A relatively new entry into the Toronto litigation boutique community, Adair Goldblatt Bieber is composed of partners from several other Toronto-based firms, and has, almost immediately upon arrival, taken the market by storm. Perhaps as remarkable is the average age of the firm’s respective partners, which, in several cases, is 40 years old. “I’ve been quite impressed by this bunch,” enthuses one peer. “They are successful young people, very good lawyers, who are really good at promoting themselves and getting themselves out there. I’ve encountered them on academic discipline-type cases and they were very good.” Clients are equally appreciative. One confirms, “This firm has strong litigators who have experience in the area of municipal government and regulatory schemes. These types of claims are fast-paced and require a tight turnaround for receipt of legal advice, and this firm provides prompt, thorough and detailed advice to complicated legal questions in a new area of accountability and ethics at the municipal level in Ontario. They are also always available for impromptu consultations.” Another client testifies, “Adair Goldblatt is one of the firms on our preferred counsel list. The firm acts as defense counsel for litigation involving professional liability claims against lawyers. They withstood all the many, outrageous motions put forth by the plaintiff and successfully defended us and an affiliate. We really appreciated their ability to cut through all extraneous issues to get to the heart of matters in every situation and keeping us informed every step of the way, including summaries on trial days.” The three name partners, John Adair, Simon Bieber and Jordan Goldblatt, all generate acclaim. “I always hear great things about Simon in securities work,” relays one peer, “and Jordan recently did a jury trial out of town, [he] did very well with that.” Goldblatt represented the Ontario Soccer Association, Eastern Ontario District Soccer Association. The plaintiff alleged that the actions of various soccer organizations interfered with its professional soccer club and caused it to suffer $42 million in damages. The claim proceeded to a jury trial in April 2019. At the end of the nine weeks, the conduct of the plaintiff merited a motion to disqualify the jury. Deciding the case alone, the judge dismissed all claims against the clients, on both liability and damages. Goldblatt and Bieber are also counsel to the applicant in a billion-dollar oppression action concerning the client’s partnership status in a number of high-profile condominium developments throughout Toronto. Beyond the name partners, Julia Wilkes is seeing her profile rise on the strength of a surge of peer and client review. “I think she’s great, a very organized smart lawyer that I really enjoyed working with,” declares one peer. One client raves, “Julia is outstanding in her level-headed approach to sometimes emotional cases, always goes above and beyond to obtain all the legal information required in a specific case, and carefully plans the best possible outcome for her client. She guided me through the legal technicalities as they affected our case and helped me to better understand my reasonable options.” Another notes, “Julia Wilkes and Jordan Goldblatt have provided most of the legal opinions, advice, litigation prep and other dispute resolution work for my office. They have been exceptionally well versed in the most recent relevant cases, extremely timely in their delivery of legal opinions and most knowledgeable in the area of municipal law.”
A Toronto litigation boutique, Babin Bessner Spry is viewed favorably by all Bay Street peers familiar with it, notably several at much larger firms. “Babin Bessner is a different type of firm but very effective,” observes one peer. “We have referred them cases and would again.” Senior partner Edward Babin, a noted “lifer” who was previously with two of Toronto’s top brand names is regarded as a true trial lawyer. “Ed is almost a ‘throwback.’ You don’t see many these days with his trial experience.” Cynthia Spry, a “next-generation” partner is also a recipient of robust peer commendations. “I have a lot of confidence in her work,” states one peer. “She does commercial work and is also regularly before the Ontario Securities Commission.” Another peer testifies, “I’ve had a major file against Babin Bessner for three years, and Cynthia Spry has taken on more and more of the file.”
Toronto intellectual property shop Bereskin & Parr generates a healthy level of acclaim from its peers in the IP capacity. “They have a good, sound model there. They have a few terrific and smart IP trial lawyers who are further supported by a crack team of highly educated science and engineering gurus.” Beyond more “traditional” areas of IP, the firm is noted for “making a big push” in two areas: cannabis and artificial intelligence. Indeed, Bereskin & Parr lays claim to having an active hand in the first cannabis trademark dispute in Canada. Within the past year, veteran IP litigator Robert McFarlane has since moved into Counsel status, which has created opportunities for some of the firm’s younger talent. Joshua Spicer, who makes his debut as a future star in this edition, is making his mark through actions traversing both the “hard” and “soft” IP capacities. In the former, Spicer is representing Packers Plus Energy Services in patent infringement actions for damages and accounting of profits relating to apparatus and methods of fracturing oil and gas wells. In the latter, he is lead counsel for ULMA Construction Systems Canada, the plaintiffs in ongoing trademark infringement and passing-off proceedings on the Commercial List in the Ontario Superior Court. The action relates to the allegations the defendant is passing-off copied formwork and shoring equipment in Ontario. Andrew McIntosh represents agrotech entity Arista Life Science in a dispute with another that is alleged to have sold a generic version of one of Arista’s herbicides. McIntosh succeeded in convincing the court that in this case, more than money was at stake; there would be irreparable harm to Arista’s business. On this argument, he succeeded in securing an injunction. It is also noted that “Bereskin & Parr is still active in the pharma world.” Donald Cameron is acting for ViiV Healthcare Company in a patent infringement action against Gilead Canada concerning an HIV inhibitor. Cameron also recently triumphed for Georgetown Rail Equipment in a patent trial, with a December 2017 ruling in the client’s favor. The case is now on appeal. Scott MacKendrick is acting with Cameron on the Viiv case and is active in the trademark realm as well; he is acting for FCA US in a trademark opposition appeal relating to the PENTASTAR trademark, part of both non-use cancellation and opposition proceedings between the parties relating to Pentastar Transportation’s PENTASTAR registration and FCA’s PENTASTAR application.
The Toronto office of Cassels Brock elicits accolades from peers and clients for its diverse array of litigation services on offer, most of which center upon business-centered litigation such as securities, insolvency and general commercial. “Cassels has one of the stronger securities teams in Toronto,” confirms one peer. Securities chair Lara Jackson is regarded by peers as “the next in line behind [celebrated senior securities partner] Wendy Berman [who is currently on secondment to the Ontario Securities Commission]. She is a really good, confident lawyer.” Jackson is defending IBM against a claim by the Province of Ontario for breach of contract in respect of the delivery of a component of the Province’s Road User Safety Modernization Project. The claim involves complex contractual interpretation and factual issues involving a procurement process, technical requirements surrounding an enterprise resource planning system and the issue of whether the solution could be delivered as required using a commercial off-the-shelf integrated solution as specified in the RFP. Jackson also represents Royal Bank of Canada in two separate class actions commenced in Ontario and in the Federal Court alleging that the defendants conspired, agreed, or arranged with each other to fix, maintain, increase, decrease, control, or unreasonably enhance the price of supranational, sub-sovereign, and agency bonds during the class period. The actions were commenced in November and December 2017. Christopher Horkins, whose commercial litigation bucket contains elements of franchise law, securities and product liability, makes his debut as a future star in this edition of Benchmark Canada on the strength of vibrant peer review. “Chris is a smart, well put together, capable lawyer,” states one peer, who adds, “He is kind of a sleeper hit, who’s not someone who draws a ton of attention to himself and so probably doesn’t get the kudos that he deserves.”
A litigation boutique with Bay Street “big law” credentials (two of its three name partners splintered off of Torys to form this firm), Chernos Flaherty Svonkin has “gotten themselves a seat at the table” in the eyes of peers at much larger firms. A client appreciates the firm’s “good, practical business advice. They have a no-nonsense approach that is not only intelligent and well-planned, but also practical and reasonable.” They are very knowledgeable and experienced.” The firm’s practices span a fairly liberal spectrum but are primarily concentrated around business and commercial litigation. Patrick Flaherty acts for the Ontario Minister of Economic Development in an $8 million defamation action against the former leader of the PC Party of Ontario and current Mayor of Brampton, and his publisher arising out the publication of Brown’s book “Takedown”. The defendants have brought an Anti-SLAPP motion, which is scheduled to be heard in April 2020. David Chernos acts for the trustee of a family trust in a contested application for a passing of accounts of the trust. The beneficiaries objected and claimed significant damages and other relief from the client. The Court dismissed the objecting beneficiaries’ claims and passed the accounts without alteration, in the form submitted by the client. Chernos also acts for Canoe Financial on several claims. Chernos and Flaherty act for one of four shareholders in a multibillion-dollar privately owned real estate development firm. The shareholders have brought claims against one another for oppression that go to the entirety of the business enterprise. The case went to trial before the Commercial List of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in November 2020. Stuart Svonkin acts for the plaintiffs, former owners of the Bermuda Telephone Company (BTC)in a negligence claim against their former lawyers at a major Canadian law firm. The plaintiffs allege that the firm gave them negligent advice in connection with the plaintiffs’ sale of BTC to another Bermuda telecommunications company. The case is going to trial for two weeks in November 2021. Future star Andrew Finkelstein is acting for Cedric Millar Integrated Solutions, a logistics company, and a number of its employees (who are former employees of the plaintiff) in defending claims by Transplace in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice action commenced in March 2020 for breach of confidence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty in relation to the defendants’ establishment of a competing business.
A Toronto boutique with a distinct focus on securities and regulatory actions, Crawley MacKewn Brush has continued to develop and build on its rapid market ascent. Its lawyers are championed as assiduous authorities in their subject areas by private-practice peers, in-house counsel and members of the bench. “As a mediator of commercial disputes, particularly involving securities, I have experience with most, if not all, law firms in the jurisdiction doing serious litigation in the area. Crawley MacKewn compares extremely favorably with the best in class,” comes one plaudit, while another reads, “They had remarkable knowledge of securities laws and their applications. They were able to defend the litigation with extraordinary use of both the law and facts, resulting in a successful outcome. They were always responsive to my questions and needs on a timely fashion.” Yet another client stresses, “They are incredibly intelligent and have no fear tackling very complicated issues or files. I have zero hesitation assigning any file in their practice area to this firm.” It is noted that “the firm has been ahead of the curve on some pretty novel issues that are really taking hold now, such as cryptocurrency and cannabis,” and one client also specifies, “The firm’s strong knowledge and expertise in the mutual fund industry better serves their clients when addressing or advising on matters before the MFDA/OSC. This level of expertise is essential when reviewing, responding to and negotiating enforcement cases.”
All three name partners, Alistair Crawley, Melissa MacKewn and Robert Brush generate equal acclaim. “They offer clearly reasoned, meticulously researched, cogent advice,” testifies one client. Crawley and Brush are noted as seasoned securities negotiators, particularly for their relatively young vintage. This pair is representing Chubb Insurance Company of Canada and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in a $400 million claim brought by a major national bank arising out of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, for which the bank was on the hook to pay out hundreds of millions in settlements once the scheme was exposed. MacKewn is noted by a client as someone who “has a lot of experience with the Ontario Securities Commission. She understands the need for a balanced approach with them and she is conscious of keeping the whole litigation process effective and cost efficient.” Others at the firm are also making their mark; Clarke Tedesco and Kate McGrann have been equally active, and both are particular favorites of clients. “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.” Tedesco meanwhile has paired up with Brush 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. Tedesco has also teamed up with Crawley in providing 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, which, in the wake of whistleblower complaints and an investigation into self-dealing and mismanagement, removed the client’s Board of Directors and Management and assumed administrative control over $1 billion in assets under management. Tedesco also teamed up with MacKewn in representing two defendants with respect to a claim for $65 million related to the winding-up of a hedge fund. The claim involves allegations of market manipulation, asset overvaluation and misrepresentation.
A global conglomerate that some speculate is “the world’s largest law firm” by volume and headcount, Dentons made an entry into the Canadian market approximately 10 years ago through a strategic acquisition of a Canadian firm and has steadily built out ever since. While it has seen growth in all of its office across Canada, the Toronto office is arguably its most visible in the commercial litigation space. Marina Sampson has the support of many Bay Street peers. “I think she’s excellent,” extols one. “She does commercial litigation but also class actions, and I have been very impressed with what I’ve witnessed from her.” In just one example of a client base composed of household names, Sampson leads a team that represents Amazon in three significant class action mandates, in addition to an existing portfolio of commercial litigation representing Amazon. These class actions touch on a variety of allegations, including competition claims. Sampson is also championed for her expertise handling matters requiring urgent and extraordinary relief, including injunctions and Anton Piller orders. In an example of this work, she acted as lead litigation counsel nationally and in Ontario to Canadian National Railway Company, succeeding in obtaining injunctions in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba to bring an end to the widely reported unlawful blockade activities which took place in February 2020. Matthew Fleming, the co-lead of the firm’s global Financial Services Litigation group, was retained by a consortium of 32 airport authorities in Canada which manage and operate Canada’s airports in proposed class actions seeking damages on behalf of a proposed class of airline employees and others who allege that they should not have been charged airport improvement fees when traveling on employee travel passes. Fleming has also been retained by Honda Canada and Honda’s parent company in Japan to represent them in product liability class actions in Ontario, British Columbia and Québec seeking damages associated with alleged defects in airbag control units.
A recent entry to Benchmark Canada and the legal market overall, three-partner Toronto litigation boutique DMG Advocates comes instilled with instant Bay Street credibility. The firm saw its genesis upon its three partners, Ryder Gilliland, Hugh DesBrisay and Kathryn Manning, establishing this shop upon leaving their former respective posts at Blake Cassels & Graydon. As such, DMG Advocates comes with its own built-in individual and collective fan base. “They hit the ground running and are already getting traction,” observes one peer. Gilliland is a commercial litigator who mines a niche in defamation and privacy law. “Ryder is a go-to guy if you have any media-type issue, he pretty much owns that space now, and is at the right time of his life to be there.” DesBrisay, whose commercial litigation practice crosses over into the product liability sphere, is noted as “always a very solid litigator.” DesBrisay’s experience is most pronounced in the automotive industry. He is currently defending a client in this sector in a $1.5 billion certified class action concerning misrepresentation of fuel consumption, which is scheduled to proceed to a hearing in May. Manning combines commercial litigation with product liability and an additional focus on employment litigation and professional negligence. DMG also 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.
A Bay Street institution, Goodmans wins plaudits from appreciative peers who cheer the firm as “an excellent litigation team, particularly in the areas of commercial litigation and insolvency.” Historically the domain of some more dominant senior partners who have since gone to the bench, others have taken over with aplomb and are making their mark. One client raves, “David Conklin provided excellent advice to handle litigation raised by the company in which we were shareholders, to have baseless litigation dismissed or handled in a cost-effective manner consistent with our strategic goals.” Andrew Brodkin, who occupies a significant intellectual property space, is called “the heir apparent” in this area in the light of some more senior partners stepping back. A peer muses, “I once saw a judge compliment another IP lawyer by telling him, ‘Now you’re thinking like Brodkin!’” Howard Wise is one of the firm’s noted practitioners in the construction and infrastructure capacity “Howard concentrates primarily on sub-contractors,” offers a peer in this capacity. “He’s got a big case he’s running in New Brunswick right now. “
Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb has fashioned itself as a “premier litigation boutique,” with peer and client review uniformly supporting this lofty claim. “Lax takes on whatever they want, and they take every case just as seriously,” assesses a peer. “They get the work that would make you go ‘wow,’ but they also take these weird one-off files that you wouldn’t even expect, and they are superb with all of it.” One thing the firm does not do is commoditized, routine work. An independent-minded shop with no steady revenue stream, the firm relies on files that require a high-minded and novel approach to litigation, be it dispute resolution or trial. It is also noted that “Lax is definitely in building mode,” according to a peer, who goes on to confide, “They actually poached a few of our associates!”
The firm boasts multiple examples of this novel-but-high-stakes work. Jonathan Lisus, an all-purpose trial lawyer, is routinely referred to as one of Toronto’s most committed and versatile litigators. “Jonathan Lisus is just everywhere at once,” observes a peer. “He never lets this versatility get the better of him, though. He’s always on top of his game, and he keeps his chops up by remaining busy all the time, often on stuff that is a bit ‘off the beaten path.’” In one such example, Lisus is counsel to a group of standardbred horse breeders who brought a claim against the provincial government and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation in connection with the termination of revenue sharing under the “Slots at Racetrack Program” in 2012. This termination allegedly caused the breeders to suffer significant losses. The lawsuit was brought in 2014, and a summary judgment motion was heard in 2018 and 2019. The Superior Court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor against the government of Ontario on liability in June 2020. Lisus also represents Zydus Pharma in a class action against the world’s leading generic drug makers alleging anti-competitive behavior, including participating in a price-fixing cartel. The defendants are responsible for most of the generic drug manufacturing in Canada. Acting with Lisus on this matter is Rahool Agarwal, a future star with a rising profile. Agarwal is also working with name partner Matthew Gottlieb as Canadian counsel for a defendant in a number of high-profile class- action claims in the US and Canada which arise from the client’s involvement as the former CFO of CannTrust Holdings, a Canadian marijuana producer. The plaintiffs alleged that the client, amongst others, was directly involved in making a number of misrepresentations relating to CannTrust’s compliance with health and safety regulations in its share offering documentation. In particular, it is alleged that CannTrust was operating several illegal grow operations at two of its facilities. Agarwal also acts with Lisus and Crawford Smith as primary counsel to the Competitive Network Operators of Canada in a series of appeals brought by some of Canada’s largest incumbent telecommunication companies from a decision of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regarding the provision of wholesale high-speed internet services. Gottlieb is also counsel to the litigation trustee in the Sears bankruptcy, who was authorized by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to bring claims against certain defendants to increase assets of this insolvent company. A trial of the action seeking $509 million was scheduled to begin in May 2020 but wound up settling in September.
Endowed with what peers agree is “the deepest litigation talent roster in Toronto,” Lenczner Slaght commands brand-name respect among its Bay Street peers. “There are a lot of litigation boutiques around now, even just in Toronto,” offers one peer by way of explanation, “but Lenczner is well beyond those proportions now. It’s a full-fledged powerhouse of more than 50 people at this point. And yet it has lost none of its consistency. The culture over there ensures that those people coming up are all excellent as well as all the seniors who launched that firm. Tom Curry, an excellent lawyer himself, who everybody knows, has done an excellent job of grooming a lot of the talent and maintaining quality control.” It is also noted that “Lenczner Slaght is doing an exemplary job in retaining and promoting women,” an observation shared by several Toronto practitioners with admiration.
In particular, Shara Roy is seeing her star on the rise not only for her acuity with a diverse basket of litigation but also for her dedication to promoting female litigators through a referral network launched in 2019 along with another Lenczner Slaght partner, intellectual property star Sana Halwani, and also in cooperation with other senior women in the legal industry. This in-house initiative, ReferToHer, has received applause from several local peer practitioners, male and female. Former future star Paul-Erik Veel is someone who is also enjoying a steady ascent in profile. One peer testifies, “He’s actually on the other side of a case from me right now and he’s really running it. I have been very impressed with him. He does work with a broad spectrum of cases. [He is] Courteous, amiable but firm, thorough, and his work has been of excellent quality.” Another peer extols, “Paul-Erik is one of these kinds of encyclopedic minds that, mid-case, can reference another case and relate for how it pertains to the present one, [which is] exceedingly impressive.”
McMillan’s Ontario litigation team, distributed among its offices in Toronto and Ottawa, attends to a diverse variety of litigation matters and covers a broad range of practice areas. A client champions the firm’s “willingness to work with us, practical and pragmatic counsel, professionalism, competency in dealing with matters, ease of communication, dedication to finding resolution and drive to achieve a successful outcome.” Toronto, the firm’s largest office, houses some of the firm’s marquis partners. David Kent commands unanimous acclaim for his antitrust and competition acumen from peers all throughout Toronto and beyond. “David has been involved in every single competition class action in Canada,” testifies a peer. “No one is smarter, and no one is better versed than him in the competition area.” The firm is also said to have “the biggest product liability practice in Ontario.” Scott Maidment is touted for a “big win on the Samsung Note 7 case.” Specifically, the Québec Superior Court dismissed the attempt to certify the class action against Samsung relation to the Note 7 phones, a notable achievement in light of Québec’s famously low bar for class certification. Brett Harrison works in corporate governance and securities, including a lot of contested proxy battles, as well as insolvency. Harrison acted for Nabis, a Canadian holding company operating cannabis assets in the US. In June 2020 it defaulted on the interest payment due to holders of $35 million in bonds. The bondholders initiated proceedings to accelerate and enforce its debt. After commencing litigation in both Ontario and Arizona, the Company resolved all of its outstanding actions and entered into a support agreement with the bondholders to complete a reorganization. Robert Wisner is the co-chair of the arbitration group and focuses primarily on international arbitration, with an even balance of commercial and investor state arbitration, with a good deal of this concerning the energy industry. Brad Hanna is another co-chair of the arbitration group, with a more domestic focus. Hanna represents ICH and MPX in defending against a British Columbia-based claim brought by plaintiffs alleging that the defendants engaged in oppressive and unfairly prejudicial acts, breached various agreements between the parties, breached their fiduciary duties and violated the duty of honesty and good faith. ICH and MPX counterclaim for negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith. Adam Chisholm, a quickly risen former future star with a diverse commercial litigation practice that touches on elements of securities and intellectual property, scored big in 2020 as part of a team that provided lead counsel for The Catalyst Capital Group in connection with its successful fight to increase the offer price in the acquisition of Hudson’s Bay Company. The matter resulted in the Ontario Securities Commission issuing new guidance regarding the role and responsibilities of a special committee in a conflicted going-private transaction and reconfirmed long-held principles regarding disclosure obligations of issuers. Jason Annibale is noted for a thriving construction practice that finds him in a lead counsel role on numerous novel (and largely confidential) commercial property and infrastructure disputes.
Miller Thomson is unique among firms operating in Ontario in that it is one of the few that is not solely Toronto-centric but instead maintains team members throughout offices in London, Guelph, Vaughan, Markham and the Kitchener-Waterloo region, through which it can handle a variety of mid-market commercial disputes as well as those more typical of Bay Street. Operating from Toronto as well as the Kitchener-Waterloo office, Adam Stephens prevailed in a seven-day arbitration commenced by Stewardship Ontario (SO) to challenge charges of $23 million imposed by the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) on SO. RPRA oversees Ontario’s Blue Box recycling program, a $250 million program annually. The costs of the program are shared between the municipalities that administer the program for their communities on the one hand and the businesses that create the recyclable material on the other. SO brought an arbitration to challenge $23 million in charges based on contract and administrative law principles. Of the $23 million at issue, RPRA successfully defended $22 million of the amount charged. Rohit Kumar, who also operates out of Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, represented Eagle Street Industrial GP, a landlord, in a matter concerning an application for relief from forfeiture by one of its commercial tenants in respect of a notice of default served by the client for arrears of additional rent pursuant to a commercial lease agreement. The tenant disputed the calculation of additional rent, disputed its obligation to pay the contested amount pending the outcome of arbitration provided for under the lease, and claimed that COVID-related factors should inform application of the equitable remedy of relief from forfeiture. Eagle Street argued that the terms of the lease required payment of the arrears pending the outcome of arbitration and that the tenant was not entitled to relief from forfeiture given its willful default, some of which pre-dated the onset of the pandemic. The tenant was denied all relief sought in its application and was given 20 calendar days to cure its default by paying all arrears and continuing to pay any disputed amounts pending the outcome of arbitration.
Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein earns a pride of place amongst Toronto firms for its litigation pedigree. Peers (throughout Toronto and beyond) are nearly unanimous in their praise and appreciation of its practitioners. “Paliare Roland has excellent senior litigators as well as a strong young team,” sums up one. Another confides, “If a lawyer from Paliare is on a case, you can almost feel the advantage they have in court,” concedes one peer. “Judges seem to trust them implicitly, and they earn praise even when they lose.” The firm is also a recipient of thundering client testimonials as well. One client confirms, “We changed counsel at the end of our case, as we were unhappy with our previous lawyer. The Paliare team displayed a quick and accurate grasp of the complex matter involved in the dispute. They were able to step in last minute and win the case for us.” Another declares, “[They are] Professional, responsive, good advocates. [They provide] practical advice and [their] communication is excellent, research is thorough, arguments are well articulated, and rates are competitive for Greater Toronto Area.”
Ken Rosenberg and Odette Soriano scored in obtaining summary judgment for a class of approximately 200,000 individuals who are Registered Retirement Savings Plan account holders, and holders of similar registered accounts, with BMO Nesbitt Burns, BMO InvestorLine, and BMO Trust Company in a certified class action in which the court held that the defendants committed breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty by charging undisclosed fees on foreign exchange transactions in registered trust accounts. The court awarded judgment in favor of the class and ordered disgorgement of the defendants’ profit on $102.9 million. Soriano also represents current and former Shoppers Drug Mart franchisees across Canada (excluding Québec) who allege that their franchisor breached the franchise agreements, were unjustly enriched, and breached statutory and common law duties by, among other things, collecting payments relating to pharmaceuticals under a statutory regime in Ontario between 2006 and 2013 and, in respect of franchisees across Canada, charging and collecting certain fees. Megan Shortreed, who manages a varied practice that touches on product liability and professional (including medical) liability, acts for a physician practicing out of the Wise Elephant Family Health Team in Brampton, Ontario. The client alleges that his former colleagues in the family practice engaged in extensive fraud involving Ontario Ministry of Health funds designated for the medical practice (approximately $3 million). The client seeks damages for the misappropriated fund, and for various other torts that address intentional wrongs committed by the former colleagues and their respective medical professional corporations. Jeff Larry also attends to a diverse practice, largely dedicated to insolvency but also commercial litigation and even some labor and employment elements. Larry acted for a group of individual defendants who were subscribers to a highly complex tax-incentivized offering involving the purchase of a film library. The case began in 2013 with an attempt by the alleged creditor (the owner of the film library) trying to add the clients to litigation as third parties, which was successfully resisted at the time. The creditor tried again in 2016, bringing a summary judgment motion, which was dismissed in 2019, before finally appealing to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 2020 but eventually deciding to abandon this appeal after the clients’ responding appeal materials were filed.
Toronto boutique Pape Chaudhury is a two-partner shop that has forged a maverick position and left an impression on the community. Several peers voice appreciation for its model which, several concede, is increasingly coveted. Historically the domain of Paul Pape, a no-nonsense barrister who built and cultivated what was previously Pape Barristers entirely on his own, the firm developed into its current formation in 2018 when Shantona Chaudhury became a name partner. Chaudhury, who joined Pape’s firm in 2009 as a brand-new lawyer, has blossomed into one of Toronto’s most promising young litigators. “Shantona is the real deal, you don’t get to work beside Paul Pape AND especially get your name on the door unless you can deliver,” testifies a peer. Pape Chaudhury’s approach allows it to take on a diverse basket of work, much of it novel in nature. The firm has developed a niche in appellate work, boasting a streak of seven straight wins at the Ontario Court of Appeal. “That’s kind of unheard of,” marvels a peer. “Anyone can do an appeal, but can you WIN them? And that many?” Although primarily known for its appellate work, the firm, and Chaudhury in particular, is also involved at the trial level. Chaudhury has been retained on a tribunal hearing lasting into 2020, as well as certain class-action cases, which are typically, but not exclusively, in the plaintiff capacity. Chaudhury is also acting for the Law Society of Ontario. The firm is also noted for its increased presence in the insurance space. “They have been acting for insurers on a fairly regular basis,” confirms one peer, clarifying, “but this is not your typical run-of-the-mill insurance defense deep-discount work. This is more like bespoke work that requires more legal ‘neurosurgery,’ so it’s a good fit [for Pape Chaudhury.]”
Toronto litigation boutique Polley Faith continues to see its profile rise, with its partners attracting a steady stream of glowing peer and client review. “Those guys are just amazing,” extols one peer in summation. Another elaborates, “They are all ex-McCarthy [Tétrault] people so they come with a prestigious pedigree. They were bred as trial lawyers and that has paid off for them big-time. They get some really impressive work, especially for a firm of their size and relative youth.” One peer even asserts, “They are knocking on the door of your top-tier firm rankings for sure. I would keep an eye on them over the next year or two – in terms of just sheer skill set they are highly recommended already.” Clients are also appreciative: One declares, “The Polley Faith lawyers are very flexible and capable of thinking outside the box. They have a deep team of competent staff and working with them is a pleasure. I am consistently impressed by the quality of the work.” Another testifies, “This is a wonderful firm that assisted us with a dispute we were told was impossible to win. We did win, and we won fast and decisively, and that was because the firm drove strategy from the start and had a good and clear vision of how we could win.” Mark Polley represented Sienna Senior Living, whose participation in Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission involves both informing the Commission about the measures Sienna took in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and also providing recommendations as to how the long-term care sector can improve during the pandemic’s second wave. Polley played a role in assisting Sienna in navigating this process by ensuring that it is prepared to respond to any questions or requests from the Commission. In another COVID-related matter, Andrew Faith represented Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario. The appeal to the Divisional Court successfully resulted in the overturning of various legal and factual errors made by the Discipline Panel in finding that an engineer was not guilty of professional misconduct. The case was conducted entirely remotely and was one of the first examples of such a procedure during COVID-19. Faith also led the defense of an action by the Monitor and other parties to the Sears Canada insolvency against ESL Inc. (Eddie Lampert) and other parties for the recovery of a $500 million dividend payment made while the embattled retailer was experiencing financial distress. A favorable settlement was reached this year. Jeffrey Haylock, who was welcomed into the partnership this year and makes his debut as a future star in Benchmark Canada in this edition, acted with Faith on the aforementioned ESL matter.
Toronto boutique Roy O'Connor has, since its genesis in 2004, etched itself a position as an independent player in the market, free to straddle a mix of plaintiff and defense capacities. In particular, David O'Connor receives a pronounced level of praise for his role in some of the most hotly contested class-action matters in Ontario. “David is basically running the firm these days from the plaintiff class action perspective,” observes a peer. “He has a great combination of youthful energy and beyond-his-years experience, which greatly behooves him in taking on cases that involve real risk, particularly in the plaintiff role. Many others have tried to do what he does and ended up looking like complete fools, just shooting in the dark and hoping their weak arguments take root. David meanwhile takes a very creative tack and it works.” O'Connor triumphed in his key position in the class-action claims of unpaid overtime against several banks, and has more recently been working with a consortium of leading plaintiff’s counsel firms across Canada in the Volkswagen emissions class actions. Peter Roy continues to generate plaudits for his work in commercial and D&O work. “Peter Roy is a true trial lawyer,” voices a competitor. “He has made a name for himself as someone who attracts clients who are not afraid to roll the dice and take matters all the way if they feel they are suffering an injustice.” Roy is engaged in a matter concerning an oral agreement regarding a purchase of Burger King Canada. Roy is also leading an ongoing plaintiff class action involving the collapse of a shopping mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario. He also is acting for the principal beneficiaries and the companies an alleged oppression and breach-of-trust action arising out of a contested estate matter and, more recently, is handling a significant appeal on behalf of a prospector for royalties concerning diamonds. While the two name partners command the most visibility, peers also weigh in for Sean Grayson and Adam Dewar. Grayson maintains a diverse portfolio that includes D&O class-action defense work as well as some “under-the-radar securities regulatory work.” Dewar attends to primarily class-action work, in the defense and plaintiff capacities.
A Toronto boutique, Rueters is the eponymously named firm established in 2003 by commercial litigator Bob Rueter following his departure from Stikeman Elliott. “Rueters is a group with a culture of ‘go-getter’ entrepreneurial spirit, with young partners who have been groomed separately and internally. In Bob Rueter, they have a senior figurehead with brand-name recognition.” The firm acts for a lot of small to mid-sized companies, in both the litigation and advisory roles. The firm is noted for its increasing involvement in private arbitrations, particularly concerning real estate. Rueters is also observed to have “developed inroads into a lot of the Chinese Canadian market.” While Rueter remains the namesake and rainmaker, peers note that “Bob at this point is entrusting his younger partners with a lot of the legwork, which is a smart move.” At the younger level, Sara Erskine, who joined the firm in 2006, is emblematic of the “young go-getter” demographic. Erskine attends to a broad practice encompassing commercial disputes, securities law, labor and employment law, administrative law, constitutional law and class-action litigation. Erskine is acting for an estate in a contractual dispute regarding a share of approximately $135 million in net profits of a land development. “Sara is very responsive and brings whatever resources are required to the table as needed, but manages the overall service,” attests a client. A noticeably growing number of peers is standing in agreement with one’s assessment: “We have a lot of time for Malik Martin, he is definitely getting a name for himself and building a strong practice on his own.” Barry Weintraub is also championed by a client as a “dedicated professional, with excellent listening and interpretation skills, and integrity that is visible at all times.” This client extrapolates further, “For us failure was not an option and Barry delivered in court. As well, I believe he changed how the court now views environmental impacts in Ontario in relation to the Ministry Of Environment own guidelines for minor releases with little or no impact.”
Canada’s deepest and most renowned intellectual property-based legal entity, Smart & Biggar has etched itself a dominant position in the country’s IP community, most notably in the capacity as true trial lawyers. One peer notes, “More often than not, these cases actually go to court! And Smart & Biggar has a pretty stellar record of winning at trial.” The firm also enjoys a dedicated and vocal client base. One client insists, “The Smart & Biggar team are gifted advocates, highly technically competent, and provide excellent value especially considering their world-class litigation skills.” Another client elaborates, “We go to this firm with all kinds of intellectual property work, in particular trademark opposition matters and general brand protection work, cease-and-desist letters as well as trademark prosecution work. [They deliver] outstanding written work product and oral advocacy, extremely effective cross examination and responses to questions from the bench. They also have very good client relationship management and a tailor-made approach.”
The firm is revered for its range of experience covering patents, trademarks and copyrights, each being areas in which the firm has secured some landmark wins. Its celebrated patent practice leans heavily on the pharmaceutical industry, but is far from limited to this area, with a diverse portfolio of patent victories concerning everything from polymers to hockey helmets. Its trademark practice meanwhile has attracted a list of clients that reads like a “who’s who” of household names. The firm historically boasts its deepest bench in Ontario, with practitioners of equal horsepower in its offices in Toronto and Ottawa. In the biggest trademark dispute handled by the firm within the past year, Toronto’s Mark Evans, Mark Biernacki and Ottawa’s Steve Garland acted in successfully defending a trademark infringement action brought by Loblaws in relation to Pampered Chef’s use of its “PC” logo. The case wound its way to the Federal Court of Appeal, where Smart & Biggar triumphed in February 2021. Also acting on this case is future star Graham Hood, who is championed by a client as “a fantastic business partner with excellent business acumen, brilliant legal expertise and a pleasure to work with.” Garland and fellow Ottawa partner Jeremy Want also scored at the Federal Court of Appeal when that court affirmed the Federal Court’s decision awarding Dow $650 million in a patent infringement matter brought against Nova Chemical, bringing this long-running matter to a close.
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.”
Toronto boutique Thornton Grout Finnigan has been at the forefront at some of the largest insolvency filings affecting the Canadian market – and several that have cross-border and even international reverberations – including US-based retail giant Sears, multi-headed UK-based infrastructure behemoth Carillion, and Canadian energy entity Dundee Oil and Gas. Clients voice their enthusiasm for the firm’s litigators’ individual and collective bankruptcy acumen as well as their overall approach to litigation. “They live up to their promise of ‘developing a clear understanding of our clients’ business goals,’ and then developing a strategy to ensure that those goals are met through an efficient and effective use,” testifies an appreciative client. “Thornton Grout litigators craft assertive and creative responses at every stage of the dispute resolution process.”
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. The client successfully restructured through a plan of compromise and arrangement with its creditors in October 2020. John Finnigan and DJ Miller, both routinely recognized insolvency leaders, represent OMERS Realty Corporation, who retained the pair to argue an appeal from a lower court decision which denied a commercial landlord access to the full amount of a letter of credit it had secured from the tenant’s bank as security for loss and damage caused to the landlord as a result of the tenant’s breach of the lease or disclaimer of the lease in bankruptcy. The Court of Appeal, in a comprehensive decision, overturned the lower court ruling and affirmed the autonomy principal of letters of credit. Finnigan has also been retained to defend Deloitte in two auditor negligence actions arising out of the insolvency of Bondfield Construction, an entity that has been bedeviled by allegations on $80 million worth of fraudulent activity on the part of one of its former principals. Miller meanwhile acted as counsel to Ernst & Young in its capacity as Monitor of Peraso Technologies in proceedings commenced under the CCAA in June 2020. Leanne Williams represents not-for-profit organizations that operate two timeshare resorts. The real property upon which the resorts are situated are owned by approximately 11,400 members who own a partial interest as tenants in common and have a perpetual obligation to pay annual membership fees. The growing number of delinquent members and increasing capital expenses caused an untenable financial situation. Because the applicants were funded by the members, they were not insolvent and could not avail themselves of either the BIA or CCAA. Daniel Schwartz, who joined the firm in 2018 from another Toronto-based institution, is leading a novel litigation involving a $20+ million estate. The case is set for trial in March 2021.
A Toronto institution, Torys is often referenced as “the crown jewel of Bay Street,” and “the gold standard to which many others aspire.” Accolades abound from peers as well as from clients, both of whom view the firm in the same reverent light. One client extols, “They are constantly thinking outside the box, planning ahead for ways to help the business continue enhancing its risk-management programs.” Another declares, “They are smart, strategic, responsive, efficient, patient and wonderful to work with. The lawyers working on the file were excellent at communicating where things stood in the process, ensuring that I was involved at every stage, and doing so in a timely way. I was very confident that this team would do an excellent job on the file.” Another testifies, “They have a true sense of the client. They ensure they learn about the business to provide better and more catered legal advice and services. They are fierce and astute litigators.” Linda Plumpton is a noted standout not only within the firm but also among a pronounced percentage of Bay Street peers as well as her own personal fan base of clients. “Linda is a consummate litigator,” sums up one client. One peer raves, “I’m a huge Linda Plumpton fan, she is punching way above her weight. I saw her in a matter in which she was the only woman lead and she was outstanding.” A peer elaborates, “Linda can pretty much do anything, you’re seeing her everywhere now, on any type of file. She does competition, commercial, securities, you name it. She can negotiate with the best and work out solutions when called upon, but you best believe she can also go to trial.” Plumpton is acting for Anson, a Toronto-based hedge fund, in defense of a conspiracy claim alleging the client, among other entities, engaged in a manipulative “short-and-distort” scheme to generate negative publicity against the plaintiffs, and then sold their stock short. The original allegations against Anson also included additional claims of defamation, intentional interference with economic relations and unjust enrichment. Torys filed a motion to strike these allegations, which was granted, but other claims remain ongoing. Acting with Plumpton on this matter is Andrew Bernstein, whose practice also crosses over into the intellectual property arena. In the latter capacity, Bernstein has been retained to advise on a major copyright matter. David Outerberidge is representing Antorisa Investments and Active Tire & Auto Centre in a claim against the City of Vaughan for malicious prosecution, negligent investigation and abuse of process after the City prosecuted Antorisa for operating its automotive business in violation of the municipal zoning by-law. At trial on the by-law charge, the City’s witness admitted there was no basis to lay the charge. Antorisa’s claim is that the City has engaged in a targeted attack on Antorisa’s operation for improper reasons, and that the City’s investigation of the alleged by-law offense was negligently carried out. Securities star John Fabello acts for a consortium of underwriters in a proposed Ontario securities class action alleging primary and secondary market misrepresentations by CannTrust Holdings concerning allegations that it failed to disclose compliance issues related to the growth and storage of unlicensed cannabis plants. Gillian Dingle, who is acting with Fabello on this matter, is also a recipient of an increasing level of notice and commendations. “We’re seeing a lot more of Gillian,” confirms one peer, “and it definitely speaks well of her and the firm. She is hard-working and exceptional.” Other younger stars making their mark within the firm are Jeremy Opolsky and Martha MacDonald, both of whom make their debut appearances as future stars this year. Opolsky manages a broad commercial practice, while MacDonald leads the firm’s tax litigation practice, an area in which she scored a considerable and unique win on appeal for BMO in May 2020.
The latest entry into the crowded Toronto litigation boutique pedestal, Tyr Law was forged by three partners, Jim Doris, Jim Bunting and Sean Campbell, after calving off of their former firm, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, where all three cultivated their litigation pedigree and earned their individual reputations. Looking to sidestep the conflicts potentially encountered from the corporate capacity at Davies, these entrepreneurial partners went all in on this newfound freedom, naming their firm after the Norse war god who presides over matters of law and justice. Peers are watching and already impressed with the venture. “I have referred them work because they are trusted and experienced counsel,” confirms one. “They are top-notch commercial litigators, all coming from major national law firms but bravely going out on their own as a boutique litigation start-up.” Another elaborates, “They are a combination of extremely experienced and highly respected lawyers like Jim Doris and dynamic, younger and technologically savvy lawyers gaining excellent reputations like Jim Bunting and Sean Campbell. They are the epitome of civility while [being] zealous advocates for their clients.” Clients are equally impressed; one offers a pithy and glowing accolade: “The team at Tyr is excellent. These lawyers have Bay Street pedigree and training but are cost-efficient and tech-friendly. The result is that they are extremely tough and get great results for their clients, but without some of the traditional billing inefficiencies and excessive costs you see at big law firms. They have embraced remote practice as well as any firm in Canada, and during the pandemic, instead of allowing their clients’ files to stall, they have pushed them forward more than ever, conducting discoveries, examinations, and contested hearings remotely and getting great results for their clients.” Speaking to the basket of varieties of work the firm has been attending to, one peer observes, “They are a market disrupter. They are taking a different tack. Jim Bunting has sports law, a lot more government work, and insurance coverage work. In fact, Jim Doris has built up an interesting niche in this area. There are not many Bay Street lawyers who will take on the insurance company.” Another peer opines, “It takes real you-know-what to walk away from Davies but I think they did a good thing. They can now spread their wings and explore where they can go with their practices, individually and collectively. You want to sue a bank, an insurance company, or a mining company? You can’t DO that at Davies!” Speaking to the lawyer’s individual talents, a peer states, “Jim Doris is low-key but SMART! He is a gold medalist, clients love him.” A client speaks to the advantages of Doris’ demeanor: “In an extremely tense negotiation among a number of leading lawyers, Jim displayed a sense of judgment and pragmatism that was able to take the temperature down and get the deal done.” Bunting is called “the flashy guy, the big personality, from a perspective of marketing, he’s the face. At Davies he had [litigation figurehead] Kent Thomson to stand behind but I think Bunting will now start to shine, you’ll see him on a whole whack of cases.” Beyond the three main partners, others of a more junior level are starting to emerge in their own right. Pinta Maguire, who joined the firm from Lenczner Slaght, acted with Bunting in representing publicly traded cannabis companies Emblem Cannabis and Aleafia Health in arbitration proceedings seeking damages for an alleged breach of a long-term supply contract. Following expedited arbitration proceedings, the case settled, with the clients receiving $29 million. Anisah Hassan is also a recipient of praise. A client 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.” Hassan is working with Bunting on a potentially precedent-setting application by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to the Federal Court to determine whether Google search results are subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. This case seeks to confirm whether a “right to be forgotten”, allowing individuals to have search results relating to them removed from search engines, exists under current Canadian law. Carlos Sayao is also developing a fan base among clients. “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.”
Waddell Phillips is a relatively new addition to Toronto’s legal community. The firm came into being when Margaret Waddell launched the firm with seasoned barrister John Kingman Phillips as a purely litigation-centric boutique free to take on a diverse spectrum of work in either the plaintiff or defense capacities. Peers are enthusiastic about the firm’s promise; “Marg Waddell was a star at [her previous firm], which is a great litigation boutique in its own right, and so she’s sure to bring that same energy to this firm. And she has youth on her side, which brings great ‘upside’ to the firm, which is a great complement to John’s senior stature and experience. The firm is sure to do well with referrals, getting work that many others are conflicted out of or, frankly, too expensive.” Waddell is lead counsel for plaintiffs in an ongoing case concerning the approval of a unique form of third-party funding, with an underlying issue of defective medical device and failure to warn. She is also lead counsel in an ongoing case concerning systemic negligence and breach of fiduciary duty regarding a teacher at an esteemed ballet school taking nude photographs of students and selling them online. More recently, Waddell filed another class action against a local neurologist who allegedly kept video cameras in his facility that were purportedly used for “before-and-after” breast augmentation photos but then were distributed without consent. A peer supports Waddell’s stature, “She was on the other side of a securities class action from us, and we found her bright, thoughtful and credible. She has the respect of the bench, which is incredibly important on the plaintiff side. She had a big win in the Winnipeg Ballet action, which I believe was the first win in her new space.” Phillips has his own fan base as well. “John Phillips is a true dyed-in-the-wool barrister, with a lot of strength and heart. He does a lot of the First Nation work, which are big, long, complicated cases, and you often have to wait a while to get paid on them.” Phillips also recently settled a case with Transport Canada on behalf of an employee client who claimed sexual harassment as well as hostile workplace allegations in the wake of the distribution of a music file that was altered with racially offensive lyrics. A new addition to the firm, as well as to Benchmark Canada, Cory Wanless was welcomed into the firm 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.
Toronto’s Wright Temelini takes “litigation boutique” to a new level. There are only two partners at the firm after six years. “They have an interesting little niche,” observes a peer. “They do white-collar crime and securities, and they thrive on high-stakes litigation.” The firm is also noted for “not wanting to be so wrapped up in the billable hour that they are not able to take cases involving issues of justice. They’ve got quite a few insider trading cases, and these are coming because of expertise. A lot of industry referrals are coming along with the standard client conflict referrals.” Another highly touted boutique in the Toronto market notes, “They are definitely worth your consideration. They are fantastic people, very solid, our go-to referral in this [securities] area when we want someone who knows their stuff and is not going to take the client to the cleaners financially. They take the client relationship very seriously too, it’s not commoditized services, which is sometimes a real risk.” Enjoying her second annual placement among both the top 50 trial lawyers in Canada and the top 25 female litigators in the country, Janice Wright is a favorite of peers. “She does quite a few insider trading cases. If I had a white-collar case, she would be my first call.” Wright’s reputation extends to the bench as well; “Janice is old school, and she has enough credibility with judges to get away with her no-bullshit demeanor.”