Since its formation in 1979, the Stockwoods barristers boutique has concentrated exclusively on litigation, and in this capacity has won rapturous acclaim from peers even outside Ontario. “The whole ‘litigation boutique’ model that is becoming all the rage now, but Stockwoods pioneered it,” confirms a peer. Another extols, “It’s a pretty deep team over there now, and they’re all across-the-board superb. There’s not a single lawyer there who I would call just ‘average.’” Indeed, one peer takes care to mention, “They lost [former ranked star] Aaron Dantowitz to the Ontario Securities Commission but they won’t feel the loss much. It’s a consistently strong group, from the senior partners to the increasing younger folks coming up. They are all regarded as the ‘super brainiacs on the street.’” The firm is unique amongst Toronto firms (even among its boutiques) in the portfolio it attends to, which encompasses white-collar crime, public and administrative law, securities, and a niche in tribunal advisory work as well. The firm is also noted for its growing commercial law practice.
Perhaps the most remarkable attribute of the firm has been its growth and grooming strategy, which was seen a healthy percentage of young stars “rise up [and] come into their own in the classic Stockwoods mold.” Luisa Ritacca has made considerable headway within the firm and is now the Managing Partner. “That was a smart move,” voices a peer. “Luisa has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening at the firm as well as in the community. Although she may have to spend more time managing now, she is also still a great litigator, particularly in administrative law and advisory work.” Brendan van Niejenhuis, who a peer addresses as “brilliant, and yet tough and unflinching,” is representing the Region of Halton as lead counsel in litigation concerning the newly revised powers of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to reconsider municipal decisions on land use, and to call and consider evidence in that regard. van Niejenhuis is also representing Toronto-Dominion Bank in defense of two competition/antitrust class actions, one concerning alleged manipulation of the Foreign Exchange market and the other concerning alleged manipulation of the sub-sovereign debt market, both using the once-popular Bloomberg Chat service. Ted Marrocco is co-lead counsel for an air ambulance entity in a high-profile inquest into the death of an indigenous artist in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Marrocco is also lead counsel for a large Toronto condo corporation that is suing three former directors of its board for fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty. The defendants had allegedly gotten elected to condo boards in order to divert service contract opportunities to their friends as well as taking kickbacks. These individuals likely diverted millions of dollars from various condo corporations before they were ultimately ousted. Criminal specialist Gerald Chan represented a large construction company in a coroner’s inquest related to a workplace fatality; represented the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers in a case on race in policing before the Supreme Court of Canada; and is representing the chairman of an international business in a money-laundering investigation. “Gerald Chan is definitely a superstar at Stockwoods now,” insists a peer, “as is his good friend Nader Hasan.” Hasan is lead counsel in a constitutional challenge for inaction on climate change and is also lead counsel in a high-profile terrorism case. Along with Marrocco, he is also suing the provincial government for damages in a matter concerning a man who was beaten to death by the guards in a correctional facility. A peer testifies, “We are acting for the Brampton Integrity Commissioner in a case right now and Nader Hasan is on the other side. He’s an incredible lawyer.” This same peer notes, “I also have a case where I’m on the same side of Stockwoods, which is nice. Justin Safayeni is on there and he’s exceptional.” Safayeni, a quickly risen star within the firm, is noted for practice that blends commercial litigation with administrative law and public law work as well as media and defamation cases. At the more senior level, firm mainstays Brian Gover and Paul LeVay still command plaudits from several levels of the legal community. Gover acts with Marrocco on the aforementioned matter for the air ambulance entity and is championed as someone who “brings a high level of credibility to any matter,” according to a peer. “When Brian is on a case, judges and tribunals lend weight to his arguments.” LeVay acts with van Niejenhuis on the aforementioned case for Toronto-Dominion Bank and is still considered “a leader in the securities area,” according to peers. “While Stockwoods as an outfit handles a pretty mixed bag, when you think of securities litigation, you think of Paul.”