The Discovery: How Harcourts has made lawyer gowns for almost two centuries

Harcourts legal gown

Paper patterns hang behind a legal gown made by Harcourts, which goes through 6,400 metres of fabric and 24,000 buttons each year

In a building just west of Toronto’s financial district, two dozen sewers stoop over workstations. Amid fabric-cutting tables and rows of humming sewing machines, these skilled hands are transforming cotton, wool and silk into flowing black legal gowns.

The company in charge is Harcourts, a leading robemaker for Canadian lawyers. And, this month, Harcourts is busier than ever: it needs to deliver about 600 gowns to Ontario law students for their called-to-the-bar ceremonies in June.

“We call it a factory, but it’s really a tailor shop,” says vice-president Brian Weese, standing in the Adelaide Street workshop.

Harcourts, which also makes academic gowns and clerical garments, has been in Toronto since 1842. Five years ago, the American-based robemaker Oak Hall Industries bought the company. But the new owners hardly changed a thing. The gowns are still stitched together locally, never offshore. And each one, a mix of priest’s cassock and Hogwarts uniform, looks exactly the same. “The one thing we are not,” says Weese, “is a slave to fashion.”

Precedent Summer 2017 IssueThis story is from our Summer 2017 issue.




Photo by Chris Thomaidis

The Circuit: Precedent Setter Awards 2014

What: Precedent Setter Awards 2014
Where: Stratus Restaurant, 79 Wellington St. W.
When: June 11, 2014

Last week, more than 120 lawyers and guests packed into Stratus restaurant in Toronto to recognize this year’s Precedent Setter Award winners. Held atop the TD Tower in the downtown core, our annual event brought guests together to mingle and meet our winners, in their first 10 years of practice, are blazing new trails in the profession.

During the evening, Melissa Kluger, publisher and editor of Precedent, presented the winners with a framed version of their photographs from the magazine. Unique to this year, Kluger also handed out commemorative pins to this year’s crop of top lawyers and the past winners in attendance. To see Precedent Setters both old and new come together made the evening all the more special.

We’d also like to extend a big thank-you to our presenting sponsor RainMaker Group and our event sponsors the Cambridge Group of Clubs, Deloitte, Laurel Hill Advisory Group, and Harcourts.

Congratulations once again to all our winners:

Paul-Erik VeelPaul-Erik Veel
Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Read Paul-Erik’s profile



Alexi WoodAlexi Wood
Associate, Davis LLP
Read Alexi’s profile



Andrea GonsalvesAndrea Gonsalves
Partner, Stockwoods LLP Barristers
Read Andrea’s profile



Nikiforos IatrouNikiforos Iatrou
Partner, WeirFoulds LLP
Read Niki’s profile



Ronan LevyRonan Levy
Corporate Counsel, Cognition LLP
Read Ronan’s profile



Event photography by Yvonne Bambrick