Estates & Wills & Trusts

Hull honoured with Honsberger award

By Kate Wallace, Contributor

It was largely from his father and former partner, the late Rodney Hull Q.C. LSM, that Toronto estates and trusts lawyer Ian Hull was taught to give back, and his community work is one of the three pillars of the Honsberger Award, which he will receive in March.

“I was quite surprised and shocked, I didn’t see it coming,” says Hull, who co-founded Hull & Hull LLP with his father in 1998.

“I thought it was a great honour. I know the award, and other recipients,” he tells “It was a really nice feeling."

Presented by the Toronto Lawyer’s Association (TLA), the Honsberger is unique in that it is the association’s only award whose nominations come from the membership. The award, named for past TLA president and historian John D. Honsberger, annually recognizes a member who personifies the TLA’s three pillars: knowledge, advocacy and community. It will be presented on March 8 at the association’s 18th annual awards reception.

Hull has been active in the TLA from the very start of his career. Early on, after graduating from the University of Windsor Law School and being called to the bar in 1990, he became active on the advice of his mentor and joined the board.

“I’ve worked closely with them ever since,” he says, including, currently, acting as chair of the Law Society Foundation, which, among its various activities, oversees the Lawyers Feed the Hungry Program, which provides more than 60,000 hot, healthy meals each year.

“I’ve been very focused on the oversight and administration,” Hull says, including taking fundraising to new levels to give the program stability and increased impact.

His predecessor, the late Marty Teplitsky, instilled in Hull the essential qualities of the program.

“It was very important to treat the guests with dignity, to provide good food and good service and kindness,” Hull says. “That’s always been a high priority of the program.”

Along with his behind-the-scenes administrative work, Hull has also worked on the front lines of the program over the years, serving the guests, seeing the real-life impact.

“We are excited about where it’s going,” he says. “Last year we raised more money than ever, so we are headed in the right direction, moving forward with ambitious plans. We have turned the corner to make it more sustainable.”

The Honsberger Award’s second pillar, knowledge, has been a constant in Hull’s career. Early on, when he was moving into an estates practice, the rules in that area were changing, and his wills and estates colleagues were focused on learning the nuances of the new regulations.

“As a consequence, I wrote a book,” says Hull. “It allowed me to look at the history and look at going forward. It was a great kick-start for me.”

He has published four more books since, with his sixth slated for release next year, and a seventh in the works, along with hundreds of articles. Hull also frequently lectures at various law associations and is working with Ryerson University’s innovative Law Practice Program, an interactive option for articling stream students, to develop its estates section.

“It’s a really important part of my practice,” Hull says, of his sharing of knowledge.

“The big thing for me about estates is you need to keep a balance between practice and academics because the historical elements are so important.”

The Honsberger Award’s third pillar, advocacy, has been baked into Hull’s practice from Day 1.

“I’ve had the benefit of starting my career before mandatory mediation was in place, so as a consequence I was forced to argue more in court than I am today,” he says.

Although Hull’s courtroom time has decreased over the course of his career, 2018 will see his firm achieve an important milestone when it argues before the Supreme Court of Canada for the first time since his father, who appeared before the high court many times in his career, did.

For Hull, though, as exciting as the upcoming Supreme Court case will be, it’s not the full measure of success as he learned it from his dad.

“He was the guy who instilled in me you don’t just come in and do your work and go home. He was a real leader in community activity, he was involved in politics, charity work, he helped start a camp for disabled children. He was very focused on giving back,” Hull says. “He recognized that professionals go way beyond the practice of law.”

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