Dispute resolution
Adair Goldblatt Bieber

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. “Adair Goldblatt is really on the rise,” observes one peer. “They really seem to be making a move. They continue to develop and run a strong litigation team and are seriously interested in being good trial lawyers.Perhaps as remarkable is the average age of the firm’s respective partners, which, in several cases, is 40 years old. 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 the matter 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. “John Adair in particular is on my radar, whether I like it or not,” quips one peer. “Every time I’m against him I have an absolute dogfight with him.” Adair is proving his stripes in a lightning rod of a case, representing a high-ranking former Minister of Cabinet in the Saudi government who is alleged, along with a number of close family and friends and the former Crown Prince, of embezzling a massive amount of money and moving it into various offshore havens and who, once stripped of his titles and position, fled to Canada. “This is major, a case that everyone is talking about,” confirms one peer, summing up the general consensus. Bieber is universally championed among Bay Street peers. “Simon is almost unparalleled at his vintage,” raves one, who addresses Bieber as “a phenomenal lawyer who is really good at bringing in the work and also doing it, as opposed to a lot of rainmakers that are great at bringing in work but can’t really do it themselves.” Bieber is also noted as “just a good guy and a great mentor.” Several future stars among the firm’s ranks would seem to have benefited considerably from this mentorship. Julia Wilkes receives resounding and widespread praise, with one peer calling her “tough as nails, practical, great and pleasant to work with.” Another peer testifies, “I had the pleasure of being opposing counsel to her on a very bitter business dispute which thankfully we shepherded to a settlement. I was really in awe of how she handled all of that.” Jordan Katz is called “unimpeachably smart, really cool, calm and collected. He comes across well beyond his years and has a strong background in quasi-criminal cases and also in the medical field.” Nathaniel Read-Ellis is yet another of the firm’s “next-generation” level of stars. “I’ve known Nate since law school,” confirms one peer. “He is a solid litigator and very insightful. We refer each other cases. He is not one of these people who is blinded by ego, he is just all about, ‘How do we move this forward?’ He’s very professional and has maturity and civility beyond his years. He’s going to wind up with one of those ‘civility’ awards.” 

Aitken Klee
Formed in 2012 when former Osler Hoskin & Harcourt intellectual property stars David Aitken and Marcus Klee decamped from their former firm to set up their own eponymously named boutique, Aitken Klee was blessed with near-instant celebrity upon arrival thanks to the historic win on the part of Aitken in the landmark 2012 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada holding the patent for Viagra invalid. “David Aitken is THE toughest opponent to go against,” confirms a peer. “He’s as tough as nails and when he’s put on a case he’s at the top of his game very difficult to beat.” Based primarily in Ottawa, the firm has since expanded into Toronto, where Jonathan Stainsby provides a seasoned perspective on patent litigation and a canon of experience with Teva Canada Limited and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries regarding a wide variety of matters including pharmaceutical patent infringement actions and injunctions, proceedings under the Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) Regulations, commercial litigation and judicial review proceedings. “Aitken Klee are doing better than everyone thought they would be, once Teva experienced some well-publicized workforce reduction! It didn’t seem to affect the firm – they have retained a bunch of Teva files and they have diversified, pulling in other generics as well as non-pharma-related patent work.” As an example of this diversification, Aitken and Klee are representing Betser-Zilevitch in patent infringement proceedings relating to oil and gas technology. Klee and Stansby are representing Pharmascience in defence of Lilly’s claim for damages for patent infringement. The pair is also advancing a counterclaim for invalidity of the three asserted patents. The product is tadalafil (Cialis.) The pair is also representing Pharmascience in its claim for Section 8 damages related to pregabalin and zolpidem. Stainsby is representing Taro in proceedings under the PM(NOC) Regulations relating to the pharmaceutical fampridine. Michael Crinson, who joined the firm’s Toronto office in 2016 when his former firm Dimock Stratton was absorbed into DLA Piper, represents two Boston Scientific corporations and two LivaNova corporations in a multinational patent infringement suit.
Babin Bessner Spry

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 partnerEdward 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.” 

Bereskin & Parr

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. Joshua Spicer is making his mark through actions traversing both the “hard” and “soft” IP capacities. In the former, Spicer represented 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 acting in a trademark dispute for Canadian fast-casual restaurant and health and wellness brand, Freshii, as it is in a dispute with plant-based online marketplace, Vejii. 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. “This is the first really major case that was decided before a summary trial,” observes a peer. Scott MacKendrickis acting with Cameron on the Viiv case and is active in the trademark realm as well.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell

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.”

Chernos Flaherty & Svonkin

A litigation boutique with Bay Street “big law” credentials (its three name partners splintered off of Torys to form this firm), the practitioners of Chernos Flaherty Svonkin have “gotten themselves a seat at the table” in the eyes of peers at much larger firms. “They are just three amazing people who really do great work,” sums up one peer, regarding the name partners. Clients are equally appreciative; one calls the firm’s practitioners “attentive, sharp and very client oriented. They are very practical and tactical and do not waste your resources or time.” Another client extols “their depth of expertise, availability to jump in on these matters on very short notice, and solutions-focused approach.” The firm is also championed for its culture, in which younger talent is being nurtured and actively featured. “I’ve seen one of their associates make submissions in court, with senior people from bigger firms across him, and I was blown away by the quality of the advocacy. I was very surprised when I looked up his year of call.”The firm’s practices span a fairly liberal spectrum but are primarily concentrated around business and commercial litigation. Some of these matters take on novel trajectories. David Chernos and Patrick 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 and, in June 2021,the oppression claim against the firm’s client was dismissed. Flaherty and Stuart Svonkin are defending a contempt proceeding brought against a former government official of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a lightning-rod case that has ripple effects far beyond Canada and includes several related proceedings in the US. As a sanction in the contempt case against the client, the plaintiffs seek judgment in the amount of USD$3.5 billion. A peer insists, “Dealing with Pat Flaherty has left me exceptionally impressed.” A client weighs in for Svonkin: “Stuart is very attentive and service oriented. He is incredibly sharp and has worked tirelessly to service our matter. When working with Stuart I feel like he understands our business and the key risks and issues that are important to us and applies that constantly. He is always a step ahead, thinking about how to make everything as easy as possible for us. He is really fantastic.”

Crawley MacKewn Brush

A Toronto boutique with a distinct focus on securities and regulatory actions, Crawley MacKewn Brush is seeing its profile swiftly elevating in the eyes of peers and its work appreciated immensely by vocal clients. “They really stand out for that they do,” observes one peer. Clients turn out in full throat to sing the praise of the firm and its individual practitioners. One sums up the collective as “Smart. Attentive. Efficient. Formidable.” Another confirms, “I've worked with Crawley MacKewn on matters ranging from employment termination to regulatory to complex commercial litigation. They have a great team. They are highly responsive professionals with creative and pragmatic business solutions to disputes. I also find that the firm is appropriately leveraged in terms of professionals. It is quite capable of taking on cases opposite large law firms with one-half (or less) assigned to each file.” One of Canada’s top mediators also weighs in: “As a mediator, I experience many firms across Canada, both large and boutique. This firm is at the forefront in securities litigation and regulatory matters. I like their passion and their aggression, innovation, timeline focus, accessibility and level of detail.” 

     All three name partners elicit generous peer and client praise. Often appearing in the defense capacity, Alistair Crawley is actually acting for the plaintiff in a securities class action seeking damages relating to the collapse of a high-risk exchange-traded fund that attempted to earn income from the purchase and sale of volatility futures. The plaintiff seeks damages for negligent design and management of these funds. The case achieved certification as a class action, and an appeal by the defendant to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied. Crawley and Melissa MacKewn act for the former CEO of Bridging Finance, an alternative lender that has since become bedeviled by allegations of fraud. The former CEO was terminated from his position after the Ontario Securities Commission(OSC) had appointed a receiver. He is subject to a continuing OSC investigation, and the receiver has threatened civil proceedings. A client raves on MacKewn’s behalf, “Melissa is extremely thorough, smart, responsive, has an excellent command of the subject matter, litigation skill, and understanding of client expectation/requirements. She is very cool under pressure and can defuse a crisis. She always puts in whatever work is necessary to get the job done well, and on time.Crawley and Robert Brush represent Chubb Insurance Company of Canada and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, two defendants in a $400 million claim commenced by TD Bank arising out of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme perpetrated by a lawyer in Florida who was sentenced to prison time for his role in the scheme. After a jury awarded one of the victims substantial damages against TD, the bank settled the remaining civil claims, paying an aggregate amount of just over $443 million. TD seeks to recover $400 million from its insurers. Brush also represents three of four successful entrepreneurs who formed a partnership at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to source, manufacture and supply ventilators, which were in short supply in Canada. Upon the entity securing a lucrative contract from the Canadian government, these three partners then found themselves being edged out of the partnership by the fourth, who outright denied there even was a partnership. The ensuing lawsuit involves allegations of both breach of partnership duties and oppression. In another COVID-related matter, Kate McGrann was appointed co-lead counsel to the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission with a mandate to investigate the spread of COVID-19 within long-term care homes and to recommend ways to prevent a future problem.The final report was submitted on April 30, 2021. According to the Senior Secretariat Counsel to the Commission, “Kate’s work as lead Commission Counsel demonstrated that she is courageous, open to challenge, and produces excellent results. Her achievements on this project are all the more remarkable because she is relatively young to have played a leading role in a major provincial Commission.McGrann had also previously been appointed as lead counsel on a major municipal inquiry. A colleague in that inquiry testifies, “While that inquiry ended in 2020, Kate nevertheless followed through with appearances and presentations to groups interested in that inquiry's recommendations. It was not possible for her to be paid for any of these appearances but she volunteered her time to appear on panels to explain and develop the Commission's recommendations.I thought her ability to lead a team and avoid personnel problems that are typical in these types of efforts was outstanding.” 


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.

DMG Advocates

Toronto litigation boutique DMG Advocates comes instilled with instant Bay Street credibility. The firm saw its genesis in its three partners, Ryder Gilliland, HughDesBrisay 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.” Beyond this specialty, the firm is juggling a workload composed of a variety of novel matters ranging from arbitrations – a noted growth area for the firm – to product liability class actions to shareholder disputes. The firm represented a media consortium in a judicial review application to unseal video of an interview with a high-profile convicted murderer; represented a Portugal-based multinational in civil fraud case involving over 10 different motions; represented a former CEO and director of a publicly traded corporation in a potential class action brought against the corporation and directors for allegations of misrepresentation and alleged breaches of the Ontario Securities Act; and continues its representation of the Canadian arm of a multinational car manufacturer in numerous class-action and product-liability claims. (One of these was a class action that is scheduled for trial in spring 2022.) The firm has also expanded its reach into the professional liability sphere, with several recent appointments exemplifying this. The firm represented four partners of a law firm being sued by a former partner in a trial that took place between July 2021 and October 2021. A relatively new partner, John Mather has attended to a diverse workload that includes appearances on the aforementioned automotive class action as well as acting as duty counsel to individuals involved in a high-profile inquiry concerning COVID-related deaths at long-term care homes. Mather is also developing a niche in cryptocurrency. 

Glaholt Bowles
Duncan Glaholts eponymously named Toronto boutique focuses on the construction industry, and is another to make its debut in this edition of Benchmark Canada, propelled by a raft of peer and client acclaim. One peer confirms, “Duncan is a fantastic lawyer, who built a marvelous construction practice. He’s my primary competition.” One client declares, “Glaholt provides the highest level of legal counseling and advocacy in resolving professional liability claims. Glaholt specializes in construction litigation and is one of the finest firms in the Greater Toronto Area specializing in this industry as well as arbitration.” Another elaborates with a lengthy rave review: “As a construction law firm, I find them highly experienced, knowledgeable and efficient with contracts as it pertains to the field of architecture, always meeting any tight deadlines we may impose. The partner we deal with was trained as an architect before pursuing law, and this understanding of our business is extremely beneficial in the work they do for us. A great benefit of developing this relationship with Glaholt is having the opportunity to participate in their seminar sessions and podcasts as it pertains to the construction industry so that we can elevate our internal risk awareness and knowledge base. In addition to these learning opportunities, Glaholt has also lectured to staff at our office on topics relevant to risk and liability issues in our industry.” Beyond the firm’s namesake and figurehead, others, at a more junior level, are making their mark. Andrea Lee has earned her own client plaudits. “Andrea is excellent to work with. Her level of knowledge and responsiveness meets our expectations fully.” Lee represented Vestacon, who registered a claim for a lien valued at over $1.9 million for construction services and materials supplied as general contractor to improve tenanted premises owned by two corporate entities.

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

Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb has fashioned itself as a “premier litigation boutique,” with peer and client review uniformly supporting this lofty claim. “We continue to see them engage on the biggest and most complicated cases,” confirms one Bay Street peer. “[They have a] Very strong litigation team.” A client testifies, “Their advocacy skills in court before the judge are excellent. You always feel very comfortable with the Lax team representing you in court.”  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. 
     Jonathan Lisus, an all-purpose trial lawyer, is routinely referred to as one of Toronto’s most committed and versatile litigators and is recognized as arguably the firm’s lead figure as well as one of the most venerated counsel in Toronto and, some would argue, Canada. One peer (and frequent opponent) quips, “If I see Jonathan Lisus across from me, it’s going to be a tough day! No slacking today!” Lisus’s activity over the past year lends considerable gravity to all of the praise. In one major case that extends beyond Bay Street, Lisus triumphed in November 2021 with a much-anticipated decision from the British ColumbiaSupreme Court that confirmed the validity and enforceability of a shareholders resolution submitted by Lisus’s client Edward Rogers on behalf of the Rogers Control Trust, reconstituting the Board of Rogers Communications, the control of which had been in a hotly contested dispute. “This is one of the biggest commercial cases of the year,” asserts one peer, summing up the consensus of many. Lisus also led a team acting for the Competitive Network Operators of Canada(CNOC) in an appeal by incumbent telecommunication companies including Bell and Rogers from a decision of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission relating to the rates at which large incumbent companies can charge their smaller competitors for wholesale internet services. Before the Commission, CNOC successfully advocated for the position that the rates payable for wholesale high-speed internet services are inflated and should be reduced on a going-forward and retroactive basis. Other members of this team included Crawford Smith, who is called “a highly effective advocate in line with the top layer of the firm,” and Rahool Agarwal, a swiftly risen next-generation star. “I think he will become one of the usual suspects at that firm,” opines one peer. “He and his brother Ranjan [at Bennett Jones] tick all the boxes – smart, solid and knowledgeable.” Another younger star, Nadia Campion, is also a peer favorite. “She just has a good way about her, [she is] very effective and good to deal with, people like her.”

Lenczner Slaght

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. 

     Paul-Erik Veel is enjoying a steady ascent in profile. One peer testifies, “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.” Sana Halwani, an intellectual property star with a varied practice, is said to have “really made a name for herself in that space,” particularly in her representations for Videotron and TiVo. Peer praise is also robust for Delna Contractor. “Everyone is talking about her. She is a 2015 call and one of the major things she’s been working on is a very large inquiry along with carrying a very large commercial and medical malpractice workload.” 

A full-service firm with a pronounced emphasis on litigation, Lerners sets itself apart from many other firms in Ontario. Its origins lie in London, where it still houses a healthy percentage of litigators and enjoys a stature on par with its Toronto counterpart. It is also one of the few litigation shops to offer a range of services falling outside of the typical stream of Bay Street corporate-driven work, attending to matters including health law, professional liability, family law, and personal injury. In the Toronto office, Anne Spafford represented a paediatrician in a prosecution by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario against the client alleging sexual abuse. The charges were dismissed. She also represented a cardiologist in another prosecution by the same body alleging the client’s practice breached the standard of care in several respects. The charges were dismissed. Also in Toronto, Angus McKinnon is representing the defendant in a complex insolvency proceeding in the context of orphaned and abandoned gas wells and the Receiver’s right to abandon non-economic wells. He is also representing the defendant in a complex multi-party/multi-jurisdiction series of class actions involving allegations of price fixing in the auto parts industry. Cynthia Kuehl represented Clublink, the owner of a golf course in a dispute, wherein Clublink sought to demolish the golf course and turn it into a residential community. The Town of Oakville opposed this request, as the golf course, and the property on which it is situated was designated as a heritage site, under the section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act. At issue was whether or not the golf course was considered a structure; the court found that the golf club was not only comprised of structures, but is also in itself a structure which includes all of the land, and Clublink’s application under Section 34 of the OHA was granted.

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. Toronto, the firm’s largest office, houses some of the firm’s marquis partners that are considered leaders in several practice areas, including competition, product liability and securities. This office also houses the firm’s core strength in the arbitration space.
     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. Adam Chisholm attends to a diverse commercial litigation practice that touches on elements of securities and intellectual property. “Adam Chisholm and Ben Bathgate have made some inroads into the crypocurrency space,” confirms a peer. “Adam is fielding a call a week from potential new clients regarding lost crypto or NFTs and how they’re going to be regulated by the Ontario Securities Commission.” Jeffrey Levine manages a blend of commercial and securities work, with peers taking note of his presence on several recent high-stakes multi-pronged disputes. “Jeff was on the recent case regarding iAnthus, the cannabis entity that missed a default payment,” testifies a peer. “This was a huge securities matter that turned into a class action and there were some insolvency aspects as well.” 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.

Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein

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. One peer testifies, “Paliare is on the other side of a pretty big case from us, which is pretty typical. That firm is always in the running on some of the bigger and more difficult cases.” 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.”
     While the firm attends to a varied basket of work, the firm occupies a near-dominant position in employment law space, with almost all of its practitioners having at least some experience with these types of cases. “Considering that they are not exclusive to this practice like an employment law boutique, Paliare is one of the most uniquely positioned to handle that work, and they do it quite often.” Lindsay Scott, a newly listed future star, is representing Guestlogix in a pending appeal before the Ontario Court of Appeal regarding the intersection of releases contained in plans of arrangement under CCAA and employment law termination obligations. This case will be one of the first to clarify whether claims for common law reasonable notice ostensibly released under CCAA plans can be considered in the assessment of a reasonable notice period for post-CCAA termination of employment. Scott and Ken Rosenberg act for several individuals, plaintiffs in an action against the clients’ long-time accountant and trusted advisor for his alleged multimillion-dollar theft from the family matriarch during her life and after her passing, and related misconduct. The plaintiffs also sued RBC Dominion Securities, some of its current and former staff, RSM Canada and some of its current and former staff, for their role in the alleged wrongdoing. Rosenberg, Scott, Odette Soriano and Jeff Larry compose a team that acts as class counsel in a certified class proceeding in which they recently obtained judgment in favor of the class. The class members are holders of registered accounts at BMO Nesbitt Burns and BMO InvestorLine who allege that, between 2001 and 2011, those companies charged undisclosed fees on foreign exchange transactions in their registered accounts. The Court ordered disgorgement of the profits the defendants generated on the approximately $102.9 million it obtained in breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty, with the quantum to be determined at a subsequent hearing. Scott and Larry also represent Nabis Holdings in a case involving the alleged breach of a support agreement by Nabis debtholders to support a plan of arrangement. In the lead-up to a condensed trial on the Commercial List on short notice, the Paliare pair successfully settled this case out of court in October 2021. Peer review is also strong for another future star making his debut in this edition of Benchmark, Ren Bucholz. “He was at Lenczner Slaght and is really good,” asserts a peer. “He’s on the same side as us in an oppression real estate case and is a great young lawyer.”

Pape Chaudhury

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, some concede, is increasingly coveted. Clients are not short on praise, either. One raves, “The firm has successfully concluded a motion for directions which included complex legislative interpretation and public policy debates. The team is very smart and masterful in their written and oral submissions.”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 certain class-action cases, which are typically, but not exclusively, in the plaintiff capacity. Chaudhury also acts 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.]” In a recent example of work illustrating this prowess, the firm successfully acted for an insurer to address the question of whether or notthe defendant insurance company waived the plaintiff’sforfeiture of its rights when it did not purchase a replacement property within the timeframe allotted in a settlement agreement and whether the plaintiff was otherwise entitled to relief from forfeiture.

Polley Faith

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.” Bucking a global phenomenon of challenges to growth and talent retention in the wake of the COVID pandemic, Polley Faith continues to foster homegrown talent, with two new partner announcements as of January 2022. These come hot on the heels of another recent addition to the partnership, Jeffrey Haylock, who achieved that status last year and has been actively involved in litigation and arbitration work. 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 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 Faithrepresented the 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. 

Ross Nasseri

Toronto litigation boutique Ross Nasseri is one of the newest arrivals to the Bay Street legal community and since its formation has been nothing short of a market disrupter; the firm has generated a steady stream of peer recognition and has clients turning out in full throat to voice their appreciation for its services. “They have been very aggressive on marketing and other initiatives since their formation,” confirms one peer, “so the word is definitely getting around. But it’s not just fluff – they’ve earned their notice through hard work and they are legit.” Another supports this with a testimonial: “This firm represented a client for whom we also acted as co-counsel. I found the firm's legal judgment, work ethic and professionalism to be extraordinary and they skillfully guided our mutual client through very a difficult liability issue. This firm demonstrates extremely elevated knowledge in appellate advocacy and the rules applicable to administrative tribunal advocacy. I would consider these to be some of this firm's outstanding attributes. An outstanding firm with ethical, hardworking lawyers from start to finish.” The firm, noted as being on “an impressive hiring spree,” is largely comprised of lawyers who have trained at large law firms – notably McCarthy Tétrault – and other smaller firms like Pape Chaudhury, which has imbued the practitioners with an impressive pedigree while now enjoying the autonomy of a model that “allows them to service their clients with the level of personal touch, creativity and professionalism that is truly unique, and also at a more accessible price point.” Indeed, several appreciative clients lend their support to the firm’s talents. “The Ross Nasseri lawyers remained in close contact through what was a high-stakes contract negotiation for me,” offers one client, summing up a broad consensus. “This helped me feel at ease and confident that our approach would work, and ultimately it landed in a contract that was very favorable in risk profile and allowed me to carry on leadershipeffectively amidst a rapidly evolving landscape. They also provided reliable, experienced advice. The team has extensive experience in medical practice and professional liability, and could reliably bring up examples, previous cases, and other references when I asked specific questions about potential scenarios.” Exemplifying the “youthful energy and entrepreneurialism” illustrated by Ross Nasseri, one of the firm’s name partners on the younger end of the spectrum, Justin Nasseri, represented PEN Canada, an intervener in a constitutional challenge to a "false statements" prohibition in Canada's federal election legislation. “Justin is both a former McCarthy’s guy and also came up under [celebrated Toronto barrister] Paul Pape, so you can bet he got excellent training,” asserts a peer. Praise for Nasseri is robust; one peer and former collaborator insists, “In my opinion, Justin is an exceptional advocate, a 'one in a million' type, and any client would be lucky to have him in their corner. A natural advocate with an instinct for identifying and preparing winning arguments, and deep experience in appellate advocacy, Justin took the lead in crafting a strategy for a very challenging, complex and precedent-setting appeal. He then presented our case to the court in the most compelling way, in both his written briefs and oral argument. It was truly amazing to witness his command of the case at all stages. In the end, we secured a crucial victory for the client. In my 14 years of Bay Street practice, his was one of the best advocacy performances I have seen.Mark Ross is addressed as “the more seasoned and street-savvy counterpoint, who does a lot of ‘criminal-adjacent’ work.” A client stresses, “Mark didn’t sugar-coat anything. He was straightforward and, as a client, we really appreciated this.” One of the firm’s newest partners, Jacqueline Cole,also receives rave reviews. “I recently worked with Jacqueline Cole on a complex matter where we required her advice on mitigating litigation risk and resolving disputes among over 100 parties. Jacqueline provided outstanding legal advice that was practical from a business perspective. She provided timely responses and articulated her positions succinctly and well. 

Roy O’Connor

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’Connorreceives 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 plaintiffs counsel firms across Canada in the Volkswagen emissions class actions. Another peer observes, “David has certainly been fearless in taking on the banks, but he also has taken on cases of a much more diverse nature.” In one such recent example, in late 2020, O’Connor launched a case against the City of Thunder Bay for the use of sodium hydroxide in the water that allegedly led to pipes leaking. O’Connor also initiated a case against Bell concerning internet service plans in rural areas, for which the price paid is the same as those in urban areas while the service provided is alleged to be vastly inferior. Peter Roy continues to generate plaudits for his work in commercial and directors and officers liability insurance 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 recently triumphed in 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. “Sean is excellent,” insists a peer. “I have been opposite him and it was a great match, it was such a pleasure working with him and sparring with him. He is so rock-solid, with great judgment.” 


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.”

Plaintiff specialist outfit Siskinds operates out of a head office in London, as well as in Toronto and two additional offices in Montréal and Québec City, giving it more comprehensive coverage than most firms with its business model. "Siskinds is still one of the top-drawer go-to shops for plaintiff work," confirms one Bay Street defense lawyer, who goes on to quip, "No one has been more committed and dedicated, and frankly, no one has been a more constant pain in our you-know-whats. They are attack dogs – that's their job, and they are very devoted to it." Domiciled in London but recognized all throughout Ontario and beyond, Charles Wright is co-lead counsel in the Canadian chapter of the saga of the Volkswagen diesel emissions litigation. He is also co-lead counsel to plaintiffs in foreign exchange manipulation, and co-lead counsel to the plaintiff class in multiple auto parts price-fixing litigation. In each of these litigations, hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements have been secured.

Since its formation in 1979, the Stockwoods barrister 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, “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 criminal (and not solely of the white-collar variety), public and administrative law, municipal litigation, securities, and a niche in tribunal advisory work as well. “You have to be fearless to work at Stockwoods,” speculates one peer. “Their lawyers are hard-nosed and not afraid to take on what is often high-ranking ‘officialdom.’ They have a fascinating mix of cases, almost no cookie-cutter ones, and many [of which] require nerves of steel and [an] unwavering belief in fighting for what’s right.” 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.” One peer sums up the firm’s depth and relative youth among its ranks with, “That is one of the deepest, and youngest, shops around now. And, to a person, they are just excellent. There is not a single lawyer there that I would not consider to be A-Team.” The firm continues upon its agenda of taking on a variety of unique cases that range from representing Bell Canada against claims brought by prisoners alleging that Bell’s rates were too high to conduct family calls, to regulatory investigations into one of the Big Four. Paul LeVay, long one of the firm’s most prominent figures, still maintains a busy docket that includes the securities work with which he is most synonymous, as well as commercial cases, often with a novel twist. One such example is a recent win scored by a team composed of LeVay, Sam Robinson and Ted Marrocco on behalf of Continental Bank, in what began as an $80 million commercial case but morphed into claims of abuse of process after it came to light that the opposing party was in possession of privileged confidential information, specifically the client’s email server. The Stockwoods team sought a motion in Superior Court to stay the claim against the client and, with a January 2022 decision, triumphed when the claims were permanently stayed. Gerald Chan and Nader Hasan have each swiftly risen to positions of prominence themselves in their respective capacities. “Each of them individually and as a team have just grown by leaps and bounds,” marvels a peer. Justin Safayeni is also quickly amassing a notable stream of acclaim from peers. One confirms, “We were working on something together that involved some Competition Act issues, and he was great. I view him as having a lot of headroom for growth in this market.”

Thornton Grout Finnigan

While Toronto boutique Thornton Grout Finnigan hosts practitioners attending to a variety of commercial and project litigation, it is best recognized and most celebrated for its stature as Canada’s premier insolvency shop. The firm has been at the forefront of some of the largest insolvency filings affecting the Canadian market across a broad spectrum of industry sectors. Clients voice their enthusiasm for the firm’s litigators’ individual and collective bankruptcy acumen as well as their overall approach to litigation. “Like any smart and business-savvy practitioner, [Thornton Grout partners] seek solutions that will ultimately play out in everyone’s best interest,” offers one client in summation, “but they also don’t shirk at being as aggressive and tenacious as they need to be when the need arises.” 

     Thornton Grout’s position on the cutting edge of novel insolvencies in Canada continues and does not go unnoticed by peers. Several years ago, the firm handled the first Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) case in Canada’s cannabis space. More recently, the firm found itself as counsel of record for Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, the first publicly funded entity to file for CCAA. DJ Miller, one of the firm’s most prominent insolvency partners, leads the firm’s team on this matter. Miller also acts with another pillar of the firm, John Finnigan, in the representation of the successful appellant on an appeal to the Court of Appeal of Ontario from a lower court decision restricting a commercial landlord’s access to a letter of credit taken as security against the tenant’s default or bankruptcy. The pair also represented the successful respondent on an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Finnigan also provides counsel to PwC as receiver and manager of Bridging Finance, an alternative lender that is bedeviled by accusations of fraudulent activity and under investigation by the Ontario Securities Commission. Miller meanwhile also acts with commercial litigator Deborah Palter on a non-insolvency-related matter, acting on behalf of Hillcrest, a landlord and defendant in an action and motion brought by Hudson’s Bay Company after Hillcrest terminated the company’s lease for failure to pay rent for seven months. Further exemplifying the firm’s bench power, Rebecca Kennedy acts for E&Y as monitor of the CCAA proceedings of the Canadian entities in the Country Fresh Foods Group. This is a cross-border matter with parallel Chapter 11 proceedings in the state of Texas. Grant Moffat has been retained as insolvency counsel to the Province of British Columbia in connection with the 2019 filing by Purdue Pharma and related debtors under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code and the foreign recognition proceeding with respect to the Chapter 11 case commenced under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (Canada). Daniel Schwartz, a commercial litigator with a varied practice, is “doubling down on construction and infrastructure” as of late. Schwartz also has a niche focus on the automotive industry.


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.” Another quips, “If I go against Linda, it's going to be hard-fought and a real headache, but in the most professional sense, such is the zeal of her advocacy.” 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. This matter continues, with numerous preliminary motions being brought by various parties, including motions relating to production and privilege and anti-SLAPP motions. Several claims were dismissed on the basis of anti-SLAPP provisions in December 2021. Acting with Plumpton on this matter is Andrew Bernstein, whose practice also crosses over into the intellectual property arena. In the latter capacity, Bernstein acts with fellow IP specialistAndrew Shaughnessyand Yael Bienenstock in advising Amgen on various Canadian corporate, regulatory and litigation and prelitigation issues affecting the products of Amgen Canada. The Torys team also provides lead patent counsel to Amgen in Canada. The firm is also making strides in the international arbitration arena, an area that saw John Terry score a win on behalf of 39 respondents, a mix of individuals and companies that are American investors in Mexican gaming companies, in an application where Mexico sought to get the Commercial List of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto to set aside a NAFTA Tribunal's preliminary award on jurisdiction, which was rejected. Tax litigation is another one of Torys’s growth areas. One peer observes, “Martha MacDonald and her team have had a couple of cases come out of the tax court for CIBC and the like.” 


Another recent entry into the crowded Toronto litigation boutique pedestal, Tyr Law was forged by three partners, James Doris, James Bunting and Sean Campbell, after calving off 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 new-found 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 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.” One peer sums up the overall consensus on Doris’s approach and demeanor: “I went up against him once and found him professional and really easy to work with, but, make no mistake, he also did a great job advocating for his clients.” While the firm’s three senior partners come with baked-in market recognition, they have also been vigilant about growing and grooming the more junior ranks of the firm. Carlos Sayao, Anisah Hassan and Michael O’Brien have all quickly established themselves as the next generation of leading talent, with resounding peer and client review and front-facing activity on several of the firm’s most important cases. Hassan acted with Doris and Campbell on a matter concerning a construction company and a Canadian iron-mining business, appealing from an arbitration award under the ICC Rules of over $50 million. She also acted with Bunting for Google on a case that is a potentially precedent-setting application by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to the Federal Court to determine whether a “right to be forgotten,” allowing individuals to have search results relating to them removed from search engines, exists under current Canadian law. Google has appealed the decision of the trial judge to the Federal Court of Appeal, and the appeal is expected to be heard in 2022.O’Brien acted with Bunting on an action commenced on the Commercial List in respect of an alleged breach of contract connected to a renewable energy project in Ontario by a service provider against the project proponent and various project partners and related entities. “Mike O’Brien is one of the purest combinations of intellect, instinct and thoughtfulness that I have experienced in my 20 years of practice,” extols a peer. “[He is] Both a tireless mechanic and a consummate crafter. I have been impressed with his quick command of my multi-dimensional files, ones in which legal proceedings exist in a complicated web of reputations and power. Mike gets it and is singularly focused on understanding what the client’s goals are in litigation and executing to reach them.” Another peer testifies, “I have worked very closely with Mike – we were colleagues for years – and I trusted him with sensitive cases that required wise judgment. He excels as a team player and in his ability to ‘read the room’ to his clients’ great benefit. Among the cases we worked on were sensitive matters involving senior executives, where the best results – including zero publicity and strict confidentiality – were achieved. He is a very versatile litigator, with great capability in a wide range of cases.” Tyr also made a recent play for the insolvency capacity, adding Jason Wadden from Goodmans in January 2022. A peer and former colleague offers, “Jason is an excellent litigator whose practice has covered a wide range of corporate and commercial practice areas, including but not restricted to bankruptcy/insolvency/restructuring.”

Waddell Phillips

Waddell Phillips came into being when Margaret Waddelllaunched 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; “This is an excellent plaintiff-side class-action firm, and Marg in particular is a leader of the bar in this area.” 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 Nations 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. Cory Wanless was welcomed into the firm partnership last year and has hit the ground running, building a relatively new practice that focuses on human rights and corporate and police accountability. Wanless has pursued this path with dogged aplomb. 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, including a recent case concerning a First Nations individual who allegedly refused to comply with police orders while bicycling, stopped to enter his home, and was subsequently tased (along with his brother, who arrived to protest this treatment.) Waddell Phillips remains in growth mode; the firm added Peter Henein from Cassels Brock & Blackwell to its ranks as of March 2022. Henein has been long noted for a unique practice that blends commercial litigation with intellectual property.  

Wright Temelini

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 fourth annual placement among both of Benchmark’s Top 50 Trial Lawyers in Canada and the Top 100 Female Litigators in the country, Janice Wrightis 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.”