Our History

The quest for better solutions

Stikeman and Elliott

Stikeman Elliott opened its doors on February 1, 1952, in the Bank of Canada Building at the foot of Beaver Hall Hill in Montréal. The firm’s founders, Heward Stikeman and Fraser Elliott, met as junior partners in an established local firm, and the two believed they could offer a new perspective to significant commercial files. In the optimistic spirit of the postwar era, they wanted to create a firm that provided clear direction and solutions, rather than compromising client vision. That direction and passion has been driving Stikeman Elliott, and delivering success to our clients, ever since.

In the first years, Stikeman Elliott lent this practical approach exclusively to taxation and corporate law. Not yet 40, Stikeman had already built his reputation as a tax lawyer thanks to wartime employment at the Department of National Revenue. This was balanced by Elliott’s business-minded dedication, which helped promote the young firm with great success in Montréal and beyond. Their dedicated and singular approach opened doors to clients who recognized and appreciated the Stikeman Elliott difference.

Individual talent and collective leadership

Although they had initially planned to keep the firm small, the success of Stikeman Elliott in the 1950s obliged the firm to take a closer look at their offering. Talented young lawyers, such as tax specialist George Tamaki and future Prime Minister John Turner were bringing in additional business, and clients were asking for advice on an increasingly broad range of topics. It was here that foresight became a means to drive collective success, and the firm expanded to meet their clients’ changing demands. In 1962, Stikeman Elliott moved to the brand-new CIBC Tower, where the Montréal office can still be found today.

Stikeman Elliott outpaced most of its senior competitors in Montréal to become one of the city’s leading firms. Their mission evolved to become the globally recognized leader in Canadian business law. This began with new offices in London (1969) and Toronto (1971), where a bifurcated structure had to be devised to ensure compliance with provincial law society regulations. However, the firm proved as adept at structuring itself as it was at creating business structures for clients, and Canada’s first significant interprovincial law practice was born.

In Toronto, Stikeman Elliott once again established itself as a significant presence. Retired Ontario Premier, John Robarts, was recruited to the office in the new Commerce Court complex. The firm’s practical, no-nonsense approach continued with the hiring of John Sopinka, later a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, as senior partner—and by the mid-1980s, Stikeman Elliott was a leading corporate, tax, real estate, and litigation specialist in Ontario.

Doing business with Canada around the world

The commitment to become a global leader in Canadian business law took a larger leap in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1980, the firm set up an office in Hong Kong that operated for over two decades. Three years later, the New York office was established, a first for a major Canadian firm. Recognizing the growing importance of federal regulatory law and the western Canadian economy, the firm expanded to Ottawa (1981), Vancouver (1988) and Calgary (1992). The last office was opened in Sydney in 1997 — the first Canadian firm to operate in Australia. By the turn of the century, Stikeman Elliott was well established as a full-service leader across Canada and enjoyed an outstanding reputation in virtually every corner of the world.

Experience plus passion equals innovation

In today’s challenging marketplace, Stikeman Elliott continues to be the firm that clients call when it counts the most, whether it’s in Canada, the U.S. or around the world. Our passion, combined with decades of experience in each of the firm’s key markets, as well as the dynamic spirit of innovation that comes from within, are all what enable us to continue delivering creative solutions to a wide variety of issues—offering clear direction and counsel while ensuring the challenges faced by our clients—both old and new—are firmly our own.