Proudly serving Niagara for 135 years, Lancaster, Brooks & Welch LLP was established in 1882. As a leading full service law firm within this region, our success is due to our priority of engaging and building enduring relationships with our clients. Each legal department is led by a senior partner to give quality service built on team strength. Client focussed and forward facing – we remain committed to the key goal of client satisfaction.
The Firm histories of Lancaster, Mix & Welch and Brooks, Bielby & Smith each began in the 1880s, making them amongst the most well-established in the province of Ontario.
Lancaster, Brooks & Welch LLP is now one of the largest regional firms in Niagara and combines the resources of experienced counsel, offering strength in all major areas of legal practice.
From our offices in St. Catharines and Welland, Lancaster, Brooks & Welch LLP extends its reputation for service, dedication, and professionalism to the entire Niagara Peninsula and beyond.
The Firm’s history begins when William Manley German, Q.C. moved to Welland and commenced his law practice in 1882. He developed a widespread reputation in all areas of law especially in criminal law including experience in the Supreme Court of Canada. He also had an active political life and was first elected to provincial parliament in 1894 and eventually was elected to the federal parliament where he served as a member of parliament until the late 1920’s. He died in 1937. The law firm of Brooks, Bielby & Smith takes its origins from this start.
The law firm of Lancaster, Mix & Welch had its start in Grimsby, Ontario where twenty-six year old Edward Arthur Lancaster hung his shingle out in 1886. Lancaster then moved his office to St. Catharines in 1890 and his reputation grew, to the extent that in 1900 he was elected Member of Parliament for Lincoln County, a post he held until his death in 1916.
Lancaster’s son, Edward Hamilton (Ted), Lancaster, joined his father in the practice of law in 1912. He became a Colonel in the Canadian Army and went overseas in 1914. Upon his return in 1919 he quickly gained status as a top counsel, eventually being appointed Crown Attorney, a position he occupied for over thirty years.
The Colonel needed a partner. St. Catharines was becoming a regional commercial and industrial centre. The Colonel’s strength was in the courtroom and the office needed a solicitor. In 1921 Archibald Eugene Mix joined the Colonel. Archie Mix remained the senior solicitor in the firm until his death in 1965.
In 1953, Robert (“Bob”) Stanley Kemp-Welch was hired by the Colonel and Mr. Mix, and upon becoming a partner the firm became known as Lancaster, Mix & Welch. Bob Welch combined law with elected community service, first as a trustee of the St. Catharines Board of Education from 1953 to 1963, and then as a member of the Ontario Legislature from 1963 until 1985. Upon his appointment to the cabinet in 1966, Bob Welch withdrew from active involvement in the firm, but on his retirement from elected politics in 1985, he returned to the office as Senior Counsel.
Another Lancaster joined the firm in 1958. The Colonel’s nephew, the late Harry Hamilton (Bud) Lancaster, practiced law until his appointment to the Ontario Municipal Board in 1970. The firm moved through the 70’s adding new blood. Harry Thorsteinson started what is currently a 32 year association with the firm when he joined the office in 1970. Dave Edwards, a former articling student here, came back to practice in 1977.
Another Welch entered the firm in 1982 when Bob’s son, Robert (“Rob”) W.P. Welch was called to the Bar. He was followed shortly after by Robert Reid, who had practiced in St. Catharines for five years previously. As a result of a merger with two other St. Catharines firms, Malte von Anrep and Bruce Wormald joined the partnership in 1985. The firm has added strength in the past ten years with the addition of Gary Black, Christina MacNaughton, Rodger Gordon, Michael A. Mann, Kenneth W. Garland, Leanne E. Standryk, and Stanleigh E. Palka.
As of April 2, 2002, the firm associated with the Brooks, Bielby & Smith firm of Welland under the new name of Lancaster, Brooks & Welch L.L.P.
Allan L. Brooks, the “Brooks” in the name of Brooks, Bielby & Smith, first became a part of the firm in 1919. Mr. Brooks also developed a widespread reputation in all areas of law especially in the area of criminal law over the years. Most recently, Thomas A. Bielby and R. Bruce Smith were partners in the firm and were joined in 1995 by Thomas G. Hanrahan as an associate. The firm continued without interruption from 1882 until April 2002 when it merged with the St. Catharines firms of Lancaster, Mix & Welch as Lancaster, Brooks & Welch.
The firm has been home to a number of lawyers throughout the years including James Swayze, who was a lieutenant-colonel in the Lincoln and Welland Regiment during WWII, and David Cromarty, who joined the firm in 1937 and remained until 1972 when he became a judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario.
Lancaster, Brooks & Welch is not only the oldest law firm in Niagara, but one of the largest law firms in the region with a team in excess of 70 people. The tradition of service, dedication, professionalism and community involvement continues.
The name Brooks has continued up to the present date as a result of Geoffrey F. Brooks, Q.C., joining the firm in 1955. He is the son of Allan L. Brooks and remained with the firm as a full-time practicing lawyer until 1995 when he retired but continued his association with the firm as counsel.