Baker Newby LLP and its predecessor firms have been practicing law in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia since 1937. Starting with a sole practitioner in Depression-era Chilliwack, the Firm has grown to become one of the largest law firms in British Columbia outside Vancouver.
In 1937, our law firm emerged out of the shadow of the Great Depression, and over the past 83 years it has grown along with the Fraser Valley region it has served.
The firm now known as Baker Newby LLP got its start in 1937, when the enterprising lawyer David Sturdy opened his first office, in Chilliwack. In 1944, a young Frank Wilson became an articled student of David Sturdy. He would eventually take over the firm’s operations after Sturdy’s departure.
Frank Wilson and his wife initially emigrated to Vancouver from Germany following Hitler’s rise to power in the late 1930s. He had graduated from the University of London with a degree in engineering before coming to Canada. After discovering that engineering work was scarce in British Columbia, however, he went to work in Alberta before returning to school to complete a Master’s degree in education. It was while working as the principal of a school in Mission that he became interested in the law. His rich and varied experience would serve him well in this challenging discipline.
In its earliest days, the firm was located in a tiny office on Young Street, in downtown Chilliwack, across from the landmark Empress Hotel. While the firm may have been small at this time, Chilliwack was the judicial centre of the Fraser Valley during the 1940s, as its County Court building was the only courthouse between New Westminster and Hope.
In 1950, David Hinds became an articled student of Frank Wilson’s. Mr. Hinds was born in Kent, England, and his father was in the hop-growing business for fine English ales. When he was still a young boy David’s family moved to Chilliwack and his father began growing hops in the Fraser Valley region. He attended law school at UBC, graduating in 1950, only the second graduating class from UBC, before joining the firm.
In 1954, William (“Bill”) Davies articled with the firm, then called “Wilson and Hinds”. He would subsequently become a partner, resulting in the name of the firm expanding to “Wilson, Hinds and Davies”.
Bill Davies had completed his law degree at UBC after three years of undergraduate studies in the humanities. Before beginning his articles with the firm, he had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, working in the JAG branch. While most articling students in Vancouver made $50 per month, he made $75 for the first 6 months before Mr. Wilson, as a Christmas raise, increased his wage to $100 per month. Mr. Davies would inherit most of David Sturdy’s conveyancing practice after Sturdy left the firm, charging $10 for deeds and $15 for mortgages.
In the 1950s, the firm’s offices were located on Princess Avenue on the second floor of a building overlooking the Empress Hotel’s entrance, in what had been a dental office. Of note, Davies was the only lawyer in the province to have a fully-equipped dental sink in his office.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the firm was one of the most respected prosecution firms in the province, with both Wilson and Hinds handling complex criminal matters. After the British Columbia Provincial Police were replaced by the RCMP in 1950, the firm continued to work closely with law enforcement to prosecute all criminal matters.
The firm’s lawyers faced unique challenges in the days before online research and iPads made information access second nature. While the firm had an extensive library, often lawyers would have to travel on “circuit court” to conduct trials in remote areas of the province, a practice which still exists today but with the added convenience of laptops and internet access. After travelling to the northern regions of the province, our lawyers would often have to write out charges by hand into the early hours of the morning to get ready for the next day, even after being in court on a murder trial the entire previous day.
Given the increasing reputation of the firm and the expanding population of the Fraser Valley, the volume of work grew exponentially, so in 1966 the firm hired James Baker, a skilled criminal lawyer from downtown Vancouver.
Mr. Baker in turn called his friend Darragh Vamplew. They had shared an office at the Vancouver prosecutor’s office at 312 Main Street, and he invited Mr. Vamplew to Chilliwack.
In 1970, Max Newby, an articling student in Kamloops, was offered a partnership at the firm. After a brief moment of hesitation, Newby accepted. The firm continued to grow.
Baker Newby LLP continued to have a distinguished legal history in the years that followed, as four of our former partners were appointed to the bench:
Frank Wilson was appointed as a judge of the County Court of New Westminster in 1967.
William H. Davies, QC was appointed as a judge of the County Court of New Westminster in 1978 and the B.C. Supreme Court in 1982.
David B. Hinds, QC was appointed as a judge to the County Court of New Westminster in 1977, the B.C. Supreme Court in 1980, and the B.C. Court of Appeal in 1990.
Darragh Vamplew was appointed as a judge to the Provincial Court of B.C. in 1976.
Baker Newby LLP continues to have a distinguished legal reputation through to our present day, as three of our current partners, Laurence R. Stinson, David M. Renwick and W. Martin Finch have all been awarded the distinction of Queen’s Counsel. The Queen’s Counsel designation is an honor conferred on members of the legal profession to recognize exceptional merit and contribution. Appointments require that nominees demonstrate professional integrity and good character.
The Partners and Associates of Baker Newby LLP have always believed in serving the communities in which they live and work. We have always been active in local bar associations, with many of us serving as executives in the Chilliwack and Abbotsford Bar Associations and in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, and Canadian Bar Associations. We also traditionally participate in community affairs, from serving on hospital and school boards, to holding executive positions with numerous local, provincial, and national service and charitable organizations.
We, the lawyers of Baker Newby LLP, are mindful of our Firm’s prestigious history, and are committed to ensuring that our Firm provides excellent, timely, and cost-effective legal services from all its offices, and that it continues its tradition of making a meaningful contribution to improving the quality of life in British Columbia.
The Partnership History of Baker Newby LLP
1966 James Baker accepts partnership (resigned 201X, deceased 2019)
1970 Maxwell Newby accepts partnership (resigned 201X)
1973 John Lee accepts partnership (resigned 201X)
- Laurence Stinson accepts partnership
- David Renwick accepts partnership
1986 Ron Kelly accepts partnership
1994 Martin Finch accept partnership
1995 Trevin Rogers accepts partnership
1998 Adnan Habib accepts partnership
2006 Todd Harvey accepts partnership
2011 Cristen Gleeson accepts partnership
201 Jordan Forsyth accepts partnership
2019 Jessie Ramsay accepts partnership