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Estates & Wills & Trusts

Larson offers a personal touch with house calls

Every morning, Thunder Bay wills and estates lawyer Rene Larson walks his German shepherd four kilometres near his home on a small lake north of the city.

It’s an energetic start to another day in a legal career that’s more than 40 years long, and showing no signs of waning.

"Law is a very energizing fulfilling profession,” says Larson, principal of Larson Lawyers Professional Corporation, the full-service firm he founded in Thunder Bay in 1996.

Recently, Larson has shifted his practice focus to elder law.

“I really got into the issue of how the law determines whether a person has the mental capacity to make a will or name a power of attorney,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I’ve had several cases where the person is not capable of managing their own property, but assessors have concluded that the person has the capacity to choose their power of attorney. This means the previous power of attorney can be revoked and a new one made.”

Larson, whose practice spans wills and estates, real estate, employment and commercial law, spends more than half his practice time outside the office, making house calls and hospital visits to gather instructions from clients, rather than make them come to him.

“I find that by offering services in people’s homes, they’re more relaxed,” he says. “The benefit to me is that I get a great deal of business from people over 80 years of age, because most of them aren’t driving anymore, they can’t get here.”

Plus, Larson can see their standard of living, and understand more about the person and their circumstances“If they show up at your office, you really don’t know,” he says.

Larson doesn’t charge anything extra for his travelling time, typically making house calls on his way to and from the office. Thunder Bay’s compactness makes this sort of service feasible.

“If I had to drive 30 minutes to get to somebody, that would be heavy traffic in Thunder Bay,” he says.

The seed of the idea of the law was planted at a career night in high school, when Larson met a lawyer from Thunder Bay.

After studies in political science and economics at Lakehead University, he moved to Ottawa to work.

“I quickly figured out that I couldn’t retire at such a young age,” he says. “The federal government pace was not suited to me.”

Following his studies at Osgoode Hall, Larson was called to the bar in 1975.

He established his own firm in 1996, which, with its current staff of six lawyers, offers a range of services, including offices in Marathon and Terrace Bay, Ont.

“The vision for the firm is to offer clients representation that delivers results, and is fair on the pocketbook,” Larson says. “One of the things about practising in a smaller town is if somebody needs another type of legal service besides buying a house or making a will, you don’t want to turn them down. We make sure that the client doesn’t have to look for another lawyer to service those needs.”  

Larson parlayed his interest in politics into serving on city council for two terms, first in 1976 and again in 2000.

“That beat it out of me,” he says, laughing.

Along with his law practice, Larson is interested in real estate and has plans to develop a conference and retreat centre on his 75-acre property north of the city.

He says one of the most exciting developments in his community in recent years is the founding of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University, where he began teaching a wills and estates course in September. The program provides a steady flow of young lawyers to the local market.

President of Thunder Bay Law Society, which has approximately 220 active members, Larson and other colleagues in northwestern Ontario used to have to go to Toronto or other big cities to recruit emerging talent.

“The supply of lawyers is greater here now,” he says. “With approx. 80 new lawyers a year from Lakehead, there are more young people interested in staying in the area.”

A member of the board of directors of the Federation of Ontario Law Associations, Larson is interested in how technology is changing the practice of law, including driving opportunities for interaction and collaboration with lawyers from across the province who have need of legal help in the Thunder Bay area.

“Things are changing,” Larson says. “This is my opportunity to reach out and help others, especially in the elder law and estates administration across Ontario.” 

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