40 & Under Hot List - Canada

Benchmark Litigation Reviews

Dispute resolution
40 and Under Canada

 

Alberta

Calgary litigation boutique JSS Barristers is noted for the relative youth of its bench, even at the senior level. Its future stars are also steadily gaining traction among the community. Erin Baker practices in the areas of construction, government and regulatory, insurance, and l labor and employment. However, she has a significant interest in arbitration matters; in particular in the area of international commercial arbitration. She has recently gained experience in the enforcement of arbitral awards in various jurisdictions both within Canada and globally. Kajal Ervin enjoys a multifaceted practice that encompasses commercial and transactions, construction, energy, product liability and recall. A good deal of her practice is dedicated to class actions, in both the plaintiff and defense capacities. Ervin acts in a co-lead role representing a plaintiff in a class action arising from the sexual exploitation, assault and abuse of a number of teenage boys over a number of decades, perpetrated by an employee of the Young Canadians - a renowned performance group in Calgary associated with the Calgary Stampede. The class action alleges that the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Limited and the Calgary Stampede Foundation had knowledge of perpetrator’s activities through numerous complaints and failed to protect the class members. Ervin also acts as co-lead representing a plaintiff in a class action against Uber regarding the ride-sharing company’s 2016 data breach that exposed personal information of over 57 million Uber customers and drivers worldwide, a breach that was not disclosed by Uber until 2017. Ryan Phillips focuses on commercial and transactions, construction, energy, government and regulatory, and insurance. He also has unique experience with professional negligence defense of large law firms.

 

British Columbia

Western Canada’s regional powerhouse Lawson Lundell has a history of stars appearing at some point in Benchmark’s 40 and Under Hotlist. This year’s nominees hail from the firm’s Vancouver home base. Laura Bevan is a commercial litigator with a diverse practice that finds her acting for clients in the gaming industry, the banking and securities industries and in the area of pensions and benefits. She has particular experience acting in litigation involving occupiers’ liability claims, complex securities actions, civil fraud claims, shareholder’s disputes and oppression remedies and professional negligence claims. Bevan is also litigation counsel to pension and benefit trusts, and also has a particular niche in the franchise law area. Lauren Cook juggles commercial and regulatory work, both encompassing areas related to environmental, energy and resource, and land-use. Bevan has successfully defended clients in regulatory prosecutions and has advised clients under investigation for regulatory and environmental offences, often involving the remediation and cleanup of contaminated sites. In her commercial litigation practice, Bevan deals a broad range of cases involving environmental issues, Indigenous law, shareholder remedies, real estate issues, and construction disputes.

A staple of the Vancouver market, Harper Grey elicits prestige owing to its rich history and earns plaudits based on its strategy for the future; the firm’s litigation bench is stocked top-to-bottom with talent ranging from senior statesmen to up-and-comers, all of whom elicit praise from peers and appreciation from clients. Known throughout the province (and, in certain circles, nationwide) for a prized insurance and medical/health capacity, the firm also houses practitioners in the construction and engineering area, environmental, commercial litigation, insolvency and securities. Una Radoja enjoys a growing profile in the firm’s environmental law niche. A peer testifies, “I saw her on a case where she was the junior but she was really the brains and the muscle behind things.”

 

Manitoba

Winnipeg’s Fillmore Riley is touted as Manitoba’s premier insurance litigation shop; however this only tells half of the story. The firm is equally invested in a diverse pool of various other areas of commercial litigation as well, with partners across a wide generational spectrum at the ready to assist. On the younger end, Brandon Barnes Trickett, a bilingual partner practicing commercial litigation and financial services law, exemplifies the firm’s diversity of offerings, bringing a niche specialty in internal investigations.

 

Ontario

Operating from the Toronto office of national firm McMillan, Adam Chisholm attends to a varied commercial litigation practice that encompasses securities, administrative law and intellectual property. Chisholm was recently lead litigation counsel for The Catalyst Capital Group in its successful application to the Ontario Securities Commission claiming alleged abusive or coercive conduct and disclosure deficiencies in connection with a going-private transaction involving Hudson’s Bay Company. (Chisholm goes into further detail on this case, as well as his practice, in our featured Q&A – ed.) Chisholm was also lead and sole litigation counsel for Technicolor Canada in its successful opposition of attempts at third-party discovery at both the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, and he is also lead litigation counsel on application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in the most recent case related to the liability of the directors and officers of Sino-Forest corporation for the embattled company’s demise.

Tupman & Bloom’s Arieh Bloom is a Toronto-based commercial litigator with a specialty niche in trust and estates work. One of the younger litigation stars among the city’s legal community, Bloom has already made quite an impression. “Arieh Bloom is this Orthodox whiz-kid from Nebraska and is already knocking it out of the park here,” marvels a Bay Street peer. “For his vintage, he has the most encyclopedic knowledge of trust and estates work. He actually teaches judges about the passage of wills practice, and he does it with a personality.” Bloom’s background as a CPA enhances his practice, and his recent work includes bringing oppression claims on behalf of an estate trustee over the voting rights of the control preferential shares of a family business, and bringing an application for the recognition of a cross-border guardianship application.

Toronto securities and commercial litigation boutique Crawley MacKewn Brush, already home to some of the youngest name partners in Canada operating at its level, also hosts some of the city’s top rising talent. Three such partners are tipped for future stardom for their roles in cases along with name partners as well as matters in which they independently appear as lead partner. Clarke Tedesco regularly appears on some of the firm’s most high-stakes mandates with all three name partners, occasionally in a semi-lead role. In one such case, Tedesco is appearing as second chair to name partner Robert Brush, is prosecuting a claim for $700 million in damages arising out of a failed joint venture between a real estate developer and the Ottawa Senators organization. The purpose of the joint venture was to redevelop a 53-acre property in downtown Ottawa, anchored by a new event center and arena for the Ottawa Senators hockey team. The principal defendant has counterclaimed for $1 billion. Kate McGrann is viewed by peers as one of the fastest-rising stars in the Toronto securities community. “She is on a rocket ride to the top,” declares one peer. “In-house counsel just love her.” McGrann, who returned to the firm after a 2017-2018 secondment to the Ontario Securities Commission, held a high-profile position in the Town of Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, which examined allegations of corruption and was conducted over 63 days of live-streamed public hearings in 2019. McGrann was retained as Associate Inquiry Counsel to the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, who was the Inquiry Judge, and she became Lead Inquiry Counsel after the original lead counsel was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court shortly before the hearings commenced. Michael Byers, the firm’s most recent nominee to Benchmark’s future star status, has also been noted to have taken a more active role, independently as well as in tandem with name partners, in mandates as of late.

Laying claim to being Toronto’s oldest litigation boutique still in independent operation (launched in 1979), Stockwoods also hosts some of the city’s most promising young litigation talent. 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. Marocco 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. Justin Safayeni attends to a practice that features a technology and telecommunications element. Exemplifying this, Safayeni was lead counsel for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in a judicial review application regarding access to Premier Doug Ford’s mandate letters. The Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered the Ontario government to release the mandate letters to the CBC, and the government brought this application to try and have that decision set aside. This case will be one of the Divisional Court’s first hearings to be conducted via Zoom and will be broadcast live on YouTube. Andrea Gonsalves practices corporate and commercial litigation, administrative and regulatory law, media and defamation law, intellectual property litigation, professional regulation, and appeals and judicial review applications.

Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein, one of Toronto’s most revered litigation institutions, is also viewed by many as one of its most egalitarian and one of the city’s most nurturing regarding fostering young talent. Tina Lie practices primarily in civil and commercial litigation, employment law and administrative law. In civil litigation cases, she acts for plaintiffs and defendants, with clients ranging from individuals and small businesses to large corporations. In employment matters, she acts for both employees and employers (in non-unionized workplaces). As Assistant Discipline Counsel to the University of Toronto, she prosecutes cases of alleged academic misconduct before the University’s internal tribunal.

Following on to Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel’s expansion from Vancouver into the Toronto market in 2018, the firm has come to dominate the latter city’s construction litigation community through its bench of both senior-level established figures and rising stars, all coming equipped with a proven expertise in the area. Jesse Gardner and James Little represent the younger end of the spectrum, with both having graduated from the University of Windsor in 2013 and called to the Ontario bar a year later. Both are tipped for future stardom in the context of construction and infrastructure litigation, with peers forecasting their rise “in alignment with the classic agenda of that firm.”

Toronto boutique Thornton Grout Finnigan has carved out an especially unique presence for itself via its historical focus on insolvency-related work. The firm has been at the forefront at some of the largest insolvency filings affecting the Canadian market. Thornton Grout’s position on the cutting edge of novel insolvencies in Canada continues and does not go unnoticed by peers. One testifies, “The first cannabis CCAA has already happened [after its 2018 legalization]! And naturally Thornton Grout had a piece of it.” This referred-to case finds Rebecca Kennedy acting for AgMedica, an Ontario-based vertically integrated licensed producer of cannabis that filed for CCAA in December 2019. In another novel case (also involving burning vegetable matter), Kennedy is a member of the team representing JTI Tobacco in its CCAA proceeding, which commenced in March 2019. JTI, along with the two other major tobacco entities in Canada, filed upon the issuance of a joint and several judgment against all three tobacco companies in the amount of approximately $13.5 billion. In addition to this judgment, JTI is also subject to health care cost recovery litigation in excess of $750 billion.

Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb has fashioned itself as a “premier litigation boutique,” with peer and client review uniformly supporting this lofty claim. It is also noted that “Lax is definitely in building mode,” according to a peer. Exemplifying the firm’s pivot to next-generation talent, Rahool Agarwal is making a swift ascent, with peers addressing his commercial litigation prowess with admiration. Agarwal is lead counsel defending a major international law firm in a class action related to a tax shelter/charitable donation program. CRA deemed the tax shelter to be invalid, and as a result, donors did not receive tax credits from CRA as promised for making their donations. The plaintiff seeks recovery on behalf of the proposed class of donors. The plaintiff has targeted various law firms and accounting firms for their roles in advising the operators of the program. Certification motion was heard at a five-day hearing in December 2019, and a decision is under reserve.

 

Quebec

Bogdan-Alexandru Dobrota of venerated Montréal litigation boutique Woods is uniquely positioned to provide a wide range of services to clients involved in complex and cross-border disputes, including commercial litigation, cross-border insolvency services and international arbitration. In the matter of the notice of intention and bankruptcy of Knightsbridge Group of Companies, a developer of LEED-certified residential projects, Dobrota acts as lead counsel for the court-appointed Trustee, Richter Groupe Conseil. Dobrota also acts on behalf of a major Canadian music entertainer who is the plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit. Also at Woods, Louis Seveno is part of a team representing Hachette and various trustees in bankruptcy in multiple cases stemming from the bankruptcies of Paul Benjamin (in Canada and in the US) and of two related Canadian corporations. Seveno is also part of a team representing the builder of a public-private partnership project in a number of disputes against the facility manager and the owner of the project, and also against consultants, and suppliers. These disputes, valued at over $50 million involve project delays, alleged defects, and remedial work, as well as associated penalties, deductions and contractual claims.

Montreal litigation boutique LCM is steadily making its presence felt in the city’s market and is also noted to have one of the consistently youngest benches. Julien Archambault focuses on construction litigation as well as insolvency. Archambault’s keen acumen with construction litigation is owed to an understanding of its intricate issues, a knowledge that extends even beyond legal issues and has roots in a fascination from childhood. Archambault and his team represent Hydro-Québec in a file against a multi-million-dollar claim by Transelec relating to construction work for the adddition of a transformer to a substation. He and his team also represent Château B’Nai Brith, the promoter of a multi-floor senior residence, against a multi-million-dollar claim by the general contractor relating to construction of said residence. Marie-Noël Rochon attends to banking and financial services, government and regulatory, and securities. Her specialization allows her to offer a wide range of services that are not limited to litigation and advocacy and extend to consulting services for compliance issues, internal investigations related to alleged misconduct, registration and other regulatory requirements as well as civil and disciplinary litigation services. As second chair, Rochon represents the California States Teachers’ Retirement System in one of the first opt-out cases from the Canadian class action against Bausch Health Companies (formerly Valeant). Rochon and her team were successful in obtaining leave to bring individual secondary-market liability claims under the Quebec Securities Act. Rochon also represented two investment advisors in the course of disciplinary proceedings brought by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). Rochon negotiated and presented a settlement agreement that was accepted by the IIROC panel.