seized from Japanese-Canadians during the war. In 1957, the firm hired Japanese-Canadian George Fujisawa who led the firm to act for virtually all Japanese companies doing business in B.C.

The firm merged with Campbell, Brazier, Fisher, McMaster, Johnson and Alley in 1958, boosting litigation and mining practices, particularly.

1960 - 1979

During the 1960s and 1970s, the firm prospered with a client base strengthened from the merger. Charles Brazier led the litigation team; and Alex Fisher led the mining practice with coal, copper and other types of mining representing a large amount of the firm's work.

The firm’s solicitor practice had a portfolio of banking clientele, and its forestry practice advised the B.C. Government and provincial commissions on matters regarding energy and transportation.

The Japan practice and the firm's association with Japanese-Canadians and Japanese companies enabled its lawyers to participate in many international transactions such as joint ventures with the U.S., and in litigation across Canada.

McMaster forged relationships with credit unions and co-operative associations that continue today. Many young lawyers came on board during this period, and the firm more than doubled, growing from 20 to 50 lawyers. Major clients included CIBC, the Hudson's Bay Company, B.C. Telephone, MacMillan Bloedel, and British Pacific Properties.

1980 - 1990

The Great Inflation that began in 1965 due to concurring high inflation rates and high unemployment carried on into the early 1980s, keeping the Davis bankruptcy and insolvency lawyers very busy. Expo 86 brought a new vitality to B.C. and the firm embraced the wave of new investment. The firm’s admiralty / maritime law, commercial lending, tax, estate planning and litigation practice areas gained traction. The firm's Vancouver office relocated to accommodate growth.

1990 - Today

To establish a broader geographic presence to offer enhanced regional, national and international services to clients, the firm undertook a rapid expansion. Davis & Company, as it was known at that time, opened offices in Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Toronto. The acquisition of Montreal’s Hara-Rothschild with its own robust client catalogue of Japanese banks, corporations and government organizations that conducted business in North America, coincided with Davis’ Japan focus. A merger with Lucas Bowker & White, an Edmonton firm founded in 1948, and the opening of a greenfield office in Calgary rounded out the western region. Opening the Tokyo office underscored the firm’s commitment to Japan and its people. Davis LLP remains the only Canadian-based law firm with an office in Japan.

The firm changed its name to Davis LLP in 2007 in keeping with the founder's name and to identify Davis as a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).

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