Making space for history


Along with constructing a purpose designed office space, Gabriel Toolan and chief architect, Colin Bell, were also committed to also creating a space to literally, house history.Thousands of legal deeds, documents and records accumulated over the 108 year history of the practice needed a home in the new building.

To meet this growing need, a separate bunker area was created. Fireproof and featuring its own access via the rear of the property, this space houses some of the oldest deeds and documents in the region.

Here dedicated Archivist, Majella Toolan, works to not only store and file but also record each piece of “history” created since James A Kiernan opened his doors in 1901.

Looking to the future

Development of legal practice is not an overnight process. Gabriel Toolan believes that it is a gradual, orderly and continual process based on knowledge, wisdom and experience.

Grounded on a bedrock of honesty and integrity, the aim always is to improve – improve communication, improve the results and improve the quality of service to clients and the public.

With a blend of extensive experience and young vibrant and progressive talent, this firm intends to deliver quality of service well into the future.

Continuing a tradition of excellence

For over 106 years, the firm of Walter P Toolan & Sons, incorporating the practices of Peter Canning and James A Kiernan, has been at the heart of legal practice in Co Leitrim and west Cavan.

With its main office situated in Ballinamore and an additional permanent branch office in Arva, Co Cavan, the firm has been providing continuous legal service for well over a century.

From an era when motor cars were few and far between and before the typewriter, let alone the computer, was even heard of, the firm has established itself as one of the leading practices in the North West of Ireland.

In the early years of the 20th Century, Mr Kiernan founded his practice, despite the turbulence which marked this period of Irish history.

He developed a developed a burgeoning practice which developed further under the guardianship of his successor, Peter Canning, ably assisted by Law Clerks, Hugh Maloney and John Canning.

In 1944, the late Walter P Toolan took over the helm of the practice, a position he held for over 55 years.

His record of steady dedication and single minded focus on providing an excellent standard of legal service has formed the bedrock upon which the consolidation of the practic has been founded.

In time, Walter’s own sons, Brian and Gabriel, joined him in the practice. Brian serving for 25 years until his retirement in 2003, while Gabriel has since taken over the practice, bringing it yet further into the new millennium with the design and construction of purpose built offices completed earlier this year.

With such an incredible history behind it, Walter P Toolan & Sons has become one of the most recognisable firms in the region and, through Gabriel and his staff, this practice looks set to continue its fine tradition of excellent service well into the foreseeable future.


James A. Kiernan, Solicitor 1901 – 1926
Peter Canning, Solicitor 1926 – 1943
John Canning, Law Clerk 1935 – 1981
Johnny McHugh, Law Clerk 1917 – 1971
John H. Palmer, Law Clerk 1971 – 2007

Hugh Maloney A lifetime of service

Hugh Maloney was only 12-years-old when his teacher recommended him as an ideal script writer for the newly formed legal practice of James A Kiernan in 1902.

A native of Ballinamore, Hugh began work in the solicitor’s office writing decorative script on intricate legal documentation, examples of which still remain in the present day offices of Walter P Toolan & Sons .

Hugh continued working in the office of James A Kiernan until he sold the practice to Peter Canning & Company in 1926. Hugh once again took up service with the new solicitor and his incredible record of work continued even after the practice, once again, changed hands in 1944, following its purchase by the late Walter P Toolan.

Such was his dedication that Hugh continued to work right up until his untimely passing in 1949. An astonishing 47 years of service.

However, the Maloney family association with the legal profession did not end with Hugh’s passing. His daughter, Nuala Maloney began to work for Walter P Toolan as a young girl in the late 1940s and today, as Walter P Toolan & Sons mark 106 years continuum of service, Nuala remains a central figure in the practice, specialising in probate work and continuing a family tradition that spans an incredible 105 years.

Five years planning culminates in opening of state-of-the-art office

Five years of painstaking planning and construction has finally borne fruit for staff at leading legal practice, Walter P Toolan and Sons, with the official opening of their state-of-the-art office in Ballinamore recently.

Driven by a lack of space and the reality of little prospect of expansion in their existing offices, staff at the 106 year old practice knew a different approach was needed if they were to progress into the new millennium.

The resulting building is the striking result of a collaboration between well respected solicitor, Gabriel Toolan and ecoinspired architect, Colin Bell. The new office space is designed to be, not merely aesthetically pleasing and pleasant to work in, but also to make as little impact on the environment as possible.

Naturally cross ventilated, with terraced roof and courtyard gardens and benefiting from the clever use of materials such as glass and stone, the building has already proven itself one of the most successful in terms of both sustainable energy consumption and the natural quality of materials used in its construction.

Deceptively modest from the outside, this enormous structure encompasses three floors and literally thousands of square feet of purpose designed space.

Solicitor and head of practice, Gabriel, is justifiably proud of what has been achieved with the assistance of Colin, architect Luciana Campos, project manager, Conor Reilly, Leading Edge and contractor, Frank Maxwell.


The resulting space is not only bright and naturally lit, it is also, in fact, a natural, and far healthier place for staff to work in. The only air ventilation system in place works via a series of louvers, circulating air through the building without creating drafts or relying on mechanical structures such as air ventilation units or air conditioning.

The heating system for the building has also been designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. The wood pellet burner, located in a separate bunker to the rear of the building, automatically switches on to maintain temperature and the specifically prepared concrete floors have also been created, in conjunction with the south facing glass windows, to heat the office space and retain that heat for longer periods.

But most notable is the beautiful landscaping which has been designed specifically to literally bring nature into the building. Dotted around the office space are individual gardens, like small oases for staff and visitors alike.

Those entering the building are greeted by a burbling water feature in the foyer. Just beyond is the central courtyard, surrounded by glass so it can be viewed centrally from every level of the building.

Another “greenspace” has been provided in the form of a roof top garden offering views of Ballinamore, while even the carpark, to the rear of the building has been given the ‘green treatment’ lined with a special mesh and seeded with hardwearing grass so the need for gravel and tarmacadam has effectively been eliminated.


Speaking at the opening of the building, Gabriel said it had long been his dream to create an office space which was environmentally conscious.

He admitted there had been times when it appeared it may not become a reality, but the gamble had certainly paid off when viewing the end result.

The entire complex is also something of a community effort with much of the labour and materials sourced locally, a fact Gabriel is particularly proud of.

“The initial plan was there but the project did evolve on its own as well as it progressed,” he explained.

“I am proud that many of the excellent local craftsmen were able to be a part of this project and I am delighted with the result.”

Retired Chief Justice Thomas A Finlay was on hand to perform the official opening of the new office.

Joined by members of the legal profession, the gardai, court staff, special guests, members of the Toolan family, whose father, the late Walter P Toolan, took over the practice in 1944, are justifiably proud of the unique development.


Although noting his father’s passing seven years ago and the subsequent loss of his mother last year, Gabriel stresses the pride he and his family take in the practice – originally founded by James A Kiernan in 1901.

“Walter P was an inspiration to all of us,” notes Gabriel.

“I feel he is still with us today.”

Gabriel is also extremely proud of the staff who continue to work at Walter P Toolan & Sons, some of whom, like Legal Executive Nuala Maloney, have developed family ties with the practice spanning generations.

“This truly is a fabulous place to work and all involved can be very proud of this achievement,” stresses Gabriel.

And who knows, maybe in another 100 years, the office of Walter P Toolan & Sons will be remembered, not so much for its unique appearance, but rather as the point where office construction changed from merely functional to something far more outstanding.

Now that is a legacy Walter P would be truly proud of.

Pictured at the official opening of the new offices in Ballinamore are l – r, Gabriel Toolan,
Retired Chief Justice Thomas A. Finlay and Frank Martin BL.

Pictured at the recent official opening of Walter P Toolan & Sons’ new state-of-the-art offices in Ballinamore by Retired Chief Justice Thomas A Finlay are back row (l-r) Olive Leddy, Legal Secretary; Cora McKiernan, Legal Executive; Sharon Flynn, Legal Secretary; Teresa Johnson, Legal Executive; Evelyn O’Donnell, Solicitor; Bernie McTiernan, Trainee Solicitor; Doireann Ní Riain, Trainee Solicitor; Samantha Harte, Receptionist; Brid Toolan, Bookkeeper; Patricia Flynn, Legal Executive and Majella Toolan, Archivist. Front row (l-r) Gabriel Toolan, Solicitor; Retired Chief Justice, Thomas A Finlay; Nuala Maloney, Legal Executive; Frank Martin BL and John Toolan, Office Manager.

Nuala is the second generation of her family to be associated with the legal practice, Watler P Toolan & Sons. Together she and her father, the late Hugh, have amassed an astounding 105 years of continuous service between them.

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