British Columbia


Dispute resolution
Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang

Vancouver’s Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang is consistently referenced among market peers in the capacity of insurance, product liability, infrastructure and aviation, an area in which the firm has held a particular niche. Peers single out managing partner Christopher Hirst as being “someone worthy of consideration. He is taking on a good deal of the important work there now and becoming a lot more visible, which is impressive since he balances this with his management responsibilities.” Hirst is counsel for Tetra Tech Canada, the plaintiff in a $20 million claim arising from design services provided for the North Vancouver Waste Water Treatment Facility. Hirst is also counsel for the COWI North America, the defendant in a delay-and-damages claim brought by the BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways arising from a renovation project that includes safety fencing and expanded walkways on the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

Baker McKenzie

The Toronto office of Baker McKenzie stands out as being one of the few entities in the city whose work is not specifically focused on servicing Bay Street-centric clients, which is not surprising given the firm’s stature as one of the largest and most globally entrenched legal shops in the world. “They specialize in cross-border disputes, class actions, and fraud/white-collar matters,” a peer testifies. “Most recently, Baker McKenzie is opposing counsel on a commercial arbitration. For many years prior to this, I worked as co-counsel with Baker McKenzie on a complex commercial fraud case that also included bankruptcy and insolvency issues and a class action.I worked the most with John Pirie and David Gadsden. John and David are both extraordinary lawyers and working with them has been an excellent experience. We collaborated on the factual and legal issues. Even after the decision in our matter was released, I continued to work with John and David on issues that affected their client. They are also extremely good at analyzing the legal issues.” Exemplifying both the firm’s internationally driven work and the individual and collective prowess of Pirie and Gadsden, a firm team involving this pair represents NHK, a Japanese manufacturer of suspension assemblies for hard disk drives in defending three class actions in Canada in connection with an alleged conspiracy to fix prices in Canada and throughout the world. The firm is also defending NHK in parallel US proceedings and is advising NHK in respect of pending regulatory investigations in Brazil, Taiwan and Singapore in respect of the alleged conspiracy.“John Pirie is the primary lawyer that I deal with on a regular basis,” confirms a client. “He has a sterling reputation in our legal community and is regarded as a powerful litigator in the Ontario courts, particularly when it comes to cross-border white-collar and fraud matters. He takes a hands-on, in-depth approach to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the case, and formulates a strategy that the team will then implement with precision. He has even defended Ontario judges in sensitive civil actions on more than one occasion.”Matthew Latella also has a growing level of support among peers and clients. One client declares, “Matthew is adept at identifying and nailing the core issues to successful conclusion. I’ve seen him simply out-work and out-strategize opposing counsel. 

Branch MacMaster
Vancouver boutique Branch MacMaster has etched itself a unique position among the crowded pedestal of recommended firms in the city. The firm’s noted specialties are insurance and class actions, and in the latter practice, the firm has had great success providing counsel on both sides of the “V.” Luciana Brasil continues to commandeer the Branch MacMaster approach and is also now seen as the “heiress apparent.” One peer testifies, “Pretty much any case Ward was on, Luciana was on too. She’s the research engine beyond it. I’ve heard her present at conferences in Toronto, where she held her own quite well. In fact, she easily she gave the best presentation and was very dynamic and organized.” It is noted that Brasil “has more of a taste for the plaintiff cases, and whereas Ward was sometimes risk-averse, Luciana often provides the fire in getting cases underway that have a high risk/reward ratio.” Brasil lays claim to providing plaintiff counsel in an ongoing class action challenging the constitutionality of 15% taxes imposed on purchase of residential property by foreign buyers. She is also leading a plaintiffs’ action alleging a conspiracy between credit card networks and issuing banks to artificially increase the amounts merchants paid on acceptance of credit cards. There have been some partial settlements, but action is ongoing against five remaining banks. More recently, Brasil has been leading the charge (along with Reidar Mogerman of Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman) in the plaintiff capacity in the sprawling class action against manufacturers, distributors and retailers of opioids.
Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman

Since its founding in 1993, the Vancouver boutique Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman has etched itself a formidable niche in the British Columbia legal landscape with its concentration in representing plaintiffs in the areas of aviation, product liability, and, most notably, the ever-increasing capacity for class actions. “Camp Fiorante is the go-to firm for the aviation plaintiff work. In fact, they go to you! That’s their business model.” Another peer notes, “Camp Fiorante has gone very quickly from being a local plaintiff shop to being one of the most important firms in Canada, engaged in some very high-profile litigation raising some very cutting-edge issues.” One class-action-
specific peer confirms, “If I have a product liability class action, I will immediately defer to Camp Fiorante for guidance.”

The chief proponent behind the indirect purchaser class actions, Reidar Mogerman is identified as “one of the key ‘movers’ behind litigation not only in BC but Canada-wide. Class action specialists all throughout the country are taking notice of him and keeping with what he’s up to. Reidar is a very creative guy. He lives is a very eclectic life!” Mogerman is at the helm of several class actions that have set precedent in Canada; in Pro-Sys v Microsoft, he provided lead counsel for a class of plaintiffs against Microsoft on anti-competitive claims. Following certification, this action has advanced to the trial stage, a rare case of a class action doing so. Expert evidence estimates damages at approximately $6 billion and the case involves multiple, novel issues of substance and procedure. Mogerman is also co-lead counsel on ongoing multi-jurisdictional class actions about credit card fees in the case of Watson v. Bank of America and others. This case has generated decisions relating to settlement and fee approval, an important appeal about carriage agreements, and decisions about the recently amended cartel provisions of the Competition Act. Mogerman is also co-lead counsel in yet another ongoing price-fixing litigation relating to LCD screens. More recently, Mogerman has been leading the charge (along with Luciana Brasil of Branch MacMaster) in the plaintiff capacity in the sprawling class action against manufacturers, distributors and retailers of opioids. “I think most will agree,” states one peer, “that Reidar Mogerman is considered the most intellectual and dangerous plaintiff class action lawyer in Canada.” A local peer also notes, “David Jones made partner at Camp Fiorante, I would suggest him as a future star. He works closely with Reidar and has one of those minds that is good for experts and economic theories and concepts that may take the rest of us a while to grasp.”

Cassels Brock & Blackwell

The Vancouver pillar of Cassels Brock & Blackwell hosts a stable of litigators who have proven adept with a diverse spectrum of business disputes. This office recently made significant augmentations to its local bench with the additions of Carey Veinotte and Jordanna Cytrynbaum, who both decamped from their posts at local insurance-forward shop Whitelaw Twining to join Cassels in January 2022. Cytrynbaum, a multi-faceted commercial litigator, is generating more notice in the rest of the market as well. “We’re seeing more of her, and she is building up a strong, high-profile litigation team.” Veinotte, who has historically been active in the securities capacity, has taken on an increasingly diverse portfolio. He was lead counsel for four teams of defense lawyers for numerous defendants in an 84-day trade secrets case, and he also argued the first-known application of British Columbia’s new Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA). The PPPA allows an applicant (Veinotte’s client, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation) to make an application to strike out a claim as being contrary to the public’s right to hear expression in the public interest. The plaintiff is a school trustee who made Facebook posts critical of pro-LGBTQ school curricula. Veinotte’s client (and others) publicly criticized the plaintiff, who then sued for defamation. Mary Buttery, a commercial litigator with a specialty in insolvency matters, is a particular peer favorite. “Mary is such a rock star,” raves one peer. Buttery defended Matthews Southwest in a lawsuit brought by a former development partner regarding a significant development in Squamish BC involving First Nations land, and regarding timing of payment under negotiated Unwinding Agreement, and involves the interpretation of development approvals and timing of same in British Columbia. Buttery also acted with Tom Isaac, a practitioner with a fluency with Aboriginal law matters, as counsel for the Métis NationSaskatchewan in respect of an action commenced involving land claims in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Métis Nation is a proposed intervenor and has served application material.  


The Vancouver office of global conglomerate Dentons has been steadily building out its litigation practice through noticeable strategic hires as of late. Peers credit this to the savvy of veteran Vancouver litigator David Wotherspoon, the firm’s local head of litigation. Dentons lured Morgan Camley to its bench from Miller Thomson in late 2019 and in March 2020 welcomed Eleni Kassaris, formerly of the local office of Blake Cassels & Graydon, aboard. Camley attends to a varied practice composed of commercial, regulatory and Aboriginal law work, while Kassaris is a longtime authority in the labor and employment capacity. “Both of these are great hires,” enthuses a peer. “It gives them each an opportunity to shine in their respective capacities.” For his part, Wotherspoon also enjoys a diverse practice that has historically included a steady commercial litigation diet along with more novel niches such as injunction work, intellectual property, defamation and free speech, and professional liability. 

Eyford Partners

A Vancouver litigation boutique that has been on a noticeable growth kick in its headcount and its branding traction, Eyford Partners has attained a sweet spot in the market, adding steadily to its bench while remaining under 20 partners. Under the leadership of all-purpose civil litigatorDouglas Eyford since its inception, the firm got a considerable boost of star power in early 2017 when Angus Gunn joined the firm from his previous post at Borden Ladner Gervais. Gunn maintains a professional focus of appeals, with the remainder of his practice being dedicated to public law, typically for the Province of British Columbia. “Angus continued to be regularly active in the BC Supreme Court, the BC Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court of Canada,” confirms a peer. “They often get brought in to take over as appellate counsel.” Gunn has also developed a niche in arbitration at both the domestic and international levels. Evan Cooke, who maintains a practice focused primarily on municipal and expropriation law, has also found himself at the intersection of appeals and international cases, most recently in a specific case concerning a cattle ranch in BC. Eyford has deftly pivoted from a caseload largely consisting of insurance defense to a more diverse practice encompassing defamation and oppression claims. Chris Schuldis primarily dedicated to construction litigation. The firm has also made recent strategic promotions, adding Nathalie Baker to the partnership in January 2022. Baker attends to a practice that also combines commercial and expropriation and land use.  


Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy provides a comprehensive and diverse array of litigation services that ranges from commercial litigation, securities, family law and administrative law to labor and employment. While recognized as “a classic Vancouver firm,” Farris is noted by peers as being “well positioned because of the big group of younger partners that are coming up and complementing the more senior people that are Farris ‘lifers.’”  
     Peers largely credit this transition to Ludmila Herbst, an all-purpose litigator who earned her stripes at Farris over the past several years and has since emerged as “a de facto leader now.” Among other engagements, Herbst leads a firm team that represents the Law Society of British Columbia, one of the participants granted standing in a commission inquiry that was established by the provincial government in 2019 to investigate allegations of money laundering in several specific industry sectors. While Herbst is lauded for her role in continuing Farris’s tradition of litigation excellence through development of the team, Michael Wagner has risen to become noted as “the entrepreneurial litigation magnet of that firm,” by a peer, who goes on to marvel, “I think he’ll be doing this for the next 25 years, he’s just at that sweet spot. The amount of work that comes in for him is just staggering, and it’s all really interesting work! All of his cases seem to have a story behind them, which he is great at relaying.” Another star whose profile continues to ascend, securities specialist Teresa Tomchak is representing the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) in a hearing and review application before the British Columbia Securities Commission. The applicant filed an application for a hearing and review of a decision of the TSXV that imposes certain requirements upon the applicant relating to his ability to become a director or officer of an exchange-listed issuer. The matter concerns the applicant’s involvement with another exchange-listed issuer at a time the applicant was CEO, director and president of the issuer and during which the issuer breached numerous policies of the TSXV relating to misrepresentations to the TSXV and the public. Tomchak is also leading counsel to several individuals in an ongoing regulatory proceeding involving Bridgemark Financial before the British Columbia Securities Commission involving 65 respondents, as well as a related class action. Tomchak also represents Palisades Goldcorp in proceedings before the Ontario Superior Court in a matter involving allegations of insider trading relating to the sale of shares of NewFound Gold Corp. It is alleged that at the time of the sale the defendants were in possession of certain drilling results which were not publicly disclosed. Rebecca Morse attends to an insolvency and estate litigation practice, with a substantial level of this dedicated to the construction sector. Robert McDonell is counsel for three defendants in the massive opioid national class action commenced across Canada. There are 49 defendants with the provincial and federal governments as the intended members in the British Columbia class action. Michael Korbin attends to a vibrant labor and employment practice. A peer confirms, “I send all my high-end employment files to Michael because he’s so ferocious!” Key members of the younger generation at Farris are also making their marks. Tim Louman-Gardiner, an insolvency-focused partner, acted for the seller of a winery in obtaining security for an unpaid portion of the purchase price and the appointment of a receiver, with the sale of assets through that process allowing the winery to continue to operate as a going concern. This matter is valued at $12 million. New partner Kevin Smith (who attained this status as of January 2022) is said to have “taken up the cudgel of public law cases, a practice once dominated by universally respected former Farris partner, the late Joe Arvay.” 

Fraser Litigation

Vancouver boutique Fraser Litigation is a new addition to Benchmark in this edition, but its prime mover and lead partner Barry Fraser has been an established pillar of the local legal community for decades. “We have dealt with Barry Fraser for years,” testifies one peer. “It’s not easy! He puts you through the paces.” Another peer extols, “They are an outstanding group, and very likely may have been the first legal group to win against the Alberta Insurance Council.” Clients have been appreciative of the advocacy provided by the firm. “Fraser Litigation represented our directors in several matters in the BC Supreme Court,” declares one satisfied client. “He and the firm also provided invaluable advice and service to our company for similar matters. Their principal partners consistently demonstrated sage acumen with the highest care for our individual directors. Fraser Litigation was also exemplary in terms of creative but regimented problem solving and strategic design. Finally, the firm performed effectively in all court sessions with commendable conviction, diligence, and clarity.” 

Guild Yule

Guild Yule occupies, and some would argue dominates, an insurance-focused space in the Vancouver community. “Guild Yule has the insurance industry on lockdown in this market,” confirms a peer. Senior statesman Don Yule has finally retired and noted star Julie Lamb has been appointed to the bench, but the firm remains in what has been called “regenerative” mode, with younger partners coming to the fore and pushing into an ever-diversifying range of work. The firm has also grown in its geographic footprint; a planned office in Kelowna, in British Columbia’s inland, has become a reality and has seen a steady build-out, with Shauna Gersbachand Shaun Frost helming this expansion. “The Kelowna build-out has been going well from what I can tell,” voices a peer. “Shauna actually just finished a trial!” Guild Yule practitioners have been active in a wide spectrum of areas, spanning more novel and timely claims related to COVID to more traditional property loss claims. 

     In Vancouver, Neil MacLean attends to a varied insurance and product liability practice. MacLean is “a trusted advisor to several carriers” as well as a litigator and has recently been called in to give opinions on claims related to COVID on such issues as trip-cancellation coverage. Stephanie Hamilton attends to negligence-related matters in the healthcare field, defending nurses and various other medical employees. Mark Gytonis actively pursuing maritime law, as well as subrogation coverage work and related product liability matters. Vernon Pahlis another one of the two practitioners in the firm attending to maritime work. Adam Howden-Dukeattends to a more varied practice that touches on insurance, medical malpractice and other professional negligence, and product liability. A peer addresses him as, “a really smart guy, who, when I saw him on a file, really stood out from the rest, really left an impression.” Howden-Duke was one of a team working on a property-loss claim concerning leaks of sulfuric acid produced by a smelter, which allegedly damaged vehicles that drove through it. These affected vehicles were subsequently considered write-offs by the insurance entities. “That was an interesting case,” notes a peer. “[It] Involved hundreds of discoveries.” Kristal Low is noted for her work that is largely dedicated to professional liability for the health industry, as well a thriving labor and employment advisory practice. Mark Skorah, one of the firm’s more seasoned partners, remains active with a diverse basket of work ranging from product liability, personal injury, errors-and-omissions work, directors and officers liability insurance and administrative law. Skorah’s decades-enhanced experience also finds him working in an advisory capacity.  

Harper Grey

A staple of the Vancouver market, Harper Grey elicits prestige owing to its rich history and earns plaudits based on its strategy for the future; the firm’s litigation bench is stocked top-to-bottom with talent ranging from senior statesmen to up-and-comers, all of whom elicit praise from peers and appreciation from clients. “Harper Grey has a 100-year-old profile in this market,” testifies one senior-level peer, adding, “but the talent there now is mostly all younger than me!” The firm also has no shortage of fans among its clients. One raves, “They were amazing to work with!  They were incredibly competent and resolution based. They kept me centered in the midst of the storm and got me a great result in very short time frame.” Harper Grey is known throughout the province (and, in certain circles, nationwide) for a prized insurance and medical/health capacity. One local insurance-focused peer regards the firm as “our sister firm,” and notes, “We see them on a ton of files, particularly Nigel Trevethan, Jonathan Meadows, Kim Jakeman and David Pilley.” However, the firm also houses practitioners in the construction and engineering area, environmental, commercial litigation, insolvency and securities.  
     Jakeman has been enjoying “a bit of a moment” as of late, regarded as “an exceptionally gifted trial lawyer, recognized as one of the very best in the health law area by the judiciary and the bar.” Jakeman, who has appeared as lead or co-lead counsel in many of Harper Grey’s significant cases, was honored with a “Queen’s Counsel” designation in December 2021. She gained national prominence for her role in the study and implementation of legislation providing for medical assistance in dying and was selected by her peers to present the Canadian Bar Association’s views to the Senate committee studying the proposed legislation and now serves as a member of the Legal Advisory Committee to the Board of Directors of Dying with Dignity in Canada. Trevethan “could be the most connected litigator in Canada regarding insurance,” according to a peer, who goes on to opine, “If you sent him to Toronto, he would probably run into someone from one of the insurance companies that he knows walking around Downtown. He had a trial dealing with a bus case in which there were 40 passengers all injured in an accident.” About Meadows, a peer speculates, “I don’t know if anyone has more experience in the coverage area.” In the commercial litigation capacity, Michael Hewitt has taken over as leader of the group from John Sullivan. Hewitt is viewed as one of Vancouver’s true barristers. “If you ask some of the leaders in this market ‘Who would you ask to cross-examine someone around town?’ I think the answer would be Michael,” asserts a peer. “He is in court all the time.” The group’s securities practice has seen legacy lead Rod Anderson largely cede the position to a “next-generation” leader, Owais Ahmed, who is addressed as “one of the youngest lawyers in BC to routinely be lead counsel on high-value/high-profile trials, administrative hearings, and court appeals.” Examples of this work include representing a cryptocurrency company in a putative securities class proceeding for allegations of fraudulent misrepresentations and insider trading; representing a mining company against allegations of fraud and insider trading made in a putative class proceeding; and representing an international pharmaceutical company accused of fraud in excess of $65 million by the British Columbia Securities Commission. Una Radoja, who straddles commercial litigation and an environmental litigation niche, is noted as “someone who is winning awards – there is some real brain power there.” 

Hunter Litigation Chambers

Vancouver’s Hunter Litigation Chambers makes no bones about its agenda; this litigation-specific outfit has won commendations from peers and clients for its focus on disputes and its success with attending to them. The firm’s culture and approach has garnered as much praise as its work product; one client cheers the firm’s “excellent and timely legal advice” while noting that the firm is “very responsive to emerging issues, willing to take on thestrange and unusual’ and creative [in its] problem-solving.” Another client opines, “I’m glad to see that they work with and are training female juniors.” Peers observe that, “Hunter does a lot of unusual cases, such as ongoing work related to indigenous rights and title, forestry law compliance issues and government policy issues. They do a lot of things and do them all well.” 

     Senior partner (and former BC Supreme Court judge) Bill Smart is revered by all members of the Vancouver legal community. “Bill displayed his usual finesse in cross-examining people in a money-laundering matter,” confirms one peer. Another insists, “Bill is the titular head of the firm,” and one opines, “He commands the confidence of clients and is also good with grooming young lawyers.” Another peer notes, “Bill and the Hunter team did a very good job on that Cullen Inquiry matter. They were very strategic.” This alluded-to Cullen Inquiry, a broad-reaching public inquiry on the part of the BC government, focused on allegations of money laundering in the province. The Hunter team acted on behalf of the British Columbia Lottery in this investigation. This would not be the only high-profile securities work the firm attended to over the past year. Randy Kaardal, who juggles a caseload of commercial and employment litigation, successfully represented the executive director of the Securities Commission in a case referred to the Supreme Court by the Attorney General of BC in the sweeping Bridgemark Financial matter, which ensnared several entities and individuals alleged to have committed securities fraud. In July 2021, the court upheld the constitutionality of the SecuritiesCommission’s power to freeze assets. Kaardal is also defending the interests of the Baker Hughes group in three actions, claiming $71 million in total, before the BC Supreme Court concerning damage to an oil well as a result of an alleged equipment malfunction. In November 2021, as the case was headed for a scheduled three-month trial, Kaardal and his team successfully negotiated a settlement. Firm namesake Claire Hunter is also a frequent mention, with recognition and respect coming from peers within BC as well as beyond its borders, from Toronto and even Montréal.Claire is very responsive and provides timely legal advice,” states a client. “She is a very clear communicator and is well respected by the courts. I always know I am in good hands [with her representation.]” Hunter also exemplifies the firm’s willingness to take on more cutting-edge issues outside of commercial litigation. She made a successful application for judicial review challenging a decision made on behalf of the Minister of Health refusing to grant a security clearance to the applicant under the Cannabis Regulations, and she led a significant appeal in which a father appealed against orders permitting his 14-year-old transgender child to consent as a mature minor to gender affirming hormone therapy. There were also orders requiring the father to recognize the child’s masculine gender identity and refer to him as a boy. Mark Oulton successfully resisted an application brought seeking leave to appeal from an arbitral award relating to the proper interpretation of a replaceable road construction agreement. Oulton is commended by a client for his “communication, responsiveness, customer focus and honest assessment of strength of position.”  


JFK Law (an acronym for Janes Freedman Kyle) occupies a unique niche in the British Columbia market. Through its offices in Victoria and Vancouver, its practitioners attend to a diverse range of Aboriginaland constitutional law issues, acting on behalf of First Nations communities as well as institutions. The firm is well versed in treaty negotiations as well. “JFK have their own corner of the market, which they’ve had for years and which is different than many of us, but they are very highly thought of as practitioners in that area,” testifies a peer. JFK was given an additional boost in litigation horsepower with the relatively recent arrival of Vancouver’s Tim Dickson, who left that city’s institution Farris to join. Dickson has been particularly active of late; in one case, he acted as lead counsel for the Tsilhqot’in tribe in an ongoing dispute concerning the development of a gold mine, triumphing on the client’s behalf and setting precedent in establishingthe first time since the creation of the duty to consult and accommodate in 2004 that a First Nation has obtained an injunction until the hearing of its infringement claim. “Tim is a great young star,” voices a peer. “He knows the Vancouver community and is well respected and has great credibility among it.” 


January 2022 marked a turning point for famed Vancouver litigation boutique Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer when the firm merged with the business and real estate shop Kornfeld, forming a new entity now operating as Kornfeld Shapray & Partners.The founding partners of each firm were, for many years, partners in a predecessor law practice that was known nationally and internationally for its excellence in advising business law clients as well as for the effectiveness of its litigation department. Howard Shapray, one of Vancouver’s most active (and, some would argue, feared) trial lawyers, retains his role as senior counsel to the firm, with several other litigators of partner status moving to the fore. 
     In addition to his advisory practice to various family enterprises and high-net worth individuals and their businesses, Stephen Fitterman is representing the owners of a large oceanfront commercial development in breach of lease and breach of contract disputes. He sued for and secured a multimillion-dollar payment in a contract rectification action; is advising/representing several of the region's major property developers with disputes running the gamut of environmental contamination, negligent construction, contractual interpretation, equitable easements and First Nations rights; and secured a settlement for a multinational defendant in a long-running national class action. He is actively advising and representing parties in shareholder and employment law disputes. Fitterman is also advising/representing one of Canadas most significant philanthropists in connection with breach of fiduciary and professional negligence claims. Dan Parlow focuses on complex disputes in large real estate redevelopment projects and in shareholder and partnership disputes relating to redevelopment projects. Parlow was counsel for Creative Energy Vancouver Platforms in a major dispute relating to redevelopment of property value in excess of $100 million. Parlow was also counsel for Brentwood Lanes Canada, who resisted completion of a real estate transaction involving a large redevelopment property valued in excess of $70 million. Francis Lamer represents a wide variety of business clients in complex family and commercial matters including cases involving commercial wrongdoing as well as the division of business assets located in British Columbia and elsewhere. Sandra Foweraker continues to concentrate on complex multi-party commercial litigation disputes. Current ongoing matters include claims involving shareholder oppression, directors and officers liability, breach of fiduciary and statutory duty, conspiracy, knowing assistance, misrepresentation and civil fraud. Shane Coblin focuses on construction, real estate and commercial disputes. He is currently involved in a number of commercial arbitrations and represents several defendant developers in a class action involving a landmark commercial/residential building in Vancouver. Abbas Sabur’s practice continues to cover a broad spectrum of banking and commercial issues, with matters ongoing for real estate developers, investment management firms, financial and public institutions. His practice is focused on complex commercial disputes, with recent mandates dealing with shareholder remedies, directors’ and officers’ liability, breach of fiduciary duty claims, conspiracy and fraud. He also remains active in defamation, securities and estates matters. 

Mackay Boyar

A Vancouver litigation boutique that has its much larger market peers talking and impressed, MacKay Boyar has quickly etched itself a unique profile in the crowded legal market. “MacKay Boyar is a smaller boutique that has excellent up-and-coming litigation counsel that we use from time to time,” notes the client of another local firm. Peers support the firm’s stature. “MacKay Boyar are so nice to deal with,” insists a peer at a much larger firm. “They are unique in that they do a lot of commercial and criminal litigation. We send them tons of work, and they are also tight with [revered Vancouver trial lawyer] Ken McEwan!” Andi MacKay is said to have “a practice area that I think is really interesting, intertwining criminal and commercial matters, with a special niche on what’s become known as ‘ineffective assistance.’” MacKay is noted for her impressive pedigree, with previous stints at the Vancouver office of Fasken as well as tutelage under (now-retired) seasoned litigation statesman Bill Berardino. Tam Boyar is called “a genius, the full package – it’s really rare to have someone be as smart as he is and be ‘normal,’ with no big ego. Clients love him, and he is an incredible listener.” Boyar is noted by a peer to have been “busy doing trials regarding our Health Services Act.” Specifically, Boyar represented the British Columbia provincial government in this constitutional challenge to Canadian Medicare in British Columbia brought by a group of surgeons, that saw experts from all over the world being pulled in to examine what is the best way to design a health care system. A decision was rendered in Boyar’s client’s favor in September 2020. 

McEwan Partners

McEwan Partners generated immediate buzz upon its formation four years ago, and not without justification. The firm (whose official title is McEwan Cooper Dennis) is composed of some of the most venerated litigation talent in British Columbia.Ken McEwan, a Vancouver trial veteran, forged the firm’s identity upon splitting off from his former shop of Hunter Litigation Chambers (itself a dispute-resolution powerhouse) and cherry-picking some of the city’s other prized practitioners to bolster the bench. Those included Robert Cooper, who himself left McCarthy Tétrault in 2013 to form his own boutique) and Craig Dennis, who left his post at Dentons to join. “McEwan very much continues to be the commercial litigation powerhouse in town,” insists one peer, summing up a broadly held consensus. “All three of the lead guys are obviously very capable counsel and I’ve got a lot of time for each one of them. They have, if not the leading practice in town, then certainly close to it.” The firm’s status as a litigation-specific boutique allows it the freedom to pivot between plaintiff and defense work, with cases that are often fairly novel in nature. “We send a huge amount of files to McEwan,” confirms a peer, “because they are fearless and will take on things that the rest of us just don’t, or won’t, do!” 
     Ken McEwan continues to be “just a huge turbine of work,” according to local peers, one of whom marvels, “I don’t even know how he handles it all! He’s going to need to clone himself pretty soon!” McEwan once again proved his mettle as a trial lawyer in one of the highest-profile cases in the country within the past year, that concerning the hotly contested control of the board of Rogers Communications, which was tried in BC. Working with counsel from Toronto (the similarly venerated litigation boutique Lax O’Sullivan), McEwan, along with Emily Kirkpatrick, triumphed in November 2021 with a much-anticipated decision from the BC Supreme Court that confirmed the validity and enforceability of a shareholders resolution submitted by the client Edward Rogers on behalf of the Rogers Control Trust, reconstituting the board of Rogers Communications. McEwan was also counsel to an individual in an ongoing regulatory proceeding involving Bridgemark Financial before the British Columbia Securities Commission involving 65 respondents, another one of the province’s biggest legal engagements. “They had a really nice win at the Court of Appeal,” offers a peer. Illustrating the firm’s versatility and the novelty of the cases it attends to, McEwan and Kirkpatrick are also working in the plaintiff capacity (along with co-counsel from Koskie Minsky in Toronto) on a class proceeding on behalf of certain groups of prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement in the BC correctional system between 2005 and 2015. The Notice of Civil Claim alleges that British Columbia’s overuse of solitary confinement is negligent and constitutes a number of breaches of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Dennis meanwhile acts for Take Two Interactive in a class action concerning the use of “loot boxes” in online gaming, which is alleged to be unlawful due to the ability to use virtual currency. “I am increasingly a fan of Craig Dennis,” offers a peer, “and I think he is really hitting that ‘sweet spot’ of his career in the market. He is a great mind and a gentleman.” Owen James attends to commercial litigation, real estate disputes, environmental litigation and fraud.  


The Vancouver office of McMillan is a favorite of clients; one cheers 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.” Joan Young, the firm’s most often-referenced partner in Vancouver and a litigator with a particular focus on class actions and product liability, has a notable number of fans among clients. “Joan is very thoughtful and offers a variety of scenarios when working through issues,” testifies one. Another insists, “Joan consistently exceeds expectations and is always looking out for our best interests throughout any litigated matter. She is very calm, thorough and sharp. She makes me feel confident having her in my corner.” Young represents Mitsubishi Motors in a matter alleging that there were defects in certain airbag control units in multiple manufacturers’ vehicles. Shea Coulson is also championed for a broad commercial practice that touches on white-collar crime, administrative and constitutional law. Coulson represented BMW at the Cullen Commission Inquiry, the BC government’s sweeping investigation into allegations of money laundering throughout several industries in the province. 

MLT Aikins

Hakemi & Ridgedale is a Vancouver-based litigation boutique composed of name partners Tom Hakemi and Lisa Ridgedale, both of whom juggle a variety of commercial litigation matters that also touch on areas such as employment law, family law and defamation. Clients are appreciative of Hakemi and Ridgedale’s individual and collective litigation acumen. “They are amazing. They go above and beyond,” testifies one such client. “They are always available to answer any of my questions and concerns even if its after business hours. They are also very detailoriented and proactive and, it should be said, cost-effective.” Another stresses, “Tom has been so amazing at thinking outside the box and finding creative solutions. Lisa is one of the fiercest lawyers I have ever met. Her commitment to her clients is remarkable, and she leaves nothing unturned. Everything is examined and evaluated for what it is. She only wants to win but she does it with grit and grace. Both are experienced and spot on with their legal analysis. Ours was a difficult case for many reasons and was won due in part tothe integrity of the law firm.” The pair successfully appealed a trial decision at the BC Court of Appeal in a defamation case which focused on the significant legal issues of when it is appropriate for a trial judge to draw adverse inferences and to take judicial notice. Ridgedale also provided lead counsel to IG Image Group, a company that sells branded promotional products, as well as several personal defendants in employment-related claims brought by a sales representative of Image Group following a client transfer dispute between the plaintiff and the two individual defendants. The case was decided in Ridgedale’s client’s favor, with reasons provided in February 2020. 

Murphy Battista LLP

Murphy Battista continues to garner notice in Vancouver largely on the profile of Angela Bespflug, who has etched herself a position in the class actions community locally as well as on a more national level. Formerly with Klein Lawyers, Bespflug focuses on the plaintiff side of class actions, securing herself quite a loyal following in doing so. “Angela does a lot of federal court stuff – they brought her in because she has that expertise,” ventures a peer. Clients have been vocal in their appreciation, turning out in full throat to champion the team’s cause. “They're the best. They are great to work with,and they work so damn hard,” exclaims one peer. “They're very thorough and so tough! I wouldn't want to be opposing counsel going up against them. They're fierce!” Another insists, “I love this team. They're very communicative and keep me in the loop at all times. I had so many questions, and they always took the time to answer them fully. [There has been a] Seamless flow between them in terms of communication with me, and since Covidand we are on opposite sides of the country it has been nice to maintain the flow of information in both directions.” Bespflug led a class action (apparently the second of its kind) filed against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on behalf of women who suffered sexual assault, harassment or discrimination while working or volunteering with the RCMP in non-member roles. In 2020, Bespflug and her colleagues successfully negotiated a settlement with the RCMP with an estimated value of $125 million. The settlement covers claims dating back to 1974 and is national in scope. In August 2020, Bespflug launched a class-action lawsuit against the Federal Government of Canada on behalf of a national class of Canadians who applied online for COVID-19 emergency aid, only to have their personal and financial information stolen by hackers. The lawsuit alleges that a series of failings by the Government and the Canada Revenue Agency allowed at least three cyberattacks in 2020 but the public was not alerted until the story broke in the media. Most recently, Bespflug made news in March 2022 with a proposed class action against Canada alleging a systemic and toxic culture of misogyny within the Correctional Service of Canada workplace. The action alleges that female employees were subjected to rampant sexualized harassment, assault, and violence in the workplace, and that they were forced to endure this conduct in silence.

Narwal Litigation

Narwal Litigation, named for lead partner Joven Narwal, mines a unique niche exclusively dedicated to white-collar crime. A peer confirms, “I give all of my white-collar work to him. He is a fierce advocate with deep knowledge. He is presently handling both a professional responsibility matter and a referral from a conflicted former client who was subpoenaed to testify at the Cullen Commission.A client, meanwhile, voices appreciation for the “practical, common-sense advice within the context of extensive experience in the area. I received straightforward answers and excellent value for the time spent. I couldn't have been more pleased with the legal services.” In July 2020, Narwal triumphed on behalf of a senior Canada Revenue Agency employee who was investigated for breach of trust and tax evasion, then subsequently charged criminally for tax evasion. Narwal represented the accused through the investigation, engaged in pre-charge advocacy resulting in the more serious charges of breach of trust not being laid, and then successfully defended the accused on the tax evasion charges resulting in a termination of the prosecution in advance of trial. In another matter, Narwal represented a client through an investigation into a $3 million Ponzi scheme. After extensive efforts, the client was only alleged to have participated in a single transaction. Following a full hearing before a panel of the Securities Commission, Narwal obtained a full dismissal of this allegation and the entire case against his client. More recently, Narwal represents the lead accused in a multi-party cross-border conspiracy involving cooperation among US and Canadian authorities. He was also retained for the appeal for another client, which was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, with a landmark ruling issued in November 2021, regarding the treatment of suspended declarations of unconstitutionality and whether individuals can be convicted of offenses that have been found to be unconstitutional. 

Nathanson Schachter & Thompson

One of Vancouver’s premier litigation boutiques, Nathanson Schachter & Thompson maintains its coveted dominance in the city’s dispute resolution community, a position it has held for decades thanks to the individual and collective vision of name partners Irwin Nathanson and Stephen Schachter. Both partners, despite their senior status, continue apace with a robust litigation schedule and remain in demand by clients. “The big energy at Nathanson still seems to be Irwin and Stephen,” observes a peer, “but of course those guys can’t continue forever so fortunately they are handling the generational change very well. They have a very strong team coming up right after them, and in some cases now taking the lead.” Another peer concurs: “Nathanson has done a good job in succession planning – they made a point of beefing up some of their younger and mid-ranks.” This has not gone unnoticed by clients, either. One raves, “They are top-notch lawyers who work cohesively as a team, and they are very capable and have great judgment. The mentorship from senior lawyers is readily apparent. I would give theany work in their specialty. They are hands-down the best legal team in Vancouver.” 
     In one of the firm’s biggest wins, and one of Vancouver’s most talked-about cases, of the year, Irwin Nathanson and Julia Lockhart triumphed for Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District when, in February 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada decided for the firm client on an appeal of an arbitration award concerning a contract dispute, overturning a $2.88 million award made against Metro Vancouver. Peter Senkpiel acted as lead counsel (with support from Schachter) in a four-week trial for the plaintiffs in a case involving allegations of breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty and knowing assistance arising from the winding up of four discretionary trusts that held significant hotel properties in British Columbia and the US. This matter, recognized as one of Benchmark’s “impact cases” of 2021 at the annual award ceremony, is now on appeal. Senkpiel received high acclaim from peers, and one client testifies with a glowing review: “Peter was outstanding as the legal representative on my matter and is definitely in the top tier of lawyers I have dealt with over the past 40 years. [He is] Extremely knowledgeable as ipertained to my position, circumstances, and standing. Over the many years of my involvement in the administration and enforcement of laws, I have not come across a lawyer who was so committed to ensuring that my interests were protected and represented.” James MacInnis, another peer favorite, represents an infrastructure developer that was, subsequent to winning a multimillion-dollar contract in 2019, alleged to have misappropriated confidential information from a competitor that secured their position in this successful bid. The competitor further alleges the client’s principal, a former employee of the competitor, owed it fiduciary duties as a former senior manager, and that he has breached those duties through unfair competition and the solicitation of employees and other work. Karen Carteri is championed by a client as “a patient and thoughtful lawyer who considers all angles before implementing a strategy and always puts her client first. She handled a partnership split and sale of shares with an oppressive director. This proceeded to a 10-day arbitration hearing.” Kevin Loo is “getting more into insolvency files, embracing and developing a practice in that area.” A client testifies on Loo’s behalf, “The advocacy skills and trial preparation, including witness and expert preparation, were outstanding. Kevin is a confident advocate with a calm demeanor. I had 100% confidence in him, which is rare given that I am an in-house lawyer with a litigation background and often end up doing a lot of the work myself when I engage external counsel because typically they lack in something. Kevin lacks in nothing.” 

Sugden McFee & Roos

A Vancouver litigation boutique that is composed of “some of the nicest court fighters you will ever meet,” Sugden McFee & Roos is routinely revered as a firm housing litigators whose “combined IQ has got to be in the high quadruple digits” and who are “civil and ethical beyond reproach.” The respectful approach displayed by the firm’s partners apparently is frequently reciprocated. “They command respect from all their peers and the judges.” The firm is also unique in its balance of criminal and civil work, taking on a diverse and novel basket of cases ranging from commercial disputes to personal injury claims. “They are the dark horse among all the firms you recognize, they are a different type of firm,” opines one peer, “but they belong there, and they deserve the highest rating simply because of the sheer talent. They have people there who could handle anything. They are just solid across the board. 

     While decidedly small, the firm illustrated its measured growth strategy when it hired Jean Whittow in mid-2017. “Jean was a great hire,” opines a peer. “She was lead discipline counsel at the Law Society. She practices in professional regulation. It’s time she got more notice.” Robin McFee remains one of the firm’s figureheads as well as a trusted trial advocate. “Robin often gets politically sensitive cases that don’t use in-house counsel,” states a peer. “And no one has more credibility in these types of cases than he does. He is a true gentleman of the legal community, and everyone gives him instant respect to his arguments, no matter how much they might disagree with his position.” McFee is also involved in a case dealing with public access rights over private land and has succeeded on a family trust case concerning the transfer of ownership of an apple orchard in the Okanagan region of BC. Errin Poyner tends to a largely personal injury-based practice. “Jack of all trades” Mike Shirreff acted with McFee on a shareholder and oppression case regarding a mineral entity. On his own, he acted as the local BC counsel for Ontario counsel in a historic sexual assault case.

Whitelaw Twining

Vancouver’s Whitelaw Twining has been historically known among peers as an insurance defense-focused firm, but it got an infusion of local talent in the commercial and securities space in late 2019 in the form ofPatrick Sullivan, a refugee from the now-defunct boutique Taylor Veinotte Sullivan and considered one of the preeminent securities authorities in Western Canada. “This is a big deal for both sides,” declares one peer, echoing the sentiment of several others. “Just like that, Whitelaw now has a commercial and securities practice, and they got a good group.” Sullivan is engaged for a client in the high-profile securities matter concerning Bridgemark Financial that has “pretty much engulfed every securities lawyer in Vancouver,” according to a peer, “although Pat Sullivan has a real front-and-center position in it.” Another commercial litigator, with a particular niche in insolvency matters, John Fiddick is cheered by a peer as “someone I have all the time in the world for. He’s great.” Amy Peck, who joined the firm in 2019, is also gaining traction. “She is very good,” commends a peer. “She’s on a case for a hotel manager and she has been reasonable, fair, thoughtful, considerate and smart.”