1857: It started with two solicitors
Harrison Elwood can trace its roots back to around 1857, to a predecessor firm consisting of Verschoyle Cronyn and Frederick P. Betts. A publication printed at the time noted the firm “[has] always had, if not the best, one of the best solicitors’ practices in London,” credited largely to the legal work sent from the Huron and Erie Mortgage Corporation, the Canada Trust Company and the Bank of Commerce.
1934: And Harrison makes three
John D. Harrison joined the two-person firm headed by Frederick C. Betts, son of Frederick P. Betts. The younger Betts was a member of parliament, elected to the House of Commons in 1935. The work of the firm was focused on mortgage and estate work, credited to the close relationship the firm continued to have with the Huron and Erie Mortgage Corporation.
1938: Elwood joins the firm
Edward C. Elwood joined the firm out of law school at a monthly salary of $100. Thankfully, for articling students and junior associates, their wages have appreciated since then. This began the formation of the Harrison and Elwood surnames, which would evolve into Harrison & Elwood.
1962: Giffen Pensa litigation is formed
Claude Pensa began practicing law in London in 1956. In 1962, Pensa and Jim Giffen formed Giffen Pensa. As two young lawyers forging their own path, Pensa and Giffen worked long hours, taking anything and everything that came in the door. The firm was guided by a principle that is still relevant for today’s young lawyers: you never know where the most insignificant assignment could ultimately lead in terms of building a practice.
1985: Pensa & Associates is born
In 1985, Pensa and Giffen parted ways, and a group of eight lawyers started Pensa & Associates. This new firm prided itself on saying that, as time went on and the firm grew, the people that joined the firm largely remained in the fold; a good test of the stability of a law firm. A number of loyal and productive insurance company clients entrusted the firm with its legal work, which contributed to its stability.
Early 1990s: Long-time Downtown London business
Pensa & Associates moves to the 10th floor of the Dufferin Corporate Centre in Downtown London.
1999: Two firms merge
Pensa & Associates and Harrison Elwood steadily grew in size and clientele over the years. While both firms maintained solicitor and litigation practices, Harrison Elwood continued its formidable reputation for its solicitor work, while Pensa & Associates did the same on the litigation side. It was a natural fit when the firms merged in 1999 to form Harrison Pensa, becoming one of the largest law firms in Southwestern Ontario. The merged firms were based at 450 Talbot Street, the home of Harrison Elwood.
2003: London Lawyers Feed the Hungry
Claude Pensa and wife, Elaine, founded London Lawyers Feed the Hungry, a program that has raised over $500,000 over the years in support of emergency meal programs. Courthouse Rocks is the program’s primary fundraiser with members of the legal community taking the stage to raise money.
The signature “HP” initials became the image of the firm and unique frontage of the 450 Talbot Street building.
2014: Claude Pensa retires
After 57 years in litigation and mediation, Claude Pensa retires from practicing law. Among his achievements, Pensa argued Modde v Dominion Glass Co, an oil and gas lease case, at the Supreme Court of Canada. He devoted his career to advocating for human rights and named Canada’s creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as one of his most satisfying moments in law.
1999 – 2023: Growth in numbers and initiatives
Harrison Pensa has +50 lawyers practicing in 17 areas of law becoming trusted advisors and leaders in the legal service industry. The firm continues to build on the reputation established by its founders reflective of decades of exceptional client service in the region. Amongst other accomplishments, Harrison Pensa has formed a community relations approach to support local causes and groups, grew its summer law student and articling student programs, established awards and support for students including the Brad Hodgson Civil Litigation Award for law students, formed a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy and a sustainability plan.
2022: New home, new brand
Harrison Pensa asserts its commitment to Downtown London by relocating two blocks north to the Dufferin Corporate Centre, occupying 40,000 sq. ft. over four floors. It was a homecoming of sorts, returning to the office premises once occupied by Pensa & Associates. An updated logo with custom font celebrates the firm’s strong brand identity, longevity, and conveys confidence befitting of our well-established law firm. The firm is well positioned to continue the tradition its founders started many decades ago.