Lawyer remembered for his generosity, passion for law

Martin Teplitsky, right with son Bradley

A friend once described him as “the real deal,” Nancy Backhouse mused of her husband, prominent laywer Martin Teplitsky, who died July 14 at the age of 75.

“He embodied the best qualities of a lawyer in a profession that’s often disparaged – he was an honest, stand-up, brilliant guy who made his clients feel like he’d protect them and deal with every problem brilliantly,” Backhouse, who is a superior court judge, said.

A prominent commercial litigator known for his razor sharp intellect and legal expertise, Teplitsky has been similarly praised for his remarkable generosity and sense of community.

In 1998, he and Backhouse founded the program Lawyers Feed the Hungry.

Run by the Law Society of Upper Canada’s charitable foundation, the program provides community meals to Toronto residents in need several days a week.

Called to the bar in 1966, Teplitsky co-founded a boutique litigation firm, worked as a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and published extensively on legal matters.

“Marty could become an expert of any matter. He had this inestimable thirst for learning and ability to learn,” said Stephen Brunswick, a partner at Teplitsky, Colson LLP, which Teplitsky co-founded more than 30 years ago.

“We’re talking about a pillar of the community – both the legal community and beyond. A man who had the respect of judges, practitioners… A leading arbitrator and mediator who was recognized nationally, if not beyond that, “ Brunswick said.

He stressed: “Apart from practice, Marty was a philanthropist who was very caring about human beings and wasn’t arrogant in the slightest.”

Teplitsky was born in Toronto in 1941 to parents of Jewish Russian origin.

According to his son, Bradley, his father and his father’s sister, Betty, “grew up poor” and his commitment to helping others was likely instilled in him early on by his parents. After World War II, the family temporarily took in two teenaged boys who’d survived the Holocaust.

Teplitsky’s father, Jack, owned a bowling alley, and Teplitsky started working there as a teenager. He later worked delivering prescriptions for a pharmacy.

He attended Harbord Collegiate and, according to Bradley, felt torn about whether to become a lawyer or a teacher.

The former won out, and Teplitsky went on to study law at the University of Toronto.

He met his first wife, Susan, in the early 1960s and the two had daughter Sheryl and son Bradley, living near Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road.

Teplitsky started working at a firm called Segman Chernos, but left in the 1970s to teach procedure and the law of torts at Osgoode.

In the late 1970s, he teamed up with Bob Colson to form Teplitsky Colson, which was first located on Yonge Street and later moved to its current location at 70 Bond St..

Teplitsky quickly became known as one of Canada’s most respected mediators and arbitrators, representing large companies such as Air Canada.

He was passionate about the study of law and published numerous scholarly articles about access to justice, tort law, arbitration and mediation.


“He had an unparalleled understanding of the law, and at the same time, he was very practical and in touch with clients’ needs,” Brunswick said.

Teplitsky was a devoted mentor, he said, and helped many lawyers become successful.

Ian Hull, chair of the Law Society Foundation and a partner at the firm Hull & Hull LLP, said Teplitsky was very much a mentor to him.

“I do estate law, and he’d bring me in on files from time to time to deal with issues related to estate matters… he’d have me on my toes in every meeting with so many questions… He had such a wide understanding of human nature. He knew people and how they behave, and his wisdom drove every solution,” Hull said.

Hull also worked with Teplitsky on Lawyers Feed the Hungry and noted that Teplitsky was always adamant that the quality of the food served was the highest possible and that every person who came for a meal was treated as a guest.

“He was also an incredible fundraiser. He was insatiable. Every time I saw him he’d say, ‘Here’s this guy you gotta call.” He was constantly looking to different avenues to fundraising,” Hull added.

Bradley said his father was not religious, but cared deeply about Jewish traditions.

Throughout the years, he was extremely committed to helping to raise money for Chabad Lubavitch.

“He was a great father. We used to play baseball together all the time. On Sundays, I’d go to his office and do my homework and he’d work on his files. Then we’d go see a movie. We had a very close relationship,” Bradley said.

Teplitsky and Susan eventually divorced, and in the early 1990s, he married a woman named Jennifer Jackson. They divorced, and 15 years ago, he married Backhouse.

“His death is a huge loss for everyone that knew him. So many people – people from all walks of life – were touched by him,” Backhouse said.

Teplitsky died of pancreatic cancer at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Along with his wife and two children, he leaves behind four grandchildren, three stepsons and a stepdaughter.