Ontario

Benchmark Litigation Reviews

Dispute resolution
Adair Goldblatt Bieber

A new entry into the Toronto litigation boutique community, Adair Goldblatt Bieber is composed of partners from several other Toronto-based firms (some going concerns and others defunct), and has, almost immediately upon arrival, taken the market by storm. Perhaps as remarkable is the average age of the firm’s respective partners, which, in several cases, is 40 years old. “I’ve been quite impressed by this bunch,” enthuses one peer. “They are successful young people, very good lawyers, who are really good at promoting themselves and getting themselves out there. I’ve encountered them on academic discipline-type cases and they were very good.” Clients are equally appreciative. One confirms, “This firm has strong litigators who have experience in the area of municipal government and regulatory schemes. These types of claims are fast-paced and require a tight turnaround for receipt of legal advice, and this firm provides prompt, thorough and detailed advice to complicated legal questions in a new area of accountability and ethics at the municipal level in Ontario. They are also always available for impromptu consultations.” Another client testifies, “Adair Goldblatt is one of the firms on our preferred counsel list. The firm acts as defense counsel for litigation involving professional liability claims against lawyers. They withstood all the many, outrageous motions put forth by the plaintiff and successfully defended us and an affiliate. We really appreciated their ability to cut through all extraneous issues to get to the heart of matters in every situation and keeping us informed every step of the way, including summaries on trial days.” The three name partners, John Adair, Simon Bieber and Jordan Goldblatt, all generate acclaim. “I always hear great things about Simon in securities work,” relays one peer, “and Jordan recently did a jury trial out of town, [he] did very well with that.” Beyond the name partners, Julia Wilkes is seeing her profile rise on the strength of a surge of client review. One raves, “Julia is outstanding in her level-headed approach to sometimes emotional cases, always goes above and beyond to obtain all the legal information required in a specific case, and carefully plans the best possible outcome for her client. She guided me through the legal technicalities as they affected our case and helped me to better understand my reasonable options.” Another notes, “Julia Wilkes and Jordan Goldblatt have provided most of the legal opinions, advice, litigation prep and other dispute resolution work for my office. They have been exceptionally well versed in the most recent relevant cases, extremely timely in their delivery of legal opinions and most knowledgeable in the area of municipal law.”

 

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 three-partner Toronto litigation boutique, Babin Bessner Spry is championed by peers and clients equally. One particularly appreciative client raves, “The firm is awesome. We interviewed about 10 firms before deciding to use them. They take a personal interest in ensuring their clients win and achieve a great result. They work together as a team very effectively, and collaboratively with us as clients. They have both a good strategic vision on how to win, and tactical moves to create advantage. We went to a full trial with them, and could not have asked for better representation at trial.” Speaking to the individual partners’ acumen, one peer observes, “Cynthia Spry does a weird mishmash of stuff, which seems to be growing, Ellen Bessner does securities regulation, and Ed Babin does a lot of family law – and they are all very good.” A client testifies, “Ed Babin mastered the details of a very complex case – [he was] very impressive. He was 10/10 as a trial lawyer. He is competitive and really wants to win. We feel privileged to be clients of Ed and his firm. Cynthia Spry did a fantastic job ensuring that our Lease Agreement was properly represented by the Courts, showing that the lease structure purposely did not pass Ownership to the Lessee.” Babin and Spry act for Walmart Canada, a class member who is objecting to settlements entered into with Visa, Mastercard and others in class proceedings commenced on behalf of merchants in Canada who paid increased fees as a result of the defendants’ anti-competitive conduct.”
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.
     Andrew McIntosh represents agrotech entity Arista Life Science in a dispute with another that is alleged to have sold a generic version of one of Arista’s herbicides. McIntosh succeeded in convincing the court that in this case, more than money was at stake; there would be irreparable harm to Arista’s business. On this argument, he succeeded in securing an injunction. It is also noted that “Bereskin & Parr is still active in the pharma world.” Donald Cameron is acting for ViiV Healthcare Company in a patent infringement action against Gilead Canada concerning an HIV inhibitor. Cameron also recently triumphed for Georgetown Rail Equipment in a patent trial, with a December 2017 ruling in the client’s favor. The case is now on appeal. Scott MacKendrick is acting with Cameron on the Viiv case and is active in the trademark realm as well; he is acting for FCA US in a trademark opposition appeal relating to the trademark PENTASTAR (part of both non-use cancellation and opposition proceedings as between the parties relating to Pentastar Transportation's PENTASTAR registration and FCA's PENTASTAR application.

Chernos Flaherty & Svonkin

A litigation boutique with Bay Street”big law” credentials (two of its three name partners splintered off of Torys to form this firm), Chernos Flaherty Svonkin has “gotten themselves a seat at the table” in the eyes of peers at much larger firms. A client appreciates the firm’s “good, practical business advice.” The firm’s practices span fairly liberal spectrum, but are primarily concentrated around business and commercial litigation. Patrick Flaherty acts for the Ontario Minister of Economic Development in an $8 million defamation action against the former leader of the PC Party of Ontario and current Mayor of Brampton, and his publisher arising out the publication of Brown’s book “Takedown”. The defendants have brought an Anti-SLAPP motion, which is scheduled to be heard in April 2020. David Chernos acts for the trustee of a family trust in a contested application for a passing of accounts of the trust. The beneficiaries objected and claimed significant damages and other relief from the client The Court dismissed the objecting beneficiaries’ claims and passed the accounts without alteration, in the form submitted by the client. Chernos also acts for Canoe Financial on several claims. Stuart Svonkin acts for the former owners of the Bermuda Telephone Company (BTC), the plaintiffs in a negligence claim against their former lawyers at a major Canadian law firm. The plaintiffs allege that the firm gave them negligent advice in connection with the plaintiffs’ sale of BTC to another Bermuda telecommunications company.

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. One such client reveres the firm’s practitioners as “creative, pragmatic advocates,” and goes on to extrapolate, “They understand business strategy and imperatives, so they provide practical and realistic advice. They are also exceptional at managing difficult relationships.” Another raves, “They ‘get it’ and are always responsive and helpful. They are also well respected by securities regulators, which is very valuable to a client when negotiating any sort of settlement. I would want them even just to use as advisory counsel in complex commercial/securities matters, even if not yet in litigation.” Peers concur. One insists, “Crawley is in all respects outstanding, and [they are] a good mix. We hold them in very high regard in terms of capabilities and ethics.” It is also noted that “the firm has been ahead of the curve on some pretty novel issues that are really taking hold now, such as cryptocurrency and cannabis. It’s also a relatively young team, even at the top.”
     The “good mix” likely alludes to the firm’s nearly equal distribution of senior partners and younger talent. The firm's most senior and arguably most recognized partner, Alistair Crawley, elicits unanimous acclaim. A client calls him “outstanding and creative with penetrating problem-solving skills.” A peer meanwhile reverently addresses him as “someone you just implicitly trust,” noting, “He commands respect from judges and regulators and yet never raises his voice, never loses his cool and always keeps a steady hand even in some of the most difficult and intense situations.” Crawley successfully acted for a majority shareholder of Imex Systems in a hearing and review before the British Columbia Securities Commission challenging the approval by the TSX Venture Exchange of a dilutive private placement issued by the company without requiring shareholder approval. Robert Brush is another favorite. One client declares, “As an adjudicator for an SRO, I have had the pleasure of observing Robert as counsel for individuals in securities proceedings before the MFDA. He demonstrated strong and effective conflict resolution and negotiation skills, necessary for settlement and contested hearings. In fact, Brush and his team have gone above and beyond to achieve the best results possible for the parties involved. Extensively experienced, accessible, driven, and compassionate are just a few descriptors that come to mind when Brush and his team are thought of.” Melissa MacKewn represents two defendants in respect of a claim for $65 million related to the winding-up of a hedge fund. The case is a rare matter involving allegations relating to the conduct of an investment fund trading in the exempt market and, in particular, where the plaintiff is itself a highly sophisticated investment fund. It is a novel case where allegations of market manipulation are made in a civil action. “Melissa, like the other members of this team that I’ve witnessed, has instant credibility. She always has the regulators’ ears.” At the more junior level, Kate McGrann is eliciting rave reviews from peers and clients. One client offers a glowing testimony: “Kate took over as senior counsel on our case when her predecessor was appointed the justice of the Superior Court. She has exceeded all expectations, coordinating hearings at the inquiry that have so far involved 61 days of hearings, 57 witnesses including 14 experts and over half a million documents. Kate has demonstrated maturity far beyond her years of experience. In addition to leading the evidence of very many of the significant witnesses, she has also managed the administrative side of the inquiry through the use of an executive director, financial support staff and electronic trial support staff.”

DMG Advocates

A recent entry to Benchmark Canada and to the legal market overall, three-partner Toronto litigation boutique DMG Advocates comes instilled with instant Bay Street credibility. The firm saw its genesis upon its three partners, Ryder GillilandHugh DesBrisay and Kathryn Manning, establishing this shop upon leaving their former respective posts at Blake Cassels & Graydon. As such, DMG Advocates comes with its own built-in individual and collective fan base. “They hit the ground running and are already getting traction,” observes one peer. Gilliland is a commercial litigator who mines a niche in defamation and privacy law. “Ryder is a go-to guy if you have any media-type issue, he pretty much owns that space now, and is at the right time of his life to be there.” DesBrisay, whose commercial litigation practice crosses over into the product liability sphere, is noted as “always a very solid litigator.” DesBrisay's experience is most pronounced in the automotive industry. He is currently defending a client in this sector in a $1.5 billion certified class action concerning misrepresentation of fuel consumption. Manning combines commercial litigation with product liability and an additional focus on employment litigation and professional negligence.

Glaholt
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.
Goodmans

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. “Lax takes on whatever they want, and they take every case just as seriously,” assesses a peer. “They get the work that would make you go ‘wow,’ but they also take these weird one-off files that you wouldn’t even expect, and they are superb with all of it.” One thing the firm does not do is commoditized, routine work. An independent-minded shop with no steady revenue stream, the firm relies on files that require a high-minded and novel approach to litigation, be it dispute resolution or trial. It is also noted that “Lax is definitely in building mode,” according to a peer, who goes on to confide, “They actually poached a few of our associates!”
     The firm boasts multiple examples of this novel-but-high-stakes work. Jonathan Lisus and Nadia Campion are representing a well known judge, Warren Winkler , in his capacity as the Court Appointed Mediator in the Imperial Tobacco Limited, JTIMacDonald, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges CCAA proceedings. In his capacity, Winkler has been mandated to facilitate negotiation of a global settlement of the Tobacco Claims in the three CCAA proceedings. “This is a plum engagement,” marvels a peer, “and leave it to them to take that on without batting an eye.” This same pair is also counsel to the Sackler Families in the Purdue Pharma CCAA proceeding and a proposed a proposed national class action. The CCAA matter is a Canadian recognition proceeding related to the US Chapter 11 insolvency proceeding for Purdue Pharma and related entities, which manufacture, sell, or distribute, among other products, opioid pain medications, including OxyContin. Lisus, an all-purpose commercial litigator, is revered on a near-unanimous basis as “a real dynamo, who can pretty much try anything. He’s a trial lawyer!” One peer marvels, “I once saw Jonathan appear on a case that I would have thought was well below his pay grade! But, there he was, and he did a great job, every bit as good as he would have on a much larger case.” Campion, a fairly recent recruit from another revered boutique, Polley Faith, is viewed as “a godsend to Lax.” One peer extols, “Nadia is fabulous, and she has built a big practice already. She is very aggressive but also very sought-after and she gets all kinds of work. She can roam around the profession, penetrate the ‘old boys’ club’ and attract all kinds of great files.” Matthew Gottlieb, another commercial trial lawyer with a particular acumen in insolvency files, saw his bankruptcy prowess called into service when he was appointed litigation investigator by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to investigate potential claims on behalf of Sears Canada and its creditors to increase assets within the estate and to review payments made to Sears Canada shareholders while the company's pension fund had a nearly $300 million shortfall. Gottlieb was later appointed counsel to the litigation trustee pursuing certain claims brought on behalf of Sears Canada against certain former directors and shareholders of the company. Gottlieb is also counsel to the litigation trustee in the Sears bankruptcy, who was authorized by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to bring claims against certain defendants to increase assets of this insolvent company. A trial of the action seeking $509 million is scheduled to begin in May 2020.

Lenczner Slaght

Endowed with what peers agree is “the deepest litigation talent roster in Toronto,” Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin 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.”

One partner who has undoubtedly made her mark is Monique Jilesen, who peers agree has moved to the forefront of Lenczner’s swelling stable. Jilesen is counsel to GIP Primus and Brightwood Loan Services, the lender intervenors, in oppression proceedings brought by the Monitor in the context of Algoma’s CCAA proceeding. Curry himself, along with another partner with a swiftly rising profile, Rebecca Jones, is counsel to the respondents Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (“CAMH”) and the CAMH Foundation in an application by a donor to have an investigation conducted by the Public Guardian and Trustee under the Charities Accounting Act into how the Foundation had used his donation.

Since last year, the Foundation was successful in resisting the relief sought, and the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in March 2019. Intellectual property specialist Sana Halwani is counsel to TiVo Solutions and its subsidiary Rovi Guides in two patent infringement actions involving patents relating to interactive television program guides, DVR technology, and related technologies. Both are set for trial in mid-2020. Routinely revered trial figurehead Peter Griffin, along with Shara Roy, is counsel to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of Aphria in connection with allegations made by short sellers regarding the value of certain assets and insider dealings. The Special Committee’s mandate was completed in February 2019. The Special Committee concluded that the assets were in a range of acceptable value, although at the high end and that there were certain undisclosed conflicts of interest by non-independent Board members. Class proceedings in Canada and the US have been launched.

Lerners
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

McMillan’s Ontario litigation bench, 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. David Kent commands unanimous acclaim for his antitrust and competition acumen from peers all throughout Toronto and beyond. “David has been involved in every single competition class action in Canada,” testifies a peer. “No one is smarter and no one is better versed than him in the competition area.” The firm is also said to have “the biggest product liability practice in Ontario.” Scott Maidment is touted for a “big win on the Samsung Note 7 case. “ Brett Harrison works in corporate governance and securities, including a lot of contested proxy battles, as well as insolvency. Robert Wisner is the co-chair of the arbitration group and focuses primarily on international arbitration, with an even balance of commercial and investor state arbitration, with a good deal of this concerning the energy industry. Brad Hanna is another co-chair of the arbitration group, with a more domestic focus. Hanna is lead counsel for Georgia-Pacific Canada in a breach of commercial contract action against Empire Steel. The case is going to trial in February 2020.

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. “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, “The firm did an outstanding job in representing me through an arduous and bizarre case. They were tireless in their work ethic and creative in their approach.” Another testifies, “The firm is first class in its sound and thoughtful advice, availability and promptness in dealing with our needs. We have used it not only in the regulatory health/government context but as well in other areas including defamation, civil defense for wrongful dismissal and at the appellate level. Its fees have always been reasonable in relationship to the great service we get. The advice is always thorough, thoughtful, well balanced and well researched.” Still another client notes, “There are many lawyers who know the law and are competent, but in my view, the lawyers I have worked with at Paliare Roland understand the fundamental importance of client service and in truly understanding a client’s full context and environment.”
     Firm namesake and figurehead Chris Paliare successfully represented client the Building Industry and Land Development Association in responding to an appeal in the Divisional Court brought by the City of Toronto. The City sought to overturn a decision of the OMB (now LPAT) regarding the City’s new Development Permit System. Robert Centa successfully represented the respondent University of Toronto in an application for judicial review brought by a graduate of the University regarding the revocation of his doctoral degree for plagiarism. In January 2019 The Divisional Court dismissed the graduate’s application for judicial review of the University’s decision and held that there was no violation of procedural fairness and the penalty was reasonable. Gordon Capern acted for one of the world’s largest mining royalty and streaming companies in a dispute with Vale involving the Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The issues included the interpretation of a net smelter return royalty on one of the world’s richest nickel deposits, and how the royalty would be calculated after Vale’s construction of a $6 billion processing facility. After starting the trial in St. John’s, which was scheduled for four months, the parties successfully resolved the dispute in September 2018 and continue to work together today. Megan Shortreed represented estate trustees who brought an application seeking the court’s assistance in determining the beneficial ownership of a cottage property. During his lifetime, the deceased directed a series of transfers of the legal and beneficial interests in the cottage property such that it was not clear which of a number of parties was the beneficial owner of the property. Michael Fenrick acts on a number of confidential matters for leading private sector participants in alternative financing/P3 arrangements in Ontario. Fenrick has also acted on disputes involving a number of contractual interpretation issues including the impact of penalty clauses, as well as delay claims arising from delays in the construction of major infrastructure projects. Fenrick is also acting as co-lead counsel in a case that will determine whether Google's operation of its search engine falls within the jurisdiction of the federal Privacy Commissioner. The case deals with the “right to be forgotten” in Canada: the right to have incorrect or out of date information de-indexed from Google's search results.

Pape Chaudhury

Toronto boutique Pape Chaudhury is a two-partner shop that has forged a maverick position that has left an impression on the community. Several peers voice appreciation for its model which, several concede, is increasingly coveted. Historically the domain of Paul Pape, a no-nonsense barrister who built and cultivated what was previously Pape Barristers entirely on his own, the firm developed into its current formation in 2018 when Shantona Chaudhury became a name partner. Chaudhury, who joined Pape’s firm in 2009 as a brand new lawyer, has blossomed into one of Toronto’s most promising young litigators. “Shantona is the real deal, you don’t get to work beside Paul Pape AND especially get your name on the door unless you can deliver,” testifies a peer. Pape Chaudhury’s approach allows it to take on a diverse basket of work, much of it novel in nature. The firm has developed a niche in appellate work, boasting a streak of seven straight wins at the Ontario Court of Appeal. “That’s kind of unheard of,” marvels a peer. “Anyone can do an appeal, but can you WIN them? And that many?”

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. One satisfied client cheers, “The Polley Faith lawyers are very flexible and capable of thinking outside the box. They have a deep team of competent staff, and working with them is a pleasure. I am consistently impressed by the quality of the work.” Another testifies, “This is a wonderful firm that assisted us with a dispute we were told was impossible to win. We did win, and we won fast and decisively, and that was because the firm drove strategy from the start, and had a good and clear vision of how we could win.” Mark Polley scored big for Tesla in an application for an interpretation of an Act that canceled the Green Energy Rebate Program, which provides rebates to purchasers of electric vehicles. Tesla was singled out as one of the only car manufacturers to not be entitled to credits during the "transition" phase of the legislation. The court ruled in Tesla's favor. “Mark Polley is an exemplary lawyer,” insists a client. “His responsiveness, his diligent work on files and knowledge of the client is unsurpassed. We had differences of opinion along the way, but Mark was great at taking my views into account, persuading me where necessary, and changing his mind where warranted.” Andrew Faith leads the defense of an action by the Monitor and other parties to the Sears Canada insolvency against ESL Inc. and other parties for the recovery of a $500 million dividend payment, made while the embattled retailer was experiencing financial distress. “Andrew always does great work, and is exceptionally good at finding the appropriate solution that accurately reflects the result sought, not just the current problem occurring,” extols a client. “We rely on him heavily for not just legal expertise but strategic advice vis a vis the governance structure in place at the regulatory body.”

  

Roy O’Connor

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'Connor receives a pronounced level of praise for his role in some of the most hotly contested class-action matters in Ontario. “David is basically running the firm these days from the plaintiff class action perspective,” observes a peer. “He has a great combination of youthful energy and beyond-his-years experience, which greatly behooves him in taking on cases that involve real risk, particularly in the plaintiff role. Many others have tried to do what he does and ended up looking like complete fools, just shooting in the dark and hoping their weak arguments take root. David meanwhile takes a very creative tack and it works.” O'Connor triumphed in his key position in the class-action claims of unpaid overtime against several banks, and has more recently been working with a consortium of leading plaintiff’s counsel firms across Canada in the Volkswagen emissions class actions. Peter Roy continues to generate plaudits for his work in commercial and D&O work. “Peter Roy is a true trial lawyer,” voices a competitor. “He has made a name for himself as someone who attracts clients who are not afraid to roll the dice and take matters all the way if they feel they are suffering an injustice.” Roy is engaged in a matter concerning an oral agreement regarding a purchase of Burger King Canada. Roy is also leading an ongoing plaintiff class action involving the collapse of a shopping mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario. He also is acting for the principal beneficiaries and the companies an alleged oppression and breach-of-trust action arising out of a contested estate matter and, more recently, is handling a significant appeal on behalf of a prospector for royalties concerning diamonds. While the two name partners command the most visibility, peers also weigh in for Sean Grayson and Adam Dewar. Grayson maintains a diverse portfolio that includes D&O class-action defense work as well as some “under-the-radar securities regulatory work.” Dewar attends to primarily class-action work, in the defense and plaintiff capacities.

Rueters

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.”

Siskinds
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.
Smart & Biggar

Arguably Canada’s deepest and most renowned intellectual property-based legal entity, Smart & Biggar continues to enjoy a pride of place among peers. “You pretty much see a Smart & Biggar person on every IP dispute these days at some level, whether it’s at trial or on appeal,” testifies one practitioner. The firm is revered for its range of experience covering patents, trademarks and copyrights, each being areas in which the firm has secured some landmark wins. Its celebrated patent practice leans heavily on the pharmaceutical industry, but is far from limited to this area, with a diverse portfolio of patent victories concerning everything from polymers to hockey helmets. Its trademark practice meanwhile has attracted a list of clients that reads like a “who’s who” of household names. Historically boasting its deepest bench in Ontario, with practitioners of equal horsepower in its offices in Toronto and Ottawa, the firm has recently provided a substantial boost to its Montréal office, which has grown to nearly double its size of just a few years ago. The firm has also made a noted push into the Alberta market, luring one of Calgary’s only IP practitioners, Evan Nuttall, to its bench from Borden Ladner Gervais. Nuttall brings a unique focus on patents in the oil and gas market.
     In the biggest trademark dispute handled by the firm within the past year, Toronto’s Mark Biernacki acted in successfully defending a trademark infringement action brought by Loblaws in relation to Pampered Chef's use of its “PC” logo. He also successfully represented Upper Crust in an application commenced by Bon Appetit Danish seeking to expunge its registered mark for BA BON APPE & Design. In April 2019, the court dismissed Bon Appetite's application, thus preserving our client's trademark registration. Biernacki, along with Mark Evans, is also representing Grupo Bimbo in a trademark infringement matter concerning infringement of the trademark HOSTESS. A summary trial is expected to be held in 2020. Ottawa’s Steve Garland represented Cenovus when a plaintiff commenced an action for patent infringement against the client in 2013 in relation to a water treatment process for use in steam-assisted gravity drainage oil extraction. In November 2019, the court dismissed the action as a result of delays incurred by the client. Garland is also representing popular social media app Snapchat in a patent dispute. Montréal’s François Guay, about whom a peer states, “I think of him as a litigator first and an IP lawyer second,” has been particularly active as of late, on his own and in grooming his next generation of partners in his burgeoning office. Guay is representing the well-known U.S.-based fast casual restaurant chain Shake Shack in seeking to have its prior rights in Canada in its trademarks recognized by the Federal Court and enforced against Le Chic Shack, a Québec-based restaurant offering very similar services in association with a similar tradename and trademark. Guay, along with Jean-Sébastien Dupont, successfully represented the plaintiff at trial in a case in which the Federal Court confirmed that the plaintiff’s steel structure for an indoor soccer complex could benefit from copyright protection as an “architectural work” under the Copyright Act. The plaintiff’s copyright was found to be infringed by the defendants — a school board, engineering firm, architecture firm and general contractor — who together had designed and built a nearly identical structure. All defendants were held to be jointly and severally liable for the plaintiff’s damages and costs. The defendants filed three different appeals from the trial judgment, which were settled out of court as of October 2018. Acting with future star partners Jeremy Want and Ekaterina Tsimberis, Guay also leads cases (in both the patent and trademark capacities) for Bauer Hockey, a client for over 25 years, as well as copyright cases for Bell, which find him acting with Biernacki.  

 

Stockwoods

Since its formation in 1979, the Stockwoods barristers boutique has concentrated exclusively on litigation, and in this capacity has won rapturous acclaim from peers even outside Ontario. “The whole ‘litigation boutique’ model that is becoming all the rage now, but Stockwoods pioneered it,” confirms a peer. Another extols, “It’s a pretty deep team over there now, and they’re all across-the-board superb. There’s not a single lawyer there who I would call just ‘average.’” The firm is unique amongst Toronto firms (even among its boutiques) in the portfolio it attends to, which encompasses white-collar crime, public and administrative law, securities, and a niche in tribunal advisory work as well.  The firm is also noted for its growing commercial law practice.
     Perhaps the most remarkable attribute of the firm has been its growth and grooming strategy, which was seen a healthy percentage of young stars “rise up come into their own in the classic Stockwoods mold.” Brendan van Niejenhuis, who a peer addresses as “brilliant, and yet tough and unflinching,” is representing the Region of Halton as lead counsel in litigation concerning the newly-revised powers of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to reconsider municipal decisions on land use, and to call and consider evidence in that regard. van Niejenhuis is also representing Toronto-Dominion Bank in defense of two competition/antitrust class actions, one concerning alleged manipulation of the Foreign Exchange market and the other concerning alleged manipulation of the sub-sovereign debt market, both using the once-popular Bloomberg Chat service. Ted Marocco is co-lead counsel for an air ambulance entity in a high-profile inquest into the death of an indigenous artist in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Marocco is also lead counsel for a large Toronto condo corporation that is suing three former directors of its board for fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty. The defendants had allegedly gotten elected to condo boards in order to divert service contract opportunities to their friends as well as taking kickbacks. These individuals likely diverted millions of dollars from various condo corporations before they were ultimately ousted. Criminal specialist Gerald Chan represented a large construction company in a coroner's inquest related to a workplace fatality; represented the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers in a case on race in policing before the Supreme Court of Canada; and is representing the chairman of an international business in a money laundering investigation. “Gerald Chan is definitely a superstar at Stockwoods now,” insists a peer, “as is his good friend Nader Hasan.” Hasan is lead counsel in a constitutional challenge for inaction on climate change and is also lead counsel in high-profile terrorism case. At the more senior level, firm mainstays Brian Gover and Paul LeVay still command plaudits from several levels of the legal community. Gover acts with Marocco on the aforementioned matter for the air ambulance entity and is championed as someone who “brings a high level of credibility to any matter,” according to a peer. “When Brian is on a case, judges and tribunals lend weight to his arguments.” LeVay acts with van Niejenhuis on the aforementioned case for Toronto-Dominion Bank and is still considered “a leader in the securities area,” according to peers. “While Stockwoods as an outfit handles a pretty mixed bag, when you think of securities litigation, you think of Paul.”

Thornton Grout Finnigan

Toronto boutique Thornton Grout Finnigan has carved out an especially unique presence for itself via its historical focus on insolvency-related work. The firm has been at the forefront at some of the largest insolvency filings affecting the Canadian market, including several that have cross-border and even international reverberations, including US-based retail giant Sears, multi-headed UK-based infrastructure behemoth Carillion, and Canadian energy entity Dundee Oil and Gas. “The litigation team at TGF is world class,” cheers a client. “Their attention to detail, preparation and understanding of complicated business issues is unparalleled.” Another extols, “They have extremely deep knowledge of the law and how to position cases to maximize your position. [They are a] Fantastic group to work with.”
     Thornton Grout’s position on the cutting edge of novel insolvencies in Canada continues and does not go unnoticed by peers. One testifies, “The first cannabis CCAA has already happened [after its 2018 legalization]! And naturally Thornton Grout had a piece of it.” This referred-to case finds Rebecca Kennedy acting for AgMedica, an Ontario-based vertically integrated licensed producer of cannabis that filed for CCAA in December 2019. In another novel case (also involving burning vegetable matter), Kennedy, along with Leanne Williams, John Finnigan, and lead counsel Robert Thornton, is representing JTI Tobacco in its CCAA proceeding, which commenced in March 2019. JTI, along with the two other major tobacco entities in Canada, filed upon the issuance of a joint and several judgment against all three tobacco companies in the amount of approximately $13.5 billion. In addition to this judgment, JTI is also subject to health care cost recovery litigation in excess of $750 billion. A perennial favorite in the insolvency community, DJ Miller also represents RBC in several actions: one as lender to a technology company operating in the “performance marketing” industry, and another in which the client sought and obtained the appointment by the court as Receiver of a public company that became subject to a Cease Trade Order by the Ontario Securities Commission arising from a number of significant financial irregularities, misstatements and related concerns. Grant Moffat is providing insolvency counsel to Purdue Pharma in connection with its September 2019 CCAA filing, resulting from a widespread sweep of litigation against manufacturers and distributors of opioids, with Purdue being a primary target. Beyond insolvency, Deborah Palter brings a more general commercial-oriented practice, while Daniel Schwartz, who came to the firm in 2018 from Lax O’Sullivan, maintains a diverse practice that recently saw him attending to matters ranging from trust and estates to construction and infrastructure.

Torys

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 revent light. One client extols, “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 fierce litigator,” sums up one client. A peer elaborates, “Linda can pretty much do anything, you’re seeing here 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.” In the insolvency sphere, David Bish is a noted presence in the Canadian bankruptcy proceedings of embattled Purdue Pharma, acting as counsel to the court-appointed Information Officer, E & Y. Straddling commercial and intellectual property matters, peers note, “Andrew Bernstein is someone we’re seeing a lot more now, which is great, as he is brilliant and strategic and fun to litigate against.”

Tyr Law

The latest entry into the crowded Toronto litigation boutique pedestal, Tyr Law was forged by three partners, Jim Doris, Jim Bunting and Sean Campbell, after calving off of their former firm, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, where all three cultivated their litigation pedigree and earned their individual reputations. Looking to sidestep the conflicts potentially encountered from the corporate capacity at Davies, these entrepreneurial partners went all in on this newfound freedom, naming their firm after the Norse war god who presides over matters of law and justice. Peers are watching and already impressed with the venture. One observes, “They are a market disrupter. They are looking at taking a different tack. Jim Bunting has sports law, a lot more government work, and insurance coverage work. In fact, Jim Doris has built up an interesting niche in this area. There are not many Bay Street lawyers who will take on the insurance company.” Another peer opines, “It takes real you-know-what to walk away from Davies but I think they did a good thing. They can now spread their wings and explore where they can go with their practices, individually and collectively. You want to sue a bank, an insurance company, or a mining company? You can’t DO that at Davies!” Speaking to the lawyer’s individual talents, a peer states, “Jim Doris is low-key but SMART! He is a gold medalist, clients love him. Jim Bunting is the flashy guy, the big personality, from a perspective of marketing, he’s the face. At Davies he had [litigation figurehead] Kent Thomson to stand behind but I think Bunting will now start to shine, you’ll see him on a whole whack of cases.”

Waddell Phillips

Waddell Phillips is a relatively new addition to Toronto's legal community. The firm came into being when Margaret Waddell, who decamped from Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein to launch the firm with seasoned barrister John Kingman Phillips as a purely litigation-centric boutique free to take on a diverse spectrum of work in either the plaintiff or defense capacities. Peers are enthusiastic about the firm's promise; “Marg Waddell was a star at Paliare Roland, which is a great litigation boutique in its own right, and so she's sure to bring that same energy to this firm. And she has youth on her side, which brings great ‘upside’ to the firm, which is a great complement to John's senior stature and experience. The firm is sure to do well with referrals, getting work that many others are conflicted out of or, frankly, too expensive.” Waddell is lead counsel for plaintiffs in an ongoing case concerning the approval of a unique form of third-party funding, with an underlying issue of defective medical device and failure to warn. She is also lead counsel in an ongoing case concerning systemic negligence and breach of fiduciary duty regarding a teacher at an esteemed ballet school taking nude photographs of students and selling them online. More recently, Waddell filed another class action against a local neurologist who allegedly kept video cameras in his facility that were used purportedly used for “before-and-after” breast augmentation photos but then were distributed without consent. A peer supports Waddell’s stature, “She was on the other side of a securities class action from us, and we found her bright, thoughtful and credible. She has the respect of the bench, which is incredibly important on the plaintiff side. She had a big win in the Winnipeg Ballet action, which I believe was the first win in her new space.” Phillips has his own fan base as well. “John Phillips is a true dyed-in-the-wool barrister, with a lot of strength and heart. He does a lot of the First Nation work, which are big, long, complicated cases, and you often have to wait a while to get paid on them.” Phillips also recently settled a case with Transport Canada on behalf of an employee client who claimed sexual harassment as well as hostile workplace allegations in the wake of the distribution of a music file that was altered with racially offensive lyrics.

 

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 second annual placement among both the top 50 trial lawyers in Canada and the top 25 female litigators in the country, Janice Wright is a favorite of peers. “She does quite a few insider trading cases. If I had a white-collar case, she would be my first call.” Wright’s reputation extends to the bench as well; “Janice is old school, and she has enough credibility with judges to get away with her no-bullshit demeanor.”