The official guide, powered by On the Road magazine

A Local Family Business, With A Provincial Reach


Borlak Law Office is a unique entity in Stouffville, not only for their beautiful heritage office building at the corner of Main & Park, or for the indigenous art collection in the boardroom, or for it being a family business that works in harmony. Borlak is unique because they specialize in the Property and Casualty Insurance Industry (P&C) in Canada, which reaches far beyond Stouffville.

P&C is Borlak’s happy place. They specialize in this industry by doing a myriad of legal work, such as helping brokerages to buy, sell or merge, facilitating corporate reorganization, financing, reviewing and drafting producer and employment agreements and assisting with succession planning. “When I was introduced to this industry in 1985 it was a wasteland [for legal help]; no one was specializing in it,” said Steve Borlak. They are a small town firm performing legal work usually reserved for downtown firms. Their work and knowledge in the P&C industry translates well to other businesses as well, and they are happy to work with private businesses in other industries (e.g. service, real estate, manufacturing), however small or large.

I met Steve Borlak and his son Jesse in their boardroom. They immediately confessed that Steve’s wife Marie made them dress up for the interview. Steve joked that he forgot to pack socks for the costume change (as seen in the photograph). “This is not my normal presentation – we are very casual,” said Steve. Steve provided background context for being business oriented. His mother (Marilyn Borlak)and father (Harvey Borlak) purchased a hardware store in 1948. They worked arm-in-arm until around 1983. His family’s life revolved around the family business. “We got to see what running a business was all about and we saw how they interacted with the community as respected businesspeople,” he said. They were known, above all, for their honesty.

Steve graduated university with a degree in Chemistry in 1976, in Law in 1979, and was called to the Bar in 1981. He started articling and practicing law at Borden and Elliot (now known as BLG), where his future wife Marie also worked as a law clerk. He met Marie while coaching their firm girls’ softball team. “Marie played on 2nd base, but she wasn’t very good, so I moved her to right field, and then she quit,” Steve recalled. Thankfully, despite this incident, they later married and have two sons and a daughter. Marie continued to work for Borden and Elliot while Steve struck out on his own, including his own practice in Woodbridge. One day Steve needed help. Marie came to the rescue. He asked her to stay. She did, and they have worked together in harmony since 1988.

In 2011, the family moved to Vivian Rd., east of Highway 48. Their office at the time was in Markham beside the Buttonville airport. “I got lazy,” said Steve, and started looking in 2015 for an office closer to home. The beautiful heritage home turned-office at the corner of Main and Park wasn’t for sale, but – “My wife is very persistent,” he said. It is a handsome building, full of character and history. It is amazingly quiet considering they are twenty feet off Main Street. The boardroom is adorned with Norval Morrisseau originals. Morrisseau was an Anishinaabe Aboriginal Canadian artist.

“Why Morrisseau?” I asked. Steve tells a story – he tells a lot of stories and tells them well: he was looking to buy a piece of art for Marie’s birthday. He met an art collector friend, shared some scotch and “ended up being an art collector by the end of the evening.” He bought an original Morrisseau, which today still hangs in Marie’s office. “I don’t know much about art, but I find the colours calming.” There are several other Morrisseau paintings displayed in the boardroom.

Their son, Jesse, has recently joined the
firm. He was formerly an insurance broker, working in Richmond Hill and Concord, but later went to Law School at Sussex University in the UK. Jesse was called to the Bar this past June. “Now we have a succession plan,” said Steve, “and we are living it.”

“Our focus may be very niche,” says Jesse, “but our [market] penetration is deep. We are uniquely placed to talk the same language as the P&C industry, but we do everyday stuff too, such as wills and real estate.” Jesse enjoys his short commute from Newmarket through the countryside and mentions the daily sighting on Vivian Road of a pony that has befriended a goat, and the “Canadian roadblock” geese along Musselman’s Lake.

Steve emphasized how important it is for them to be a part of the community – a trait he learned from his parents. Even if the work of Borlak Law is spread across Ontario, they have become members of the Stouffville Chamber and initiated a local lawyer’s group that has collaborative meetings. Steve was very involved with Big Brothers as a big brother and on the York Region, Ontario, and National boards, and continues to support the charity. “We want to play our part and immerse ourselves into the community,” concluded Steve.

After my departure, I’m sure they happily changed back into their casual clothes and resumed the family business.

Read More Local Spotlights