This week marks the 40th anniversary of Dave Williams at Harrison Pensa. While he is recognized as a respected litigator and mentor, it’s his leadership at the firm to answer needs in the community that springs to mind among his colleagues.
“He has a brilliant legal mind, but he stands out by who he is as a person,” says Allison Webster, a Harrison Pensa litigator and long-time colleague.
“He is compassionate and kind, patient, and supportive. He is a true mentor and has brought countless young lawyers, including many current Partners, through the ranks. He has always been passionate and determined to have a firm that not only serves its clients with remarkable service and advice, but that is loyal and compassionate to its staff and lawyers.”
“The firm is what it is today because of Dave and his view that a firm isn’t a collection of lawyers’ practices, but a group of people committed to working as a whole to create an environment that supports one another and is like a second home. No matter how the firm may change with time, that will be Dave’s legacy.”
Dave is considered by many to be one of Ontario’s most respected civil litigators. He specializes in complex commercial litigation, plaintiff personal injury, medical malpractice, and class actions.
As a veteran litigator, Dave’s 40-year legal career has brought him before the Trial Division, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We recently had a mediation with one of the best mediators in the Province, perhaps in Canada. He told our clients that they had one of, if not the best, Plaintiff lawyer in Canada,” said Donna Tarr, a law clerk with the Personal Injury Law Practice Group who has worked with Dave for over 30 years.
Dave is a Western University grad who joined Giffen Pensa on March 1, 1981. The firm would evolve and merge with Harrison Elwood in 1999 to become Harrison Pensa. Dave was Managing Partner from the time of the merger until he stepped down from that role in 2014.
“One of the best adjectives to describe Dave is respect,” Tarr said.
“He would be the first to tell you he learned from the best, Claude Pensa. Those were big shoes to fill, and Dave filled them. He has been a leader of whichever firm we worked at since I started with him. I used to joke and say I needed a ‘where is Waldo’ sign for Dave as I would be asked daily, usually many times, from someone seeking Dave’s advice.”
“Another word to describe Dave, is trust” added Tarr. We have a very trusting relationship and I am lucky enough to have a boss that trusts me and, in fact, wants and values my opinion. That, I can tell you, is not the norm.”
Dave has been selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers as “Lawyer of the Year” for London / Windsor in the area of Corporate and Commercial Litigation, and he is recognized by his peers in the practice areas of Bet-the-Company Litigation, Personal Injury Litigation, Professional Malpractice Law, and Insurance Law.
“He is a very intelligent guy. That, in part, explains why he is able to litigate a wide variety of cases so effectively. He is not just a personal injury lawyer or an insurance defence lawyer or a commercial litigation lawyer – he does it all and he does it all quite well,” said fellow litigator Steve Atkinson, who has worked with Dave for 28 years.
Dave is both a good lawyer and a fierce advocate who has earned the respect of his peers for being a straight shooter for his entire career, Atkinson said. “He always does the right thing – or at least tries to – even if it is not easy and if it is not what he would want to do.”
Tom Robson has worked with Dave since Pensa & Associates operated out of a Waterloo Street office before merging with Harrison Elwood at 450 Talbot Street, the law firm’s current home.
“Forty years and running. What a journey,” Robson said. “It has been an honour and privilege to be associated with you. Your lawyering skills are admired, and accomplishments too many to list. Thank you for your leadership. Your friendship is greatly valued.”
- Inducted into the America College of Trial Lawyers
- Managing Partner at Harrison Pensa from 1999 until he stepped down in 2014
- Identified in Best Lawyers as “Lawyer of the Year” for London / Windsor in the area of Corporate and Commercial Litigation
- Recognized by his peers in Best Lawyers in the areas of Bet-the-Company Litigation, Personal Injury Litigation, Professional Malpractice Law, and Insurance Law
- Ranked in Chambers and Partners which identifies outstanding lawyers worldwide
- Role in the class action group involved with the Walkerton contamination of the municipal water supply system
- Represents Ontario lawyers in litigation supported by LawPro
- 10 years on the Law Society of Upper Canada Civil Litigation Specialty Committee