An Enduring Legacy

Michael Edwin Mitchell was the senior partner of Mountain Mitchell LLP. Mike passed away in Stratford on March 14, 2007 after a long battle with a rare and incurable lung disease called interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. He is sadly missed by the lawyers and staff of Monteith Ritsma Phillips Professional Corporation, but he left a legacy that is truly exemplary.

Mike had been practicing law since 1965 and in Stratford and the firm of Mountain Mitchell, since late 1967. For many of those years, (until the partners made the decision to shorten the name for practical reasons) the firm was known as Mountain, Mitchell, Hill, Monteith and Ritsma. Since the passing of Bob Mountain several years earlier, Mike was the senior partner and he was that in every sense of the word. He was our leader both in the business of running a law firm and in the practice of law itself. When Mike came to Stratford and the firm in 1967, he came basically as a solicitor which means his practice was mostly in the areas of real estate, corporate law and estates – areas that did not involve being in a courtroom. Over the years, he developed into an expert in administrative law, municipal law and employment law – all fields which brought him more and more into the courts and before various tribunals. In his long career, he therefore moved from being a solicitor to become a highly effective barrister. It is a testament to Mike’s courage and very lively brain that he made this transition at an age when few lawyers would do so.

In court or before a tribunal, Mike was, as another lawyer described him, “an extremely effective and determined litigator who was major force in Stratford’s legal community”. Certainly, Mike’s clients always got their money’s worth of effort from him, and that is high praise indeed.

In a lead article following his death, The Stratford Beacon Herald used the word “feisty” in describing Mike and that is a good description of him as a lawyer. However, it is far from complete in describing him as a man, or, for that matter, even as a lawyer. For behind that exterior, Mike had a big heart and a sharp mind. While he could be abrupt, he was also generous and helpful with friends and associates. The fact that he practised for so long with the same partners is proof of his ability to work well with others.

Mike had many interests outside the law including sailing, travel, golf, reading and racquetball. He had a broad knowledge of history and the world, in general and could be counted on to express an opinion about most subjects.

However, his greatest love was reserved for his family of which he was very proud. He had four accomplished children and ten grandchildren and was willing to bend your ear about their activities and life for as long as you were prepared to listen. His partner in his later years was Louise Spandler, a teacher, and she showed great fortitude in trying to make his final time as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

It is a shame, and somewhat ironic that Mike who always had a never-say-die attitude, had to finally submit to that option. He is greatly missed but will never be forgotten. One of his lasting legacies is that he left our former partnership with strong values and the commitment to serve our clients and the community, in his spirit and with his dedication.