Despite a rollercoaster stock market, tariffs and trade renegotiations and a new provincial government, Ontario’s top regional firms have had a prosperous year and expect more of the same for 2019.
After a month-long survey with hundreds of participants from the legal profession across the country, Canadian Lawyer has determined the top 10 Ontario regional firms of 2019. They are: Torkin Manes LLP, Pallett Valo LLP, WeirFoulds LLP, Blaney McMurtry LLP, Minden Gross LLP, Fogler Rubinoff LLP, Lerners LLP, Gardiner Roberts LLP, Loopstra Nixon LLP and Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.
Jeffrey Cohen, managing partner of Torkin Manes LLP, says clients and those at the firm have an optimistic perspective on the future and 2017 and 2018 were the firm’s two best years to date. Cohen says he expects, if not growth, at least stability in the firm’s 2019 economic performance. A diversity in types of clients, great performance by those clients and the most talented collection of lawyers the firm has ever had is what he attributes to the successful streak.
“And I don’t see anything in front of me right now that would lead 2019 to be anything other than another great year,” he says.
Started in 1974 by Larry Torkin and Ron Manes, the firm, Cohen says, originally emphasized its commercial litigation practice. Now, he says, the firm’s largest areas are corporate commercial, real estate and commercial litigation, but it is also known for strong sub-speciality groups, such as trusts, estates, family and health law.
Recently, Wayne Egan, managing partner at WeirFoulds LLP, has seen an independence streak among clients, much more willing to handle tasks on their own which they may have sent to their lawyers in the past. This is increasingly prevalent due to cost containment and a push for greater efficiency, he says. This requires firms to automate, stepping up the use of technology so they can cut down on work done by clerks, students and lower-level associates and even pass on work back to the client, he says.
“They’re looking for ways where they can become truly partners with us and try to take on some of that role and responsibility that isn’t pure legal work; things that they could be doing to make things move more quickly and as cost effective as possible,” he says.
Like free agents before the trade deadline, the legal marketplace has seen a lot of mobility recently and Egan says WeirFoulds has been a beneficiary of a few well-established lawyers who landed at the firm.
“I think being a mid-size firm in Toronto and Ontario presents a great opportunity that way. And I think there are lots of chances for us to meet with lawyers out there who are looking for exactly what we have in terms of what it can bring their clients and what it can bring their practice,” he says.
Older than the country it is in, WeirFoulds LLP has been in operation for more than 160 years. Egan says the firm was originally known for having top-notch litigators, the go-to for other law firms when it came to Court of Appeal or Supreme Court litigation. Over the last 60 years, the corporate law practice has grown, now making up around half of the firm’s business.
The firm is “locally focused,” having decided to be a “prominent and relevant regional firm,” which means focusing on municipal law, construction, real estate and leasing, he says, adding that the firm is strong in commercial and construction litigation, has a regulatory group looking after self-governing bodies in the province and has recently added a group that has a strong IP practice.
Though still fresh from the first hand-off of power in the province for 15 years, those interviewed at Ontario’s top regional firms said the recent change in provincial government has yet to have much of an impact on business and that of their clients, with Egan saying everyone has a “wait-and-see” attitude toward the new regime.
One area, however, where the new government’s policies have had an effect has been in labour and employment. Cohen says that Torkin Manes has seen “lots of activity” from the see-sawing of labour and employment changes brought by the provincial government. In October 2018, the Doug Ford government put the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, also known as Bill 148, under review. In November, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act was passed by the legislature. The PC riposte kept some of the Liberal reforms, such as paid vacation requirements, the introduction of domestic or sexual violence leave and increased parental leave, but it axed other reforms, including the minimum wage increase and rules giving employees more control of shift scheduling.
“There was lots of activity in education by our labour and employment group in terms of just getting our clients up to speed with the new employment framework and then some of those changes were rolled back and not implemented,” Cohen says.
Since last time Canadian Lawyer featured the top Ontario regional firms, the most significant change for Cohen’s clients has been the federal government’s altering of the tax framework. In 2017, the Liberal government instituted tax reform to prevent income splitting for small businesses and self-employed professionals, where income would be split among family members to be taxed at a lower rate. Cohen says the tax changes have lowered the amount of work the firm was doing in tax reorganization and tax planning for “entrepreneurial owner-operated businesses.”
Tax policy south of the border is also influencing legal business in Ontario. Arlene O’Neill, a partner at Gardiner Roberts LLP, says there also is a windfall coming to Canada from U.S. investors with more money to play with.
“And that has increased or at least continued to fuel the engine of U.S. investors interested in Canada,” she says.
Gardiner Roberts has been operating since Frederick Gardiner and Fred Parkinson teamed up in the 1920s. O’Neill says the firm began with a vigorous municipal law practice — which fits with Gardiner in 1953 becoming the first chairman of the municipality of metropolitan Toronto.
The strong economic performance of the Greater Toronto Area has been the “bread and butter” for Minden Gross LLP, says managing partner Raymond Slattery. Minden Gross has a strong “corporate commercial, entrepreneurial, family-owned local business practice,” but its core specialty is commercial real estate, he says, adding the GTA continues to drive business in commercial real estate, bolstered by immigration and economic growth.
Like businesses across the continent, the top regional firms are strategically positioning themselves to elevate business with a hit of legal cannabis.
“Cannabis has been strong for us on a variety of fronts . . . from taking companies public to dealing with workplace policies [and] renting out to dispensaries,” Slattery says. “It covers the whole gamut of the practice.”
Cannabis legalization has created a “burst” of businesses jockeying for position and lawyers offering cannabis specializations to build proper business structures, provide regulatory and workplace-policy advice and enter that burgeoning marketplace, O’Neill says.
“It’s like a mini tech boom, but it’s cannabis,” she says.
To come up with our top 10 Ontario regional firm list, Canadian Lawyer asked lawyers, in-house counsel and clients from across Canada to nominate firms worthy of being ranked. We took that list, created a survey and pushed that survey through all our channels to summon the widest participation possible. Respondents’ rankings were based on firms’ regional service coverage, client base, notable mandates, service excellence and legal expertise, and we included an opportunity for respondents to suggest a firm not already on the list. To be included, firms had to have offices in Ontario exclusively and offer a wide range of legal services. Voters ranked firms from one to 10, with first-place votes earning 10 points and points decreasing by one up to one point for a 10th-place vote. Points were added up and firms ranked accordingly.
Total lawyers: 96
Core practice areas: corporate, including tax, technology, banking and insolvency; litigation, including construction, health, estate and insurance defence; commercial real estate; employment and labour relations; family law
Key clients: Canada Goose Inc.; Fulcrum Capital Partners; Harbour Mortgage Corp.; SmartREIT; Spin Master Corp.; Stewart Title Guaranty Company
Notable mandates: Advised Apotex Holdings Inc. in its sale of all of the shares of Accucaps Industries Limited to Catalent Pharma Solutions; acted for Canada Goose in negotiating the terms of the company’s lease for its first standalone retail store in Yorkdale Shopping Centre and for certain of its shareholders in connection with its IPO; represented Spin Master in connection with its $510-million credit facility and various acquisitions; advised the management of LABORIE in the company’s sale to Patricia Industries (a division of Investor AB) by Audax Private Equity; acted for NAFTA Foods and Create-a-Treat and their management in the sale of NAFTA CAT to Give and Go Prepared Foods Corp.
Star alumni: David Butt, first Canadian prosecutor to specialize in internet child abuse cases, counsel to KINSA; Anne Giardini, chancellor of Simon Fraser University; Kimberley McVittie, vice president, Risk Shared Services, CIBC; Deborah Rogers, senior vice president, legal counsel, Brookfield Office Properties; Daina Selvig, assistant general counsel, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals; Michael Silver, mediator and arbitrator; Ian Tod, former chairman, Deloitte Legal; Kathleen Waters, president and CEO, LawPRO
Affiliations: Ally Law (International Alliance of Law Firms)
Firm history: Torkin Manes was founded in 1974 by corporate and tax lawyer Larry Torkin and litigator Ron Manes, who declined offers from large Toronto law firms to form their own partnership. The firm grew to six lawyers in 1979 and gradually developed practices in real estate, employment and labour and family law. Over the years, litigation expanded to include insurance defence, health, construction and personal injury, while the corporate department grew and became known for providing comprehensive services to mid-market owner-operated companies. The firm’s broad client base and its reluctance to become overly dependent on a small number of large clients helped it withstand economic recessions, as many other medium-size firms struggled. Torkin Manes’ clients now include some of Canada’s largest financial institutions, insurance companies, major corporations, private businesses, entrepreneurs and land development companies.
“Professional lawyers and wide range of services.”
Total lawyers: 35 lawyers
Core practice areas: litigation including commercial, construction and estates; commercial real estate and leasing; business law; insolvency and corporate restructuring; wills, estates and trusts; employment and labour
Key clients: HOOPP Realty Inc.; Peel District School Board; Stewart Title Guaranty Co.; Parmalat Canada; Canam Group Inc.; Bayshore HealthCare Ltd.; Yamaha Motor Finance Canada Ltd.; Cineplex Inc.; Pivot Financial Inc.; Digital Specialty Chemicals Limited
Notable mandates: lead Ontario counsel for a global engineering firm; counsel to global automotive manufacturer on product liability matters; lead counsel in an $80-million inter-jurisdictional M&A transaction; lead counsel in a $65-million sale of several auto dealerships; acted on the sale of several hotel properties; frequently called upon to act as counsel under s. 3 of the Substitute Decisions Act.
Star alumni: John Pallett, MP from 1954-62; Sidney Valo, founding director and first CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority; Thomas Santram, vice president and deputy general counsel at Cineplex Inc.; Suzanne Michaud, adjunct professor, Osgoode Hall Law School; Maria Tassou, associate chairperson, Criminal Injuries Compensation Board; Liana Turrin, general counsel and secretary of Altus Group Inc.
Affiliations: Geneva Group International
Firm history: It began with the establishment of Pallett & Pallett in 1948. Around 1980, Pallett & Pallett merged with Milman Valo Barsky and became Pallett Valo Barsky & Hutcheson. The firm changed its name a few more times and became Pallett Valo in 1987. The firm celebrated its 70th anniversary by encouraging all firm members to take a day and participate in United Way’s days of giving. After 1997, Pallett Valo changed its historical focus as a real estate firm to become a business law firm with specialized groups focusing on its core practice areas. In 2013, the firm moved to 77 City Centre Drive, and in 2018, Pallett Valo created two by-appointment-only workspaces in downtown Toronto and Vaughan, Ont. Pallett Valo is one of the largest law firms in Peel Region and has expanded its reach outside of the GTA to become a truly regional firm.
“They are business focused and practical.”
Total lawyers: 105
Core practice areas: litigation; corporate; property; government law; international
Key clients: public and private corporations; governments, public authorities and agencies; entrepreneurs; national firms seeking regional representation; non-profit and public interest organizations and individuals
Notable mandates: acted for Harte Gold Corp. in its US$70-million debt financing package with Sprott Private Resource Lending (collector), L.P. and Appian Natural Resources Fund to fully fund the construction of the Sugar Zone Project; acted as co-counsel for Trillium Motor World Ltd., the class representative for 181 former General Motors dealers, in the highly publicized Trillium Motor World Ltd. v. General Motors of Canada Ltd. and Trillium Motor World Ltd. v. Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP; acted for Benefit Partners Inc. in the completion of its acquisition by People Corporation; acted for the LCBO in the acquisition of its head office lands from a joint venture among Menkes Developments and Greystone Managed Investments, with Triovest Realty Advisors acting as advisor to Greystone, for $260 million following a procurement process managed by Infrastructure Ontario; acted for the Regional Municipality of York in the planning, development, land acquisitions and construction of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre; represented approximately 15 companies and partnerships (the “CCAA Filing Entities”) within the Urbancorp group of companies for the filing entities’ proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act; acting for PCL Constructors Inc. during the course of a $2-billion hospital redevelopment P3 project in the GTA, including strategic advice relating to disputes arising from the project
Star alumni: four treasurers of the Law Society of Upper Canada; Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell; former Ontario chief justice George Gale; former Supreme Court of Canada justice Roy Kellock; former Ontario Court of Appeal justices James Carthy, Allan McNiece Austin and John Arnup; Ontario Superior Court justices Joan Lax and Paul Perell
Affiliations: SCG Legal
Firm history: WeirFoulds LLP has established itself as one of Canada’s premier regional law firms, and it has provided strategic, cost-effective and innovative legal advice to clients since 1860. WeirFoulds has thrived by becoming a true partner to clients, ensuring that legal advice addresses their priorities. The firm is repeatedly ranked as one of Canadian Lawyer’s Top 10 Ontario Regional Firms, and it is regularly listed in Novae Res Urbis Top 10 Development Law Firms in the GTA.
“National reputation on a regional level.”
Total lawyers: 119
Core practice areas: litigation and advocacy; real estate; business law
Key clients: Toronto-Dominion Bank; SmartREIT; First National Financial LP; Laurentian Bank of Canada; G4S Secure Solutions (Canada) Ltd.; Greenwin Inc.; Verdiroc Development Corporation
Notable mandates: lead insolvency counsel for 300 Sears Hometown Stores in their certified class action and oppression remedy claim against Sears Holdings, Edward Lampert’s ESL Investments Inc. and the board of directors of Sears Canada, seeking damages of more than $100 million and to set aside more than $500 million in dividends paid by Sears to ESL and other shareholders in 2013; represented Grasshopper Solar in connection with its $270-million credit facility and various acquisitions to expand its solar portfolio in Ontario; acted for First National Financial LP on the drafting, negotiation and completion of security documentation for CMHC-insured term financing of two 23-storey rental apartment buildings; successfully represented Intact Insurance on a property damage claim limitation period appeal that led to an important appellate pronouncement in the client’s favour; acted for industry-leading property development companies on major Toronto projects, including the construction financing of Max Condos and construction and deposit insurance financing of AYC condominiums; acted for leading insurance companies on major insurance coverage, fidelity and cyber-liability cases;
Star alumni: former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry; Ontario Court Justice Feroza Bhabha; Ontario Superior Court Justice Janet Wilson; former Tax Court of Canada justice J.A. Brulé; Superior Court Master Robert Muir; Larry Grossman, former Ontario government cabinet minister and Ontario Conservative party leader
Affiliations: TAGLaw; Risk Management Counsel of Canada; Insurance Law Global
Firm history: The original firm, Blaney Pasternak, was founded by James Blaney and Irwin Pasternak in 1954. The late Bill McMurtry joined the firm in the early 1960s, building a litigation department that is now a core strength of the firm. In subsequent years, the firm underwent several smaller mergers, lateral hires and ensuing name changes. In 2000, the firm was established as Blaney McMurtry LLP.
“Large, full service, with expertise and quality practitioners across multiple disciplines”
Total lawyers: 63
Core practice areas: business law; commercial leasing and real estate; financial services; property taxation and assessment law; employment and labour law; litigation; securities and capital markets; tax and succession planning; wills and estates
Key clients: Lanterra Developments; Fieldgate Development Construction Ltd.; First Gulf Corp.; The Global Group; H&R REIT; Royal Bank of Canada; Marlin Spring Investments Limited
Notable mandates: acted for the majority shareholder as part of Debco Bag Distributors’ merger with HUB Promotional Group; advised on the TSXV listings for Enthusiast Gaming and for GTEC Holdings; acted for Shotgun Fund, FirePower Equity, Lynx Equity Limited and Succession Capital on multiple M&A transactions and for FirePower Equity and Area One Farms on multiple fund formations; acted for a premier residential developer on the acquisition of a portfolio of multi-family rental properties in Montreal and Quebec City for $117.5 million; acted for a syndicate of developers in the sale of a residential mixed-use development with a purchase price in excess of $100 million
Star alumni: Robyn Kestenberg, executive vice president, corporate development, H&R REIT; David Feldberg, president and CEO, Teknion; Mark Mandelbaum, co-founder, Lanterra Developments; Mark Weisleder, author, columnist and speaker; David Glass, senior vice president, The Global Group; retired senator Jerry Grafstein; Mordecai Bobrowsky, vice president, legal, Primaris Management Inc.; Lauren Corber, president & executive producer, LoCo Motion Pictures
Affiliations: Meritas Law Firms Worldwide
Firm history: Arthur Minden, Edwin Pivnick and Morris Gross founded the firm in 1950. Early on, the firm gained a reputation for its skills in commercial real estate transactions. Jerry Grafstein and Herbert Greenstein joined in the 1960s and established corporate and civil litigation services to meet the growing needs of clients. The firm expanded further into commercial leasing, bankruptcy and insolvency, tax and succession planning, employment and labour and wills and estates law. In 1992, Minden Gross became an affiliate of Meritas Law Firms Worldwide, a global alliance of independent law firms. It has recently grown further, branching out into securities and capital markets as well as property taxation and assessment.
“Lawyers are very knowledgeable and staff are really friendly.”
Total lawyers: 118
Lawyers by office: Toronto, 116; Ottawa, 2
Core practice areas: business law including corporate, securities, IP/IT; energy and environmental law; commercial real estate including condominium law and leasing; financial services; health law; Indigenous law, with a particular emphasis on business matters; litigation; labour and employment; tax and wills and estates
Key clients: RioCan REIT; FirstService Corporation; Colliers International Group Inc.; Coco Paving; Computershare; Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corp.; WeedMD; CannTrust; Toronto Parking Authority; TD, HSBC, RBC and other major banks
Notable mandates: acted for Neo Performance Materials Inc. in its $200million IPO; R. v. Coco Paving Inc.brought successful due diligence defence and obtained dismissal of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change prosecution of Coco Paving Inc. related to a 2013 natural gas line strike in Windsor, Ont.; acquisition, development, financing and sale of multiple utility scale solar projects for Canadian Solar; representation of both investment dealers and licensed producers for significant financings in the burgeoning medical cannabis industry, including CannTrust and WeedMD; in Re Imex Systems Inc. 2018, successfully defended an application to set aside a private placement in the BC Securities Commission; representation of developers on significant condo and mixed-use projects including Art Shoppe Condos; representation of many Indigenous communities on large-scale energy and infrastructure partnerships
Star alumni: Ed Sonshine, founder and CEO of RioCan REIT; Jay Hennick, founder and chairman of FirstService Corporation and CEO of Colliers International Group Inc.; Eugene McBurney, co-founder and chairman of Griffiths McBurney & Partners; Ontario Superior Court Justice Arthur Gans; Pinar Ozyetis, general counsel at LoyaltyOne; Lesley Munk, vice president and general counsel at RSA Canada
Affiliations: International Lawyers Network
Firm history: Fogler Rubinoff, with 25 lawyers, was created in 1982 through a merger of the firms of Siegal Fogler and Rubinoff & Rubinoff. In the 37 years since the merger, the firm has more than quadrupled in size and has diversified its areas of practice, creating a full-service business law firm.
“Same expertise for better valued rates than the big firms.”
Total Lawyers: 121
Lawyers by office:
London: 72; Toronto: 49
Core practice areas:
commercial litigation; business law; health law; insurance defence; professional regulation; plaintiff and defence class actions; appellate advocacy; plaintiff personal injury; family law; real estate
Lawyers Professional Indemnity Company; Canadian Medical Protective Association; Frank Cowan Insurance; CPA Professional Liability Plan; Deloitte; Chubb Insurance; General Motors; Volkswagen
Groia v. Law Society of Upper Canada
Town of Oakville v. Clublink; The Brick Warehouse LP v. Chubb Insurance Company of Canada
; Martin v. Barrie (City);
495793 Ontario Ltd. (Central Auto Parts) v. Barclay
; lead defence counsel on national class proceedings in General Motors Class Action regarding ignition switch, EPS, antifreeze and Takata air bags; Moore v. Getahun; lead defence counsel on national class proceedings in Volkswagen TDI class actions;
Wynne v. Hudak et. al.
Lerner & Lerner was established by the firm’s founders, Mayer Lerner and Samuel Lerner, in 1929. Since that time, the firm has progressively grown to more than 120 lawyers and 400 support staff. Now known as Lerners LLP, the firm is celebrating its 90th anniversary of providing strong legal expertise in many areas of practice, with a particular strength in all areas of litigation and dispute resolution.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, Liberal MPP for Ottawa-Vanier; former Superior Court justices John Kennedy and Thomas Granger; Ontario Superior Court justices Jasmine Akbarali, Ian Leach, Margaret McSorley, Mary Anne Sanderson and Michael Varpio; Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Bradley Miller; David Shore, television writer for NYPD Blue, Family Law , Due South and creator of House, Battle Creek, Sneaky Pete and The Good Doctor; Bryce Rudyk, former senior legal adviser to Alliance of Small Island States in United Nations negotiations relating to climate change treaties and current climate program director of the Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law of the New York University School of Law; Amy Archer, policy advisor to the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada
“Excellent work and good values.”
Total lawyers: 68
Core practice areas: corporate-commercial law; securities; commercial litigation; real estate; tax; health; IP, employment and labour; class actions
Key clients: Conundrum Capital; LawPro; Pharmascience Inc.; Castlepoint Investments Inc.; Toronto Real Estate Board; E.I. du Pont Canada Co.; Open Text Corp; Metro Toronto Regional Conservation Authority; TD Canada Trust; Scotiabank; First National Financial LP
Notable mandates: successfully represented former Toronto mayor Rob Ford in a libel and defamation action; representing former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj in litigation proceeding contesting election in Etobicoke Centre; acting on the establishment of a large residential real estate private equity fund; acted on a complex reorganization of an existing real estate private equity fund into private REIT in a matter involving investors such as Canada’s largest pension plans and mutual funds; acted for the purchaser in excess of 230 quick-service restaurants in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec.
Star alumni: former Metropolitan Toronto chairman “Big Daddy” Frederick Gardiner; former Superior Court justices Fitzpatrick and William J. Anderson; former Ontario Court of Appeal justice Lloyd Holden; Ronald J. Farano, who worked on policies preceding a significant overhaul to Canada’s federal taxation
Affiliations: MSI Global Alliance & Consulegis
Firm history: Founded in the 1920s, the firm has become a mid-size, full-service law firm with a diverse client base that includes several of Canada’s largest banks, numerous medium- to large-size municipalities, agencies, boards and commissions, government entities, high-tech and software companies, real estate developers, lenders and investors. Gardiner Roberts is involved in numerous charitable and community initiatives, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Peacebuilders International, Prostate Cancer Canada, LAWS program at the University of Toronto, Humber College Advisory Consortium for a legal course, Ride to Conquer Cancer, Hope for Children Foundation – Adopt-a-Family Program, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The National Ballet School of Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, Hot Docs and various research ethics boards affiliated with SickKids and the Bloorview Research Institute.
“Punches well above its weight.”
Total lawyers: 46
Core practice areas: business law including: corporate, securities, insolvency, restructuring and intellectual property; municipal and land use planning; commercial real estate and leasing; financial services; commercial litigation; construction litigation; insurance defence litigation; labour and employment; tax and wills and estates
Key clients: City of Toronto; CRH Canada Group Inc.; Swift River Energy Limited; Consolidated Fastfrate Group; Toronto Dominion Bank; Bank of Montreal; Scotiabank; Tepper Holdings Inc.; Outfront Media; Trader Corporation; Henry’s Camera Stores; Trillium Auto Dealers Association; Dilawri Auto Group; MNP; PwC; Deloitte; BDO; Fuller Landau; Titanium Transportation Group Inc.
Notable mandates: acted for Roynat Capital in the sale of Comtrad Strategic Sourcing to Ardenton Capital Corp.; acted for Besra Gold Inc. in the debt and equity restructuring of its gold-mining operations in Asia.; Bruell Contracting Ltd. v. J&P Leveque Bros. Haulage Ltd. (obtained judgment for breach of construction contract against the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario); acted for Group Cabico Inc. in its acquisition of The Elmwood Group Limited; acted for the City of Mississauga in respect of the Lakeview Generating Station Redevelopment; Palumbo v. Quercia (determination of post-employment fiduciary obligations)
Star alumni: Jason Cicchetti, general counsel, Index Exchange; Riccardo Bozzo, vice president, general counsel, Bozzo Group; Natalia Ackers, assistant general counsel, Aramark; Brent Duguid, legal counsel and director of partnerships, University of Toronto Scarborough; John McLeish, founding partner, McLeish Orlando LLP
Affiliations: Law Exchange International (1,600 lawyers in 30 countries)
Firm history: The firm was formed in 1973 by Charles Loopstra and John Nixon. Loopstra built a strong reputation representing municipalities. Sandy Nixon led the solicitor side, which grew into top-rated midmarket practice teams in corporate and commercial law, commercial real estate, banking and finance. In the past decade, the firm has tripled in size without mergers or large-scale group hires. In the last five years, the firm has added a bankruptcy, insolvency and restructuring practice and an intellectual property practice. It has a cross-border team of six dual-admitted U.S. lawyers who provide specialized business law advice on Canada-U.S. matters. The firm also has developed a growing Canada-China practice with several Mandarin-speaking lawyers and professional staff. The firm has recently opened satellite offices in Vaughan, Ont. and in Toronto’s financial district.
“Amazing client service and value.”
Total lawyers: 48
Core practice areas: litigation (including personal injury, commercial litigation, insurance law and mediation); labour and employment law; family law; real estate and development; Indigenous law; estate law; fertility law; family arbitration; business law; intellectual property law; not-for-profit and charity law
Key clients: Institutional clients include chartered banks, trust companies and financial institutions, major insurance companies and their insureds, many unions and labour organizations, real estate developers (commercial, institutional and residential), non-profit and public interest corporations and small- and medium-size enterprises. In addition, the IP Group represents some of the largest companies in the Asia/Pacific region, including trade organizations, as well as local startups and mid-size corporations.
Notable mandates: Current and ongoing class actions have included representing employee groups in several insolvency proceedings, including Nortel, Canwest and Plasco; representing former patients of Norman Barwin, who is alleged to have negligently inseminated his patients with the wrong sperm; representing air pilots employed by Air Canada over a breach of contract; representing former students of the residential schools system and their entitlements under the 2007 Residential Schools Settlement Agreement; and representing employees of BlackBerry Canada after a transfer of employees. Other cases include successful judgments in leading personal injury decisions, such as Monks v. ING and Gardiner v. MacDonald, successful defence of liability waiver in Isildar v. Kanata Dive Supply, as well as several claims (including constitutional challenges) against the federal government. The firm has also been involved with many major redevelopment projects in Ottawa, including LeBreton Flats, Zibi and Greystone Village.
Star alumni: John Nelligan, one of Canada’s leading advocates; Ontario Superior Court Justice Denis Power; Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken; Ontario Superior Court Justice Giovanna Toscano-Roccamo
Firm history: John P. Nelligan was called to the Ontario bar in 1949, and in 1963, he opened his own firm. With Denis Power, he established the Nelligan Power partnership in 1969. In October 2000, Power was appointed as a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and the firm’s name changed to Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP, in recognition of long-time firm partners Allan O’Brien and Janice Payne. Since then, the firm has grown to 45 lawyers and more than 60 staff.
“Talented lawyers who take hard cases and are leaders in their community.”