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Farris LLP: Vancouver's Law Firm

History of Farris

The strengths and qualities of our founder, J.W. deBeque Farris, continue to influence and inspire our firm today.

John Wallace de Beque Farris, Attorney-General, with Premier John Oliver


1902John Wallace de Beque Farris is called to the New Brunswick Bar.
1903J.W. de B. Farris arrives in BC and becomes Vancouver’s first city prosecutor, a part-time job that pays $75 per month. He begins his practice of law with well-known Cecil Killam, in a partnership that is loosely called Farris & Killam.
1908Wendell Burpee Farris, J.W. de B. Farris’ younger brother, receives a BC.L. degree. The two Farris brothers, John and Wendell, begin work with another brilliant young man, John Emerson, and then Wendell Farris sets up a practice in Revelstoke, British Columbia.


John W. de B. Farris rapidly expands his practice in the courts
and takes an active part in the Liberal Party.

1912A Farris partnership is established under the name Farris, Farris & Emerson. It operates under that name until 1920.
1916Wendell Farris returns from Revelstoke, B.C. to practise in the Vancouver office.
1917J.W. de B. Farris is elected a member of the Provincial Legislature for Vancouver and leaves the firm to pursue a political career. He is appointed President of the Executive Council, Attorney-General and Minister of Labour.
1917J.W. de B. Farris is appointed King’s Counsel.


The reputation of the firm grows as J.W. de B. Farris quickly becomes a leader of the Bar,
and Wendell B. Farris, a leading solicitor, develops a considerable practice.

1920Royden Stanley Stultz returns from World War I and joins Wendell Farris and John Emerson, and the firm is renamed Farris, Emerson & Stultz. Over the course of his career, Roy S. Stultz, who is extremely well thought of by his peers, will become an extremely active and competent solicitor in Vancouver.
1920When J.W. de B. Farris, K.C. retires from the Government Executive and returns to the active practise of law, the firm is renamed Farris, Farris, Emerson & Stultz.
1920Upon returning from World War I and finishing his legal studies, Gordon McGregor Glaholm Sloan joins the firm, which is then renamed Farris, Farris, Emerson, Stultz & Sloan.
1926John Emerson, an excellent solicitor, unfortunately dies at a young age. The firm is renamed Farris, Farris, Stultz & Sloan.


1931Ernest B. Bull, cousin to Alfred Bull, the head of another prestigious Vancouver firm, joins Farris to work as junior counsel to J.W. de B. Farris. Within a few years, Ernest Bull has built an active corporate clientele and opts to focus on his work as a solicitor. Bull becomes especially engaged in corporate finance during the economic boom that follows World War II.
1934Having led a very successful career at the bar, the Honourable Gordon M. Sloan is elected to the B.C. Legislature and appointed Attorney-General.
1935John Lauchlan Farris, J.W. de B. Farris’s youngest son, joins the firm, and the firm name is changed to Farris, Farris, Stultz, Bull & Farris. John L. Farris starts work as a junior to his father, showing great promise.
1935Claude Lorne McAlpine joins the firm as a leading counsel, and the firm is renamed Farris, Farris, McAlpine, Stultz, Bull and Farris. Claude McAlpine, whose presence enables Senator Farris to focus on Privy Council and Supreme Court of Canada constitutional cases, stands in the top ranks of counsel and is widely known for his knowledge of law and his aggressiveness.
1937J.W. de B. Farris is appointed to the Senate of Canada.
1937Gordon Sloan receives a judicial appointment to the B.C. Court of Appeal. He is later appointed Chief Justice of British Columbia.
1938Senator J.W. de B. Farris becomes national President of the Canadian Bar Association and is made an honorary member of the American Bar Association.


During the period before 1940, the non-litigious or solicitors’ side of the firm practice was sound but not very extensive. However, business following the end of World War II was booming, and the 40s and 50s would see the growth of the firm’s solicitor practice, which was eventually led by Ernest B. Bull.
1940Brice Shepherd Evans begins work at Farris, as a solicitor specializing primarily in residential mortgages, and continues his work until his retirement and death in 1985.
1942Wendell B. Farris, Q.C., younger brother to Senator Farris, is appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and his name is removed from the firm name, which becomes Farris, McAlpine, Stultz, Bull & Farris.
1945Three Farris lawyers, Ernest B. Bull, John L. Farris, and Brice S. Evans, return as veterans from World War II.
1947Arthur Donovan Pool arrives from England and begins work at Farris in estates, wills, trusts, and pensions. Arthur Pool establishes himself as especially competent in trusts, and he and his assistants continue their work well into the 90s.


Around the turn of the decade, three young lawyers with exemplary war records article with the firm, and are subsequently hired. David Lisle Vaughan, John David Taggart, and Charles Henry Wills are all first class, hard-working, and studious lawyers, who make significant contributions to the firm over the coming years.
1950Claude L. McAlpine, who is remembered as being a fearless, capable, tenacious, and colourful advocate, dies of lung cancer.
1953Graeme Hugh-Jones arrives in Vancouver from Hong Kong after having spent several years in a Japanese POW camp. He begins work at the firm and becomes expert in Marine and Shipping law and allied matters. Never completely recovering from his World War II experience, Hugh-Jones dies in 1971.
1954Ernest B. Bull is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1954John L. McAlpine, son of Claude L. McAlpine, Q.C., joins the firm.
1957Roy S. Stultz, a man who was solid, capable, forthright, and pleasantly salty in his approach to any problem, dies.
1958C. Francis (Frank) Murphy, having practised since his call to the bar in 1951, joins the firm and brings with him fine training in corporation law and financing. Frank Murphy immediately becomes a powerful and enthusiastic member of the solicitors’ group, renowned for his intelligence. Senator Farris is quoted as saying of Frank Murphy that “he has the best legal brain in the firm” (1).
1958Peter Woods Butler joins Farris as a junior to John L. Farris, but Butler quickly becomes a leading counsel in the Province, not to mention one of the very few experts on rate cases before the rate fixing bodies such as the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) were established, representing such clients as the British Columbia Telephone Company (BC Tel).
1959The Honourable G.M. Sloan dies. Indicative of his disinterested devotion and quiet, retiring determination is the fact that during the last months of his life, and while hospitalized, he insists on carrying on his work from his bed, and strictly forbids any press notice of his dire illness.


Frank Murphy begins to have influence over the growth of the firm over the next two decades.
Peter Butler and Jack Giles both establish themselves as top counsel.
1960Jack Michael Giles joins Farris and becomes one of the leading counsel in the province. There has been much debate about whether Peter Butler or Jack Giles was the better litigator. The consensus reached is that while Butler may have been better in trial court, nobody approached Giles’ standard in the appellate courts.
1962Brian S. Lowe, who is at the time one of the three top lawyers in CN Railway’s legal branch, joins the firm. Lowe will become an important member of the firm, principally engaged in corporate financing, bond, debenture and share issues, and corporate takeovers.
1964Ernest B. Bull, Q.C. is appointed a Justice of the B.C. Court of Appeal, and his name is removed from the firm name, which becomes Farris, Farris, Vaughan, Taggart, Wills & Murphy.
1964Jack D. Taggart, having made a name for himself as a litigator in particular through his time spent as counsel for the British Columbia Telephone Company (BC Tel) and Inland Natural Gas Co. Ltd., is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1967David L. Vaughan is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1969Jack D. Taggart, Q.C. is appointed to the Court of Appeal and his name is removed from the firm name, leaving the firm named Farris, Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy.


Frank Murphy leads the firm through a period of growth as British Columbia continues to prosper, building a solid client base of the various businesses and industries central to the growth of the Province.
1970Founder and leader of Farris, Senator John Wallace de Beque Farris, Q.C., D.C.L., LL.B., LL.D., dies.
1971A. Keith Mitchell joins the firm.
1972The firm moves from the old Standard Building at 510 Hastings Street, where it had been located since 1923, to its current location in the TD Tower at 700 West Georgia Street.
1973John L. Farris is appointed Chief Justice, and the firm’s name changes for the last time, becoming Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy and remaining so-named to the present day.
1975John L. McAlpine is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1975Brian S. Lowe, against all efforts to the contrary, retires from practice.
1977A. Keith Mitchell becomes a partner, David L. Vaughan retires, and Charles H. Wills dies later that year.
1978Elizabeth J. Harrison becomes the first woman to join the Farris Partnership. Mrs. Harrison will go on to receive distinction for her work in mergers and acquisitions for public and private companies, corporate governance issues and restructurings and, more recently, her work on renewable and emissions-trading aspects of clean technology.
1978Frank Murphy becomes the firm’s Managing Partner and in this capacity shapes the firm’s direction for the next two decades.


Peter Butler and Jack Giles continue as lead counsel in BC on the major cases in the Courts. The firm’s tradition of building leading lawyers from within the ranks of junior lawyers continues with Keith Mitchell, Elizabeth Harrison, Alan Hamilton, and George Macintosh becoming recognized as leaders in their fields.
1982Jack M. Giles is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1984C. Frank Murphy is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1985A. Keith Mitchell is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1986Elizabeth J. Harrison is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1986Chief Justice John L. Farris dies.
1987George K. Macintosh is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1989Farris begins to grow its Biotechnology group, led by Partner R. Hector MacKay-Dunn.


Frank Murphy, Q.C. retires as Managing Partner, and Peter Butler, Q.C. leads the firm for a brief time, which is interrupted by illness. Keith Mitchell, Q.C. becomes Managing Partner.
1990Mitchell H. Gropper is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
1990Ernest B. Bull, Q.C., a man who “was held in great affection by all” (3) and returned as counsel to Farris after he retired from the B.C. Court of Appeal in 1989, dies.
1992Frank Murphy, Q.C. retires from Farris, and Peter Butler, Q.C. assumes the role of Managing Partner.
1995Peter Butler, Q.C. retires as Managing Partner due to illness, and A. Keith Mitchell, Q.C. becomes Managing Partner of the firm.


Farris celebrates its 100-year anniversary and continues to build its practice in British Columbia, expanding to include offices in Victoria and Kelowna, B.C.
As always, Farris strives to be the pre-eminent law firm in British Columbia.
2001Alan J. Hamilton and Barry T. Gibson are appointed Queen’s Counsels.
2002After nine years of poor health, Peter Butler, Q.C. succumbs to a lung infection, having made a name for himself in media law and defending and prosecuting libel cases.
2003Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy celebrates its 100-year anniversary.
2003R. Hector MacKay-Dunn is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
2003C. Frank Murphy, Q.C., a man who “transformed [Farris] from essentially a family firm to one that became well known across the country” (4), dies of complications following pneumonia.
2003The Honourable John David Taggart, Q.C., (or Jack, as he was known to all), dies.
2004Jeffrey J. Kay is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
2005Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy becomes a Limited Liability Partnership.
2005Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP opens an office in Victoria, British Columbia.
2007A. Keith Mitchell, Q.C. is appointed the first Chair of Farris, Alan J. Hamilton, Q.C. becomes Managing Partner, and Jack Giles, Q.C. retires from the practice of law.
2008Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP expands its practice into the interior of British Columbia, merging with the long-standing and reputable Kelowna firm Petraroia Langford LLP under the Farris name.
2008Herb Dodd is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
2009Robert S. Anderson is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
2009Farris Partner Barry T. Gibson, Q.C. dies.


2010Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP’s Victoria office moves to its new downtown location at 1175 Douglas Street and doubles in size.
2010James P. Hatton is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
2011Robert B. Kennedy is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
2012Herb D. Dodd, Q.C. retires from practice.
2012Kelowna’s managing partner, Dominic A. Petraroia, is appointed Queen’s Counsel.
2013Farris associate Christopher G. Walker passes away.
2013Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy’s Kelowna office moves to its new location 1631 Dickson Avenue.
2014Farris partner George K. Macintosh Q.C. appointed judge of Supreme Court of BC.
2014Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy’s Victoria office moves to its new location 1005 Langley Street.
2015Herb D. Dodd, Q.C. passes away.
2015Ludmila B. Herbst is appointed Queen’s Counsel.


1MacKay-Dunn, R. Hector. “Nos Disparus: C Francis (Frank) Murphy, Q.C.” The Advocate, 62 Pt.1 (Jan. 2004), 126.
2Murphy, C. Frank. “The Honourable Ernest Bull.” Unpublished eulogy from the Farris archives, circa 1990.
3MacKay-Dunn, R. Hector. “Nos Disparus.” The Advocate, 62 Pt.1 (Jan. 2004), 126.
© Notes and dates prior to 1970 were drawn primarily from Farris & Co. - A History of the Firm, a historical document created from notes by Ernest B. Bull, Q.C.