Carleton Place’s Ken Bennett practicing law for 40 years
Ken Bennett is celebrating 40 years of practicing law.
Bennett was called to the bar in March 1977, and the 76-year-old has practiced law in Carleton Place since then.
“I enjoy what I am doing,” Bennett told the Canadian Gazette on Aug. 4, “and I am still in good health.”
With a laugh, he added: “I have lots of clients who tell me I cannot retire.”
Although he does wills and estates and a little bit of corporate law, 75 per cent of Bennett’s practice is real estate.
At Code’s Mill in Perth on June 6, during the County of Lanark Law Association’s annual general meeting, Bennett and five other area lawyers were honoured for their decades of practicing law. They were: Alan Jones of Carleton Place, called to the bar in 1975; James Bond from Perth, called to the bar in 1972; Michael Ross of Smiths Falls, called to the bar in 1977; Perth’s Gary Chaplin, called to the bar in 1976; and Paul Howard from Smiths Falls, called to the bar in 1976.
A Carleton Place native, Bennett was born in a house on Park Avenue in 1940. His father owned Vic Bennett Motors in town, a General Motors dealership.
“I worked in the garage when I was a kid,” Bennett said. “I pumped gas and I worked in the grease rack, and I also cleaned up used cars.”
Before moving to locations on Townline Road West and McNeely Avenue, the dealership was situated at the corner of Bridge and High streets. In 2015, the family sold the dealership to Keith Bean.
With a love of school, Bennett never joined the family business. He did his undergraduate studies at Carleton University, receiving a bachelor of arts in 1962.
“I then went to teachers’ college at Queen’s University,” he explained, “and back in those days you only had to go for two summers because there was a shortage of teachers.”
In September 1962 Bennett began teaching English and history at North Grenville District High School. He spent two years in Kemptville before moving to Almonte and District High School.
“I was there for eight years,” he said, “and I headed up the English department when I left.”
Bennett wanted a career change, and with an interest in law, he applied to the University of Ottawa.
“I began my studies in fall 1973,” the solicitor said.
After obtaining his law degree, Bennett accepted a one-year articling position with respected Carleton Place lawyer Karl Bruun. The firm was located at 74 Bridge St., now the site of the Ottawa Business Centre.
Put on by the Law Society of Upper Canada, “the bar admission course was next, which was another full year,” he said.
Bennett immediately started practicing law in 1977, working alongside Bruun.
“I started off doing basically everything, including criminal and family law,” he said. “Karl focused on real estate.”
However, Bennett quickly realized he did not like doing family or criminal law, owing to the stress. Too, “there is a lot of paperwork involved in family law.”
“When Karl retired in 1995, I took over the practice,” he said.
In 2002, the law firm moved to its current location: 32 Beckwith St.
Bennett praised his excellent staff: Heather Porteous and Ellie Montgomery. Porteous has been employed with the firm for 33 years and Montgomery for nine years.
“They are excellent staff,” he said, “and we all get along.”
In an email sent to this newspaper from Porteous and Montgomery, they said: “Ken is an employer who cares about his employees in the office and on a personal basis. His main objective in practicing law is to resolve issues and assist people. Time again, he has demonstrated there are always two sides to every situation. He is fair to all parties involved and reaches for compromise. All in all, Ken Bennett is an excellent employer, teacher and friend.”
In terms of highlights over the past four decades, “when I used to do litigation, I had a couple of cases published by the Law Society of Upper Canada,” Bennett said.
Like his colleague Jones, he agreed the practice of law has evolved quite a bit over time.
“The practice of law has changed a lot because of technology,” Bennett said.
Nowadays, law firms use computers to conduct discovery, draft legal documents, comply with government regulations and perform other professional tasks.
“When I started practicing, secretaries were using typewriters,” Bennett said.
“Too, we are in the age of electronic registrations,” he continued. “You do not need to go to the registry office to close a deal.”
Bennett is divorced and has two adult children: sons Bryce and Rod.
When the lawyer is not working he spends time cutting firewood at his home in Scotch Corners. Calling the property a marginal farm, the solicitor cuts trails through the bush as well. He is also an avid reader, picking up a book each day.
Bennett is a past chair of the Carleton Place & District Memorial Hospital board, and he is one of the founding members and the first president of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.
“I also spent one term on Carleton Place council,” he said. “The late Eldon Henderson was mayor.”
One of Bennett’s proudest achievements came when he was appointed by council to be the municipality’s representative on the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) in December 1981. He actively pushed for the MVCA’s acquisition of the Purdon Bog in 1984. Now called Purdon Conservation Area, the site near McDonalds Corners is a unique wetland famous for its exceptionally large native colony of Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids.
As an environmentalist, “I thought it was something important,” Bennett said.
So, what advice does Bennett have for young attorneys or students pursuing a career in law?
“They better be prepared to work hard,” he said. “It is demanding.”
“I really do consider it a privilege to practice law,” the solicitor continued. “However, it can be frustrating.”
Remembering back to his second year of law school, Bennett considered quitting, unsure if he had a legal mind. So, he went to speak with one of his professors.
“I was told a lawyer needs determination, and he or she must never give up,” he said.
“It ticked me off,” Bennett added with a smile. “I could not quit after he told me that.”
Living and working in a small town has many advantages.
“It is definitely a lifestyle one wants, and you truly know your clients,” Bennett said. “It is different in a big city.”
Knowing his practice cannot go on forever, the long-time lawyer hopes to find someone to take it over.
As printed in the Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette