The history of RSS
Robinson Sheppard Shapiro LLP has a long history of professional achievement and success. Since 1921, RSS has earned its stellar reputation and distinction in the business world by offering exceptional legal services at the provincial, national and international levels. Approaching its centennial, RSS presents a portrait of its history by highlighting particular dates and events that have marked its evolution.
Benjamin Robinson was born and grew up in Portland, Maine, the ninth and youngest child of a family of Russian immigrants.
Joseph Shapiro was born and grew up in Montreal, the second eldest of eight children.
Benjamin Robinson graduated from Harvard University.
Joseph Shapiro and Benjamin Robinson graduated from McGill University Law School.
Benjamin Robinson (the father of partner Jonathan J. Robinson) and Joseph Shapiro (the father of partner Barry H. Shapiro) founded the Robinson & Shapiro law partnership located in the Transportation Building at 132 St. James Street West, in the City of Montreal.
Within a few years after its formation, Robinson & Shapiro became one of the most prestigious smaller law firms in Montreal with a variety of successful clients and a multi-faceted law practice.
In the 1930’s, its main clients included Steinberg’s (a growing grocery chain and real estate enterprise which eventually became the largest supermarket chain in the Province of Quebec). The clientele also included major textile and clothing manufacturers, significant fruit and vegetable wholesalers, real estate developers, mining companies, as well as a variety of small businesses.
The firm consisted of 3 lawyers and 4 support employees.
Both Benjamin Robinson and Joseph Shapiro were very active members of the Montreal Jewish Community and were heavily involved in promoting immigration to Canada of refugees from Europe before, during, and after World War II. As part of this involvement, they both served as President of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Montreal.
Between 1938 and 1940, both were named King’s Counsel (now known as Queen’s Counsel – Q.C.) in recognition of their excellence in the practice of law.
Benjamin Robinson and Joseph Shapiro were among the founders of the Lord Reading Law Society (which still exists and flourishes) whose purpose was to promote and advance the interests and well-being of lawyers of the Jewish faith, who, at that time, were subject to discrimination in many forms. Both served as President of the Society.
As a direct result of the existence of the Lord Reading Law Society, Harry Batshaw became the first Jewish judge of the Superior Court in 1949. In the same year, Benjamin Robinson became the first Jewish member of the Montreal Bar Council. He was followed thereafter by Joseph Shapiro.
While serving as in-house counsel to Steinberg’s on a part-time basis, Jonathan J. Robinson joined the flourishing practice as an active litigator and business lawyer.
Claude-Armand Sheppard joined the firm. He soon made his mark both as a business lawyer and as a litigator before the civil and criminal courts in many controversial matters including the defense of Dr. Henry Morgentaler whose three jury acquittals led to major changes in Canadian abortion law.
Benjamin Robinson was appointed as Judge of the Superior Court.
The arrival of Claude-Armand Sheppard at the firm began a trend which led the partnership to recruit anglophones and francophones of all ethnicities so that the firm today reflects Quebec society in all its diversity.
The name of the firm changed to Robinson Sheppard Shapiro.
Joseph Shapiro retired from the firm in the early 60’s after more than 40 years of successful law practice, having earned the respect of his peers both as a lawyer and as a gentleman.
After 43 years in the Transportation Building, the firm moved to the Place Victoria Stock Exchange Tower, where today it occupies the two top floors.
Barry H. Shapiro joined the firm as a business and corporate lawyer. Following in his father’s footsteps, he subsequently served as President of the Lord Reading Law Society. A few years later, he was followed by Charles E. Flam, our present managing partner, and by Herbert Z. Pinchuk, now the head of the Business Law Practice Group.
With these new additions, the firm consisted of nine lawyers. The firm specialized in business law and civil litigation.
Michel Green joined the firm and through the years developed one of the most prestigious insurance practices in Canada. At about the same time, Lynne Kassie joined the firm and soon founded what is now recognized to be the largest and most recognized family law practice in Quebec. She served as President of the Montreal Bar in 1999.
As part of the computer revolution, the first word processing system, the ancestor of the present day computer, was installed to replace the old typewriters and carbon paper.
As the firm’s growth accelerated, more clients sought advice in tax law. This new field of practice was added to Robinson Sheppard Shapiro’s range of services. Today, this practice is headed by Martin Lord.
Robinson Sheppard Shapiro consisted of 42 lawyers with expanded practice areas in employment law, with the addition of the labour law firm of Goloff & Boucher. A Transportation Law Practice Group also was initiated in that year with the arrival of Louise Baillargeon and her team, subsequently joined by Céline Trudeau.
Always eager to expand its areas of practice to serve its clientele, Lebel & Associés joined Robinson Sheppard Shapiro to expand its banking practice.With the arrival of the 21st century, Robinson Sheppard Shapiro adopted a new logo and the RSS brand.
RSS joined the International Lawyers Network (ILN) as its Quebec representative. This network, involving more than 5,000 lawyers in nearly 70 countries around the world, permits RSS to service its clientele internationally.
RSS adds immigration as another practice area when RSS merges with Arcand, Duval, Doyon, a major player in the immigration field. Its practice includes offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai through an RSS affiliate.
Apart from the internal growth of each sub-specialty, a new expertise was added at RSS with the arrival of a group of four lawyers practicing Maritime Law.
RSS GP becomes a limited liability partnership, RSS LLP.
RSS opens an office in Saguenay, to respond to the needs of clients in Eastern Quebec.
RSS expandss with an office in Saint-Jérôme, to be closer to its clients north of Montréal and in the Laurentians.
Over the years, the firm has grown at a rapid rate and now comprises more than 180 individuals of which almost half are practicing professionals. As far back as the 1950’s, RSS has been extremely proud to have been one of the first law firms to fully recognize the place of women in the practice of law.
Nine former partners of RSS became judges of the Superior Court.
Today, RSS is a multicultural bilingual firm where the culture emphasizes excellence in the practice of law, integrity, quality of life, stability, family values and giving back to the community, both in terms of services and philanthropy. RSS has and will continue to innovate.