The Law Society’s Archives

Paul Leatherdale, Archivist
Guest Writer

Some readers may be surprised to learn that the Law Society of Ontario has an archives. For almost 40 years, the Archives of the Law Society of Ontario has been documenting the heritage of the legal profession in Ontario.

What’s in the archival collection?

First Minutes of Convocation, 17 July 1797

The bulk of the Archives’ holdings are Law Society corporate records, dating back to the formation of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1797. We house the records of Convocation and the numerous committees, working groups, and task forces that have existed over the years. These records document the administration of the Law Society, and the policies and decisions made by Convocation. The Archives also includes records of the Treasurer and other senior executives, past licensee files, departmental records, and records relating to Osgoode Hall and Osgoode Hall Law School.   

Letter from Elizabeth Simcoe to John Graves Simcoe, September 1796 (991051-001)

The Archives includes the papers of over 240 lawyers, judges, and legal organizations. These can range in size from a single document up to several metres of records. Examples of private papers in the archival collection includes those of: Chief Justice George Gale, Chief Justice William G.C. Howland, William Osgoode, the Lawyers Club of Toronto, the Toronto Lawyers Association, the Essex Law Association, and the Women’s Law Association of Ontario.  We welcome donations of material significant to the legal history of Ontario.

Here’s a sampling of what the Archives contains:

  • over 100,000 photographs, including images of licensees and judges, Osgoode Hall, legal events, and Osgoode Hall Law School class composites
  • an extensive collection of architectural plans and drawings relating to the various additions and renovations to Osgoode Hall
  • material about or by the Law Society and Osgoode Hall, including special reports, brochures and posters, as well as ephemeral items such as programs, menus and postcards.
Osgoode Hall intercollegiate football team, 1925 (P781)

Research at the Archives

The Archives serves as an information resource centre to Law Society staff, the legal profession, and the public. We assist users with a broad range of requests – everything from policy research, requests for specific reports and documents, to questions about the history of the Law Society. Since the Archives maintains biographical information on past licensees, we often receive requests from genealogists researching past family members, and from legal historians looking for information on past lawyers. Our large photograph collection is used by internal Law Society departments for programming and events, as well as by authors wishing to illustrate an article or book.

Archives staff are able to answer most requests remotely and can often provide scanned copies of material. Appointments are required for users wishing to consult the private papers in the collection.

A portion of the archival collection is available online through a description database, finding aids to the sets of personal papers, and the Internet Archive. The Archives also highlights items in its collection through social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and Flickr. Over 300 videos, largely historic continuing education events, have been posted to the Archives’ YouTube channel.

For more information on the Archives and its collection, visit the Osgoode Hall and Ontario’s Legal Heritage section of the Law Society’s website or contact Paul Leatherdale (Archivist) at