40 & Under Hot List - Canada


Dispute resolution
40 and Under Canada



Toronto securities-focused boutique Crawley MacKewn Brush has become a breeding ground for young  litigators. In fact, its concentration of leaders at the 40 and Under level has grown to rival that of its more senior name-partner roster. Michael Byers is lead counsel to a Toronto law firm in a $10 million claim alleging the misuse of confidential information, conspiracy and breach of fiduciary duty. He has also taken a second chair role on some of the firm’s most significant mandates. Kate McGrann “has excelled in negotiating document release and privilege issues with the Ontario government,” confirms one reference, who elaborates, “We are dealing with approximately 2 TB of documents.” Another reference extols, “Kate served as lead counsel to two inquiries that I was conducting. These Royal commissions have a great many moving parts and Kate is able to coordinate the various individuals in an effective manner. She also has examined about half the witnesses on one commission and coordinated the interviewing of many on the other. Her work habits are excellent. She is timely and thorough.” Clarke Tedesco played a role in 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; provided counsel to the founder and a former President and CEO of a credit union was subject to a 2018 Administration Order by the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario; and played a role in representing two defendants with respect to a claim for $65 million related to the winding-up of a hedge fund.



Toronto-based boutique shop DMG welcomed John Mather to the partnership this year. Mather, who makes his debut as a future star in this edition of Benchmark Canada, attends to a varied practice that combines elements of other practices on offer at the firm as well as a public law niche.



Brandon Barnes-Trickett of Winnipeg’s Fillmore Riley is one of the firm’s youngest partners and boasts a diverse practice. Among his many mandates, he is part of a team acting for a leading hydroelectric engineering firm headquartered in Québec, the defendant in a contract and tort claim related to Manitoba Hydro’s high-value infrastructure redevelopment and upgrade.



At the historic and esteemed Vancouver shop Harper Grey, Joel Morris is seeing his star quickly on the rise. “Joel is fantastic,” insists a peer, who goes on to confide, “I wanted to hire him!” Another peer raves, “Joel does it all. He is excellent counsel; he contributes to the legal community; he mentors. He is practicing at a level many years beyond his year of call as evidenced by the fact he is already an adjunct professor at the UBC Law School.” Una Radoja enjoys a growing profile in the Harper Grey’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.”



David Éthier, one of the youngest partners at Montréal litigation boutique IMK, makes his debut as a future star this year on the strength of vibrant peer and industry review. Éthier was awarded the “2020 Lawyer of the Year” award for civil and commercial litigation by the Young Bar of Montréal organization.



At Calgary litigation boutique JSS Barristers, Kajal Ervin represents the plaintiffs in a proposed class action against Facebook seeking more than C$622 million in damages arising from complaints made to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada by the plaintiffs and is in relation to the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data breach. “Kajal is my primary contact and has provided me with excellent guidance and transparency about the entire class action process since inception,” declares one client

Ryan Phillips, who focuses primarily on commercial and administrative law, is counsel to the plaintiffs in a wrongful dismissal suit against a land development entity and its then-board chairman. The then-chairman applied to strike the personal claims against him. His application and appeal were both dismissed, and he remains a personal defendant in the action.



In the Vancouver office of Western Canadian’s powerhouse Lawson Lundell, Laura Bevan, a securities-focused star, acts for Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited in the Cullen Commission, a governmental inquiry into allegations of money laundering across several industries throughout Vancouver. Bevan also acted for the British Columbia Securities Commission successfully opposing a discharge from bankruptcy, and then obtaining an order that the Commission’s debt of about $19 million will survive discharge from bankruptcy. Lauren Cook attends to a largely regulatory and administrative practice, with an emphasis on environmental issues. Much of Cook’s work is confidential in profile. Jonathan Selnes, a commercial litigation practitioner in the firm’s Calgary office, focuses largely on the energy sector. In one example of his work dedicated to this province-dominant economy, he represents Corex Resources in an oil-and-gas-related lease dispute. He also acts as second chair on several other cases of this nature with more senior partners.



Rahool Agarwal regularly acts in a supporting role to Lax O’Sullivan’s senior partners in some of the firm’s most high-stakes and high-profile actions. One involves defending Zydus Pharmaceuticals in an antitrust class action and another involves the defense of the former CFO of Canadian cannabis entity CannTrust.



At the celebrated Toronto shop Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein, Tina Lie has emerged as one of its young litigation stars. Among her recent mandates, she acted on an appeal involving competing claims to undeveloped lands in Markham, Ontario. These appeals illustrate the perils associated with a landowner selling interests in the land to more than one party in more than one transaction.



In the Toronto office of Canadian twin-pillared construction powerhouse, Jesse Gardner is part of a Singleton Urquhart team representing the City of Ottawa in a matter concerning allegations of delays and service problems associated with the construction of the City’s $2.1 billion light rail transit system, known as the “O-Train.” Gardner is also a member of a firm team that has also been retained by Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario to provide ongoing advice in relation to the completion of the $5.3 billion Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit system. James Little is heralded by a client as “very knowledgeable [and an] expert in his field, with a great reputation within the construction industry.” Little is also part of the Singleton t team representing the City of Ottawa in the aforementioned “O-Train” matter. In the firm's Vancouver office, Claire Immega pursues a practice that balances commercial litigation, estates and real estate litigation



Home to some of Ontario’s most revered senior practitioners since its formation, Toronto boutique Stockwoods has also become a proven incubator for young talent. 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. Andrea Gonsalves is lead counsel for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in a multi-week defamation trial; counsel for Safe Food Matters Inc in a judicial review application challenging the continuation of the registration of the pesticide glyphosate, now before the Federal Court of Appeal; Co-counsel for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada in an application before the Federal Court under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act against Facebook for privacy breaches, and Co-counsel to the owner and North American licensees the famous Wenger and SwissGear trademarks in a successful trademark infringement application. JustinSafayeni, a quickly risen star within the firm, who is called “exceptional” by a peer, is noted for a practice that blends commercial litigation with administrative law and public law work as well as media and defamation cases.


At the preeminent Toronto insolvency boutique Thornton Grout Finnigan, Rebecca Kennedy acts for AgMedica, an Ontario-based vertically integrated licensed producer of cannabis that filed for CCAA in December 2019. The client successfully restructured through a plan of compromise and arrangement with its creditors in October 2020. This action is one of the first, if not the first, cannabis entity bankruptcy in Canada.


A new Toronto litigation boutique, Tyr Law hosts an impressive three partners in the 40 and Under star category. A client of Anisah Hassan testifies, “Anisah assisted me in the defense of a complicated matter before the Ontario Securities Commission. We were retained just over a week before the start of what proved to be a three-week hearing. She is an exceptional young advocate, a quick study with an agile mind, and she has the courtroom skills of a far more experienced litigator.” One peer regards Michael O'Brien as "smart, savvy, and great in a courtroom," and confirms, "I would and have recommended clients to him." Another addresses him as "one of the most pure combinations of intellect, instinct and thoughtfulness that I have experienced in my 20 years of practice. [He is] Both a tireless mechanic and a consummate crafter." A client of Carlos Sayao's remarks, “Carlos is another outstanding lawyer at Tyr; he is extremely smart, insightful, pragmatic and responsive. He has an excellent, comprehensive and confident command of the files that he manages for us and provides strategic advice that is always on-point, thoughtful, and practical.” 


A new addition to the plaintiff-centric Toronto boutique, Cory Wanless was welcomed into the Waddell Phillips partnership this year. Wanless has hit the ground running, building a relatively new practice that focuses on human rights and corporate and police accountability. In an example, Wanless is leading litigations against a Canadian mining company that was alleged to have engaged in egregious behavior in Guatemala including violence and rape. Wanless is also leading matters concerning alleged racial profiling in various capacities of local law enforcement.


Montréal’s celebrated litigation boutique Woods has seen an almost yearly infusion of young star talent. Its bench has recently been bolstered further with the recent admission of Alex Dobrota to partnership status. “Alex is great,” raves a peer. “He was a war journalist in Afghanistan and he has a lot of experience in life that is helpful as a lawyer.” Dobrota’s practice is centered on insolvency files (typically with an international aspect), complex commercial litigation and international commercial arbitration. Eric Bedard, a new partner at Woods, is described as “solid and very busy” by a peer who goes on to elaborate, “He had three trials before the end of April. He’s become a NAFTA lawyer.”