As its founder begins his retirement, the law firm that bears his name works to position itself for another 45 years of client focused success

Chris Breen with banners.jpg

Retirement and Reflections on Two Families

No matter which way you look at it, 45 years is a long time to be devoted to just about anything.  Be it a marriage, a sport, a hobby, or a career, it takes a certain type of focus, discipline, and passion to not only be an active participant in that endeavour, but to also experience consistent success.  While Christopher Breen may not have specifically set out to become one of the longest practicing lawyers in the Burlington and Waterdown areas, his knowledgeable and even-keeled approach to dealing with clients, staff, and other lawyers provided him with the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Born into a loving family, Mr. Breen’s father piloted Catalina Flying Boats on the East Coast during World War 2 before joining Air Canada, enjoying a long career piloting 747’s and retiring as a senior captain.  Growing up, Chris was never exposed to the legal profession or felt pressured by family tradition to become a lawyer like many other solicitors of his generation.  Having graduated from the University of Toronto (St. Mike’s College) with a liberal arts degree, it was actually a group of friends who got Mr. Breen to consider applying to law school, and he set his sights on attending Dalhousie University in Halifax.  According to Breen, calling from his home office in Burlington, “At the time, Dalhousie was considered the premier law school in the Atlantic region.  It had a great reputation and provided valuable practical experience, not just theoretical knowledge.”

“To be honest”, Mr. Breen continues, “the career path I ended up on was born partially out of interest, but also equally out of necessity.”  Once at Dalhousie, Mr. Breen figured that one significant life decision deserves another, and wasted no time in moving forward and getting married while away at law school, thus making it even more important to complete his studies to be able to provide for his loved ones.  “It definitely made things a little more difficult than it probably had to be” says Breen, “but it was something that was important for us to do, so why delay the inevitable?”

After graduation Chris and his family, which now included his wife Natalie and their first of four children, returned to Ontario.  This was where the best opportunities existed to article with a top firm.  Fortunately, Chris was able to do just that as one of only three students at the time to get in with the firm of McKinnon McTaggart, which is well known for producing top quality lawyers as well as Ontario and Supreme Court Justices.  Following being called to the bar, Mr. Breen opened the law firm of Breen & Carter with an associate in 1973, with offices located in both Burlington and Milton.  It didn’t take long for him to get noticed.  “Back then,” says Breen, “we took a lot of flack in the industry because we were the first ones in Halton region to implement a standard block or flat legal fee for our services.  Up until this point, especially concerning real estate transactions, the old fee system was based on a percentage of value.”  Chris continues, “There was a lot of resistance from other lawyers to adopt this new approach, but we saw it as the fairest way to align our clients’ needs with the specific work that we wanted to be doing.”  Eventually, Breen and Carter separated with Carter overseeing operations in Milton, and Breen taking full control of the Burlington office on Fairview Street, between Walkers and Guelph Lines.  In fact, as another testament to the enduring foundation and reputation that has been established, the Breen Law office can still be located in the same building on Fairview that it has called home since 1974, albeit with a few interior renovations.

Early on, Mr. Breen understood that surrounding himself with great people was going to be an important factor in his ability to maintain a successful practice.  In the areas of law that he chose to focus on, such as residential real estate, commercial and corporate matters, and Wills and estate administration, the clerks and assistants are often called upon to regularly communicate with clients, other law firms, and government offices.  Therefore, he paid close attention to make sure that his staff possessed a dependable level of industry experience, but more importantly a desire to interact with and help people.  “I can’t say enough about the support staff we have had work for us over the years”, says Chris, who sentimentally refers to the Breen employees as his second family.  “Some have come and gone, and some have stayed for long periods of time, but every one has been relied on heavily to produce good work, and we are so thankful for all of their efforts.”

In February of 2017, the Breen Law family took a significant step towards ensuring its ability to service future generations as it welcomed Mr. J. Ryan J. Carson to the firm.  Even though Ryan already had his own growing practice with Carson Law, the importance that he placed on providing high customer service for good value made Ryan’s integration into the team fairly seamless.  It was also very important to Mr. Breen to know that his staff would be taken care of following his eventual departure, and this was something that Ryan was more than willing to have happen.  According to Ryan, “Like Mr. Breen, I understand that successful law firms are much, much more than just the lawyer whose name is on the wall.  We have tried to create a team environment where the staff takes pride in the firm’s reputation and is ready and willing to help each other out in their daily tasks.”  Ryan continues, “I am very honoured by the fact that such an established lawyer has trusted me to take control and continue the legacy that he started.  When I came on board in 2017, it was my intention to try and keep things as status quo as possible… after all, Mr. Breen had developed an equation that had worked for over four decades and I was excited to learn from it.”  Since Chris’ formal retirement announcement, steps have been made to integrate the operations of Carson and Breen Law together, adopting the best processes and procedures from each firm while still staying true to the history.  Again, according to Ryan, “Too much time, care, and energy has been put into cultivating the Breen name for us to allow it to disappear.  Out of respect for what Chris has accomplished, we are going to make sure Breen Law remains relevant in the Burlington, Waterdown, and surrounding areas for years to come.”

While many people would be honoured to receive accolades associated with successfully performing a career for almost half a century, Mr. Breen is actually quick to downplay the significance.  “Like I have said before, I never specifically started out with any grandiose aspirations or expected to grow like we did.  My main focus was to provide a quality service at fair prices.  Staying true to this has allowed for a lot of blessings to come through the firm, which Natalie and I are very thankful for, but now it is time to move on.”  However, one significant honour that Chris is quick to draw attention to is not related to his own personal professional success, but rather that of his children.  In retrospect, it should come as no surprise that the business of a man who took great care in treating his employees like family would become a place that could contribute to the growth and development of his children.  Over time, each of Chris and Natalie’s four children have worked for the firm in some capacity.  While they may not have chosen to settle in the Burlington area and take over their father’s practice, they have all forged very successful professional careers of their own.  In fact, between his offspring and their spouses, Chris boasts that four of them are lawyers and two are doctors, which he is extremely proud of and would consider to be his true legacy.

Anyone wishing to extend their best wishes, send a message of congratulations to Chris Breen, or connect with the law firm can do so using the following contact information: