Calgary’s Burnet Duckworth & Palmer enjoys a historic reputation in the market while at the same time keeping an eye on the future, boasting an array of cutting-edge work attended to by an increasingly younger group of litigators. Clients have turned out to champion the firm’s cause; one testifies, “I use other firms but I prefer Burnet Duckworth, as they allowed me to be more involved with the process and they seemed to me more structured, in an easier-to-follow manner.” Speaking to the firm’s specific advantages, a client takes care to commend the team on its “attention to detail,” going on to elaborate, “The team has been excellent in representing our firm. They are sharp, understand every detail of the law, and you feel like they are always in your corner. They are fast, efficient and they don’t overcharge.”
Jeffrey Sharpe represented CNOOC Petroleum North America, who leased a 37-floor commercial office tower in downtown Calgary and subsequently terminated the lease in May 2019 after having discovered asbestos in the fireproofing lining the air return system in late 2017. The client filed an action claiming $70 million damages, including relocation expenses to another office tower; the lessor counterclaimed against CNOOC and its parent, for $550 million for wrongful termination of the lease. In October 2019, CNOOC brought an application to conduct extensive testing of the asbestos, which was granted. Sharpe also led an arbitration between two Canadian publicly traded corporations in the Alberta energy sector regarding several disputes under a netback pricing agreement involving several significant accounting issues and spanning a decade. Douglas McGillivray is counsel to Bellatrix in its successful summary dismissal application against O’Chiese Energy Limited Partnership (OED). The application considered whether OED was entitled to a 15% working interest in oil-and-gas processing facilities located off of the O’Chiese First Nation reserve. O’Chiese Energy argued that it was entitled to a 15% working interest in the dispute pursuant to the terms of three joint venture agreements entered into between the parties. A client champions McGillivray’s cause, raving, “Doug was excellent in his ability to convey our story in court.” Andrew Sunter is counsel to 50% shareholders in connection with ongoing competing oppression claims and associated lawsuits regarding a number of dental clinics and associated companies and real estate in Alberta. Sunter successfully had an inspector appointed over dental clinics in question to undertake a financial review of alleged misconduct. Susan Fader makes her debut appearance in this edition of Benchmark Canada as a future star. “Susan was meticulous in detail in preparation for trial,” testifies a client on Fader’s behalf.
International legal juggernaut Dentons maintains a formidable Alberta footprint through its Calgary and Edmonton locations and is somewhat unique in the sense that it is noted to have equal litigation horsepower in both offices. These two offices also attend to work that demonstrates the firm’s muscle on the international stage. Calgary’s co-head of litigation Gord Tarnowsky has made a notable mark in the international arbitration arena as of late. Tarnowsky represents Niko, a claimant in two ICSID arbitration proceedings seeking payment for gas delivered to Bangladesh Oil and Gas Mineral Corporation and seeking a declaration, with respect to liability, as well as any compensation payable to Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration & Production Company Limited arising from two gas well blowouts in Bangladesh. Tarnowsky is also acting for Niko in an Alberta action in which its relief well contractor has sought indemnification from Niko, with respect to the claims made in the Bangladeshi suit. In February 2019 a decision issued by the Tribunals found Dentons was successful in arguing against the respondents’ claims of corruption. Tarnowsky also represents two Italian companies in a claim involving a joint venture offshore from the Falkland Islands, alleging breaches of contract and copyright, amongst other accusations. In the Edmonton office, Dennis Picco is a noted standout, with a practice that comprises elements of construction, professional liability, insurance, arbitration and even intellectual property work. Picco represents pipeline entity Enbridge as a plaintiff in a case against a pipeline expansion construction consortium that was constructing an expansion to a crude oil pipeline and also crossing Enbridge’s pipeline. During the crossing exercise the construction contractor altered the agreed-to crossing process and struck one of Enbridge’s pipelines.
Field Law is one of Alberta’s few independent shops, operating through one office each in Calgary and Edmonton, with bench strength distributed evenly between the two offices. Field is especially touted for its insurance, construction and labor and employment capacities. One Calgary peer confirms, “Field is pretty much the go-to for litigation claims related to insurance. They have built their reputation on that work and it’s paid off for them.” The firm is a favorite with its loyal clients. One extols, “They are professional, very courteous and hard working. The whole team is very good at analyzing, evaluating and negotiating claims.” Edmonton insurance practitioner Sharon Stefanyk stands out to clients as “superb in all areas. [She is an] Expert at negotiations and has a real handle on evidence.” Calgary-based Robert Rakochey manages a multi-faceted practice that largely focuses on the construction industry. A client testifies, “Robert assisted us in a matter in which we were trying to get a partner removed and he did an excellent job.”
Calgary boutique JSS Barristers continues to enjoy a maverick model that allows it the flexibility to take on class-action work in both the plaintiff and defense capacities and a broad range of commercial, bankruptcy and professional liability work, with a good deal of it falling outside of typical oil-and-gas industry matters that drive much of the work for local firms. “JSS is doing really well,” observes a peer. “They are our favorite conflict firm, and they have a forward-thinking vision that allows them to attract younger people.” Another peer quips, “I think they had a really good year because I’m seeing a lot of them. I’ve got them on several arbitrations right now – I’m almost feeling like I should just move into their offices! They are becoming more market dominant than in the past.” Clients are also appreciative; one testifies, “In my experience, JSS partners and associates I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with exhibit the highest level of professionalism and integrity. Their understanding of the substantive and procedural law is second-to-none and they are amongst the most courteous, professional and ethical lawyers I have worked with.”
Bryan Duguid and Andrew Wilson are counsel to the defendant, Apache Corporation and certain of its directors in a class-action lawsuit concerning the Restricted Share Units and other forms of deferred compensation that were afforded to employees of Apache Canada. The class action alleges that the defendants breached the terms of the omnibus compensation plan when the Apache Corporation sold the Apache Canada business to Paramount Resources in 2017. The suit claims that neither the defendant nor Paramount Resources have honored the Restricted Share Units and other forms of deferred compensation, which the plaintiffs believe should have been vested and paid out upon completion of the transaction. Duguid remains a favorite of the Calgary legal community. “I referred a construction file worth about $60-$70 million to Bryan,” confirms one peer. Glenn Solomon represents the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta in several ongoing matters. One example is a dispute with the University of Calgary on ongoing solicitor-client privilege issues. The matter was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada and remains ongoing. At the younger level, Oliver Ho and Kajal Ervin represent the plaintiffs in a proposed class action against Facebook seeking more than C$622 million in damages. The proposed class action arises from complaints made pursuant to PIPEDA to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada by the plaintiffs and is in relation to the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data breach that occurred between the period of 2013 and 2018. Ho and Ervin, both of whom make the leap from future star to litigation star status in this edition, are making their respective marks with peers and clients. “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. A peer confirms, “Oliver Ho is legal counsel on a large estate matter in which he acts for one of the other parties, and I act for the personal representatives. Oliver tenaciously and strategically advocates for his client.”
Calgary litigation boutique Peacock Linder Halt & Mack operates in a unique space in the market, carving itself a coveted position as a recipient of “premium” work. “Peacock Linder is always busy, and the size of the disputes they’re handling seem bigger and they seem more fractious and difficult to resolve than the work some other firms deal with,” offers a peer. Another affirms, “Peacock Linder is in the SWEET SPOT! In the Alberta economy, everyone is in the restructuring business, dealing with restructuring commitments, contracts, etc. They have become a necessary adjunct to this with litigation – the demand for their business has skyrocketed. With all of the consolidation going on in the legal field, bigger firms are being conflicted more than they ever were, and so the work is coming to firms like Peacock. They have a specialty – sophisticated oil-and-gas litigation.”
Peter Linder is known in the Calgary community as “a pit bull,” with one peer and former opponent going on to elaborate, “If you’re up against him, you’d better be ready and you’d better be energized. He’s going to put you through the paces, you have to struggle to keep up.” Ed Halt maintains an emphasis on professional liability representation, directors’ and officers’ representation, corporate commercial litigation, securities litigation and franchise litigation. He also has regularly practiced in the areas of insurance law, insolvency, construction and product liability litigation. “Ed is a more measured litigator but very effective and not to be underestimated,” warns a peer. Mylène Tiessen focuses on commercial litigation and professional liability for corporate and individual clients, as well as acting on administrative proceedings defending individuals before independent tribunals and acting as counsel to tribunals.
Rose is a Calgary boutique that saw its genesis in 2013 when a group of partners departed international conglomerate Dentons to establish their own litigation shop. In the eyes of peers, this bold gambit has more than paid off. “The Rose group are some of the brightest stars from Dentons’ Calgary litigation bench,” confirm one peer. “That was a REALLY good move that those people made going out on their own. They just are kicking ass all over the place. I deal with them on a lot of work, and they get a ton of other work as well.” Still another peer speculates in agreement, “I think Rose is turning away work at this point! They are just growing organically and developing a great space in this market, satisfying the need for high-end commercial litigation.” The firm is especially celebrated for its construction and infrastructure work, particularly pertaining to the energy industry and, buoyed by vibrant peer review, ascends into the “highly recommended” category in this edition.
Firm namesake James Rose is confirmed by peers to be “as active as ever. He does lots of commercial and insurance work, and has done every type of case that’s ever been done. He’s doing an IP case in Newfoundland dealing with the information on deposits of offshore oil, with issues dealing with the alleged wrongful acquisition of this information from the government.” Speaking to Rose’s magnetism, one peer offers in summation, “Jim was the guy that everybody knew in Calgary, the one in the middle of the wheel that connected everyone.” While Rose and fellow former Dentons alumnus Lowell Westersund have historically been the firm’s most visible litigators, peers also insist, “You need to take a closer look at Jane Sidnell. She is first-class and is someone who would be well-respected and recognized in this field.” By way of elaboration, another peer offers, “I had an eight-month-long construction file with Jane and she was excellent.” David Wachowich is considered “one of the leaders of the insurance bar. He’s had a long-standing relationship with the insurers in London.” Phillip Scheibel earns near-unanimous rave reviews as “a true leading force there, one who is a prime example of Rose’s strategic recruitment and growth strategy.” Managing partner Matthew Lindsay is another peer favorite, with one such peer confirming, “We were co-experts on a file in Australia and I found him to be very impressive and easy to work with.” Another raves, “You will hear GREAT FEEDBACK about Matt Lindsay. He has a humble nature – he’s from Saskatchewan! – but should not fly under the radar! He’s great, he’s a QC.” Brian Foster acts for a major investment dealer in an investigation by Securities Commissions of its entire business and compliance practices. He also acts for an investment fund in a fair-value claim arising from the exercise of dissent rights on an amalgamation. Foster also acts for an oil and gas company advancing a claim against an investment dealer that terminated a bought deal financing, resulting in significant losses to the company.