Strategic Research Partner of the American Bar Association's Section of International LawThe Queen's Award for Enterpise 2012


This Special Report covers 34 practice areas.

This will search all specialists in Canada.

Canada In Brief

Still stuck in the slow lane, Canada’s economy is suffering from reduced global demand for exports and sluggish recovery in the US and Europe. The first half of the year saw the slowest M&A activity in eight years; Mergermarket reported a fall of 40 per cent in the first six months of the year, to 245 deals valued at $31.7 billion. With mining and resources historically counting for a large portion of Canada’s M&A activity, the recent slowdown in demand and cautiousness among foreign investors means that other sectors of the economy will have to make up a lot of ground for Canada’s M&A activity to return to previous levels.

The energy sector in Canada has been shrinking. Statistics Canada announced in its May report that the resource sector had contracted 1.7 per cent in the month, following a 1.6 per cent decline in April. Producers such as Cenovus and Encana recently reported losses, and Canada’s largest energy producer Suncor announced in July that it was mulling over the delay of some of its new projects. In light of these developments, industry leaders are growing concerned over the oil sands’ future. Declining energy prices have played a key role in the sector’s downward spiralling prospects. A slowdown in growth in emerging markets, still sluggish recoveries in the US and Europe and the US’ own oil boom has created a situation where there are few markets to sell to. On top of this, the increased focus on renewables by countries such as China could result in a long-term decline in demand for oil. 

Proposed changes to Canada’s foreign investment rules have also caused uncertainty in the market. In December 2012, the Canadian government allowed China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen in December 2012 but with a warning that future takeovers by state-owned enterprises would be on “an exceptional basis only”. The federal government’s 2013 budget introduced in April included proposed amendments to the Investment Canada Act which would allow the government to impose a lower net benefit review threshold on state-owned enterprises with very little guidance on when an entity will qualify as such and when the lower review threshold will apply. Responses to the proposed amendments are mixed. Canada needs foreign capital to develop the oil sands to their full potential and if foreign investment is discouraged, there will be a shortage of funding.

Canada’s trade deficit also tells a story of caution for the Canadian economy. In May, Statistics Canada announced the 17th trade deficit in a row. Although the deficit had shrunk by almost 70 per cent, this was largely due to imports falling twice as fast as exports. As economies around the world continue their slow rate of recovery, exports are struggling. However, with the US accounting for 73 per cent of Canada’s export market, the expected improvement in the US economy in the second half of 2013 should assist Canada’s own economy. Our trade and customs chapter features 28 highly regarded lawyers.

The latter part of 2013 looks to be more optimistic with retail mergers driving activity and further consolidation is expected as companies come together to fight increased competition from US giants entering the country. Recently announced deals include Loblaw’s acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart in a $12.4 billion cash and stock deal and Hudson’s Bay Co.’s acquisition of American brand Saks in a deal valued at US$2.9 billion. M&A in the tech space is also very active as market consolidation drives activity. According to the 2012 Tech M&A Activity Report – Private Company Acquisitions, Canada ranks third globally in terms of the volume of deals done. In light of this, the International Monetary Fund announced in July that it was upgrading Canada’s growth expectations for 2013 to 1.7 per cent. Despite the slowdown in M&A activity, it remains a key sector of focus for law firms and 30 individuals are listed in the corresponding chapter, four fewer than last year.

For many of the country’s industry sectors, access to capital remains the key barrier to growth. Mining and metals companies, both majors and juniors, are experiencing difficulties raising capital and it is a similar situation in the life sciences sector where Canadian companies are looking to partnerships and licensing strategies to achieve further growth. This has led to growth in the high-yield market in Canada as companies finance acquisitions through debt. From January to June of 2013, six deals were announced, most notably in the oil and gas sector. Examples include Southern Pacific Resource Corp raising $260 million at 8.75 per cent and Athabasca Oil Corp raising $550 million at 7.5 per cent. Our research confirms the significance of these sectors, with nine more lawyers listed in our mining chapter than last year, 27 more in the life sciences chapter and 70 lawyers featuring in the capital markets chapter, the largest chapter in this edition.

In this, the fourth edition of Who’s Who Legal: Canada, we include two new practice areas: private client and sports and entertainment. Canada is home to many high net worth individuals and families requiring assistance with their tax and succession planning and the legal market delivers a group of “highly personable, professional and astute” lawyers active in the field. Sports and entertainment are also buoyant industries with clients increasingly turning to legal counsel for a range of services. 

Legal Marketplace

Canada has experienced several “mega-mergers” in recent years that have transformed the legal marketplace. Attracted by their energy and natural resources practices, international firms have been flocking to the country and as a result the upper tier of the legal market has been significantly altered. Competition between firms is fierce; firms are not only in competition with domestic players but also global giants with extensive networks.

The latest mergers in the market include Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski and the three-way merger between SNR Denton, Salans and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain which resulted in Dentons, one of the largest law firms in the world, which went live in early 2013.

Canadian law firms have also been active with their own international expansions and tie-ups. Fasken Martineau merged with South African firm Bell Dewar in 2012 and Canadian insurance firm, Nicholl Paskell-Mede merged with Clyde & Co in 2011. Firms have also continued to open offices in Asia, Europe and the US.

The firms enjoy a leading reputation worldwide as demonstrated by four Canadian-founded law firms featuring in Who’s Who Legal: 100, which identifies the world’s top 100 law firms. International firms Dentons and Norton Rose Fulbright also feature in Who’s Who Legal: 100 with impressive listings from their Canadian offices; the latter is also our mining law firm of 2013.

In the following pages we identify the leading firms in the country that have achieved the highest number of listings across the 34 practice area chapters that follow.

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Analysis: Canada


Canada is home to some of the world’s leading arbitration practitioners and in order to maintain its competitive position in the world, it needs to retain a consistent, responsive and efficient legal system. Discussions are currently underway with respect to proposals for a new Uniform International Commercial Arbitration Act. A final report from the working group was handed to the Uniform Law Conference in August 2013. Some of the more controversial points of the working paper include whether international commercial arbitration panels should be given the power to make ex parte orders and whether limitation periods should be made uniform for all arbitration cases that are international in scope. We list 26 individuals in this chapter.


Canada’s aviation industry has grown from strength to strength following the adoption of the Blue Sky Policy in 2006. Recent developments include new or expanded air transport agreements and safety improvement projects across many provinces. There is also increasing competition with two budget airlines (subsidiaries of WestJet and Air Canada) recently entering the market. With all this activity, aviation experts in financing, regulation and contentious matters are in high demand. We feature 18 lawyers in this chapter.



Carlos Martins of Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn outlines recent developments in aviation law in Canada.


Canada’s “Big Six” banks enjoyed another successful year with an average of 17.1 per cent return on equity. The challenge now is to keep on top of regulatory changes, made more difficult by tight deadlines, uncertainty around interpretations and inconsistency between regulators. We list 37 lawyers in this chapter who are on hand to assist the banking sector through this challenging period.


White-collar crime and corporate fraud continue to be key drivers for work in the Canadian legal marketplace. As a result, criminal defence lawyers are highly sought after. We select 19 lawyers that exemplify the high standards of the Canadian bar in this area.


As the Canadian capital markets continue to recover from the global financial crisis they also play an important role in the growth and development of the Canadian economy as a whole. Although some lawyers reported a slowdown in activity in the first half of 2013, possibly due to continuing concern over the European debt crisis and the US fiscal cliff, on the whole they are optimistic about the continued growth of the market. This year we feature 70 of the top practitioners in the field.


The commercial litigation market remains very active in Canada as the volume of class actions just keeps on rising. Securities class actions are on the rise with NERA listing 51 active cases as of 31 December 2012, nearly double the number of active cases four years ago. We select 57 individuals to feature in this chapter. 


Mediation continues to be a popular form of dispute resolution across Canada with a number of recent high-profile mediation cases in the sport, healthcare and technology sectors and top class mediators reported a continuous stream of new work. Twenty “brilliant” mediators are listed here.


Significant changes were made to the Competition Act in 2009, which prompted the Competition Bureau to adopt a more active and aggressive approach to enforcement. This has continued throughout 2013 and calls for greater transparency in the sector are likely to result in the introduction of further laws which will have major implications for companies in the region. Lawyers are particularly busy in the area as they balance regulatory work with an increasing number of high-profile enforcement cases. Our research highlights 41 practitioners who are known to provide “valuable advice” on competition matters.


Construction activity has remained strong since the start of the year according to the RICS Canada Construction Market Survey, with nearly all sectors registering an increase in activity and respondents expecting a workload increase of 5.6 per cent over the next year. However, the sector has been hit hard recently. The Alberta floods in June caused a huge amount of infrastructure damage and raised questions as to rebuilding and a two-week construction strike in Quebec impacted on a number of high-worth building projects. Nevertheless, it is expected that the industry will be able to recover at a fairly rapid pace. There are 40 lawyers featured in this chapter.



Duncan Glaholt of Glaholt looks at recent decisions and upcoming developments in construction law.


Canada has encouraged high levels of immigration in recent years and is now focused on enticing entrepreneurs from around the world through the introduction of a pilot start-up visa programme, announced in March 2013. It is hoped that by providing entrepreneurs with permanent residency and access to business partners, Canada will become a destination of choice for new start-ups, thus helping the country to strengthen its place in the global economy. There are 35 lawyers highlighted in this chapter.



Jacqueline R Bart of Jacqueline Bart & Associates looks at Canada's unprecedented immigration overhaul.


Canada has received criticism for lagging behind in the fight against tax evasion. Its G8 plan to tackle the issue, announced at the summit this year, includes measures to improve corporate transparency. It is hoped that Canada’s commitment will bring it into line with other G8 nations. In this changing regulatory environment, corporate tax specialists are still very much in demand. There are 53 lawyers featured in this chapter.


All eyes are currently focused on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the US. A decision on the permit has yet to be made and will depend heavily on the US’s environmental impact investigation which is not expected to be completed until early 2014. In the meantime, falling crude prices, rising costs and low profits have driven down the share prices of some of Canada’s largest energy companies which now present attractive opportunities to investors. In this chapter we list 49 outstanding lawyers.



Jay Park QC of Park Energy Law looks at Canada's energy mix.


Canada has a vibrant system of environmental regulation and is heralded for its progressive stance. However, the proliferation of environmental rules and standards and their active enforcement by governments has resulted in a “legal maze” for businesses to navigate. We select 54 “outstanding” individuals with the required skills to assist clients through the complex regulatory landscape.


Lawyers reported a strong volume of work over the past year, in part due to sustained US economic recovery which saw more US systems entering the Canadian market. On top of this, systems from around the world are using Canada as a key part of their expansion into North America. A wave of franchising class action cases are likely to go to trial in the next year or so and lawyers and clients are closely monitoring the outcome to determine how they will affect the sector. In this section we recognise 31 “top-tier” franchise lawyers.



Edward (Ned) Levitt of Dickinson Wright looks at current franchise legislation and explores what the future may hold.


As the world recovers from the global financial crisis, lawyers are seeing an increase in cross-border work with the US and a rise in inbound work from Europe.Cloud, data protection and data privacy have been key issues keeping practitioners busy over the past year and they have also seen the return of start-ups. We select the 26 most highly regarded lawyers in this field to feature in this chapter.


While high-profile cases such as Nortel and Arctic Glacier are keeping many practitioners busy, on the whole it has been a fairly quiet year in the sector and lawyers are concerned there could be a gap in work once these cases are resolved. However, difficulties in the gas sector and an increase in cross-border work could prevent this from happening. In comparison to our 2012 edition, the number of lawyers selected in this chapter remains stable, with 57 individuals singled out.


Canada’s insurance industry has faced unforeseen turmoil this year. In June, the industry was hit with a $1 billion Goods and Services Tax bill as changes to the tax legislation retrospectively charged a number of insurance companies. Banks have also warned of increased uncertainty in the industry following the extreme weather events of this year, with the floods in Alberta likely to cost a huge amount. With this in mind, insurance and reinsurance specialists are called upon even more for their expertise. There are 36 lawyers featured in this chapter.



Mark G Lichty of Blaney McMurtry takes an in-depth look at the Canadian insurance market.


Despite global economic uncertainty, the Canadian life sciences industry has endured. The sector shows positive signs of maturity but requires better access to capital if it is to continue growing. We list 60 lawyers in this chapter, recognised for their IP, regulatory, transactional and product liability expertise. 


On the whole the employment market remains stable in Canada. Human rights and privacy issues are said to be “permeating every aspect of labour and employment law practice” with lawyers reporting a steep increase in the number of allegations of human rights violations being raised. The public sector is currently experiencing financial difficulties and the Ontario government imposed a two-year wage freeze as of September 2012. In this chapter we feature 59 lawyers who are experts on management-side labour and employment issues as well as advising on pensions.


Mid-market transactions dominated the Canadian marketplace in 2012, representing 93 per cent of all M&A activity by deal volume. As with previous years, the majority of transactions took place in the resources sector bolstered by the Asian demand for commodities. As the global M&A market enjoys a modest recovery, Canadian M&A activity is expected to continue to strengthen. Thirty lawyers are selected for inclusion in this chapter.


In the midst of a difficult period for the global mining industry, activity in Canada has slowed. Waning Chinese demand, mounting cost pressures and declining prices for commodities have seen many companies reduce production or delay projects. However, despite the gloomy outlook there have been several opportunities in the market for strategic acquisitions, as well as restructurings, keeping lawyers active. In this chapter we highlight 57 leading individuals.


Pharmaceutical and life sciences disputes continue to dominate as blockbuster drugs come off patent and generics vie for position. A further hotbed of activity is the high-tech and telecommunications sectors where there has been a considerable growth in disputes in line with the global trend. In this dynamic sector we identify 35 market-leading lawyers.


Emerging from the financial downturn relatively unscathed, Canada is seen as one of the few “safe havens” in a world troubled by both political and economic turmoil. With its banking system based upon conservative lending practices, strong capitalisation requirements and effective regulatory oversight, the major banks have attracted high levels of deposits and three of them are ranked in the world’s 30 largest banks by assets. As Canada increasingly becomes a destination for high net worth individuals, private client lawyers are finding their services in growing demand. We identify 11 leading practitioners in this field.


The private equity market maintained a steady pace of deal activity over the past year, particularly on the sell side. The energy and infrastructure sectors are predicted to continue drawing large investment but it is hoped that activity will pick up across the full range of industry sectors in the coming months. In the hedge fund space, institutional investors are on the rise creating a more demanding environment for asset managers with an increased focus on operational due diligence. Fourteen private funds specialists are featured here.


Product liability defence has remained an active practice area over the past year with individuals reporting high volumes of work, especially in relation to regulatory advice and class actions. In this chapter we select 19 highly regarded practitioners.


Practitioners in this field of law continue to be in high demand with energy and infrastructure deals driving activity in this sector. From our research we highlight 23 leaders.


Governments across the nation are increasingly attempting to transfer risk to the private sector and there is a growing emphasis on sustainable procurement with municipalities joining together to discuss the state of sustainable purchasing practices in Canada. While the potential trade and economic agreement between Canada and the EU is still in the negotiation stage, the EU has made it clear that access to public procurement opportunities is a main objective. If terms can be agreed, this would significantly alter the face of public procurement across Canada. Fifty procurement law specialists are featured in this chapter.


It has been a very strong year for real estate, which has proved its resilience in these more difficult economic times. Following a decline in borrowing in 2012 as stricter mortgage rules were introduced, the market seems to have returned to a healthy level this year with areas such as hotels and leisure seeing a particularly robust resurgence. In this chapter we have identified 35 of the leading real estate lawyers.


The nature and scope of Canadian maritime law is constantly developing. Recent cases have examined the relationship between national and provincial legislation regarding shipping activities, while international progress in arctic shipping is calling into question Canada’s lack of commercial ports in the arctic area. Given the complex regulatory landscape, expert shipping and maritime specialists are still very much in demand. We feature 27 lawyers in this chapter.


Home to some of the world’s most famous sports teams as well as supporting thriving film and gaming industries, Canada has an “impressive” roster of sports and entertainment lawyers working both locally and nationally. We feature 13 lawyers in this edition. 


This edition we have renamed our regulatory communications chapter to telecoms and media, to better reflect the scope of this practice area and to include both transactional and regulatory lawyers. Since the rules on foreign ownership were relaxed a few years ago there has been increased foreign investment and interest in Canada in this sector and lawyers we spoke to reported a solid year. In this section we select 18 top-tier practitioners who come highly recommended for their expertise in this area.


International trade is an integral part of the Canadian economy with foreign trade representing around 45 per cent of the nation’s GDP. However, Canada’s merchandise exports declined 0.6 per cent and imports grew by 0.6 per cent in July of this year, thus widening the trade deficit and stalling progress for a rapid export-led recovery. In the first half of 2013, the US and Canada announced the first ever bi-national border infrastructure investment plan, in hopes that it will boost trade for both economies.  Negotiations are still ongoing regarding a potential Canada-EU trade agreement and Canada has recently commenced free trade talks with Japan. With various trade negotiations underway, it seems that trade and customs specialists will have a steady stream of work over the coming year. Twenty-seven lawyers are listed in this chapter.


The Combating Counterfeit Products Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and if enacted will make significant changes to the Copyright and Trademarks Acts. These proposed amendments would expand the scope of a registrable trademark to include non-traditional trademarks, thus bringing Canada in line with other major jurisdictions. There are 35 lawyers listed in this chapter.



Toni Polson Ashton of Sim Lowman Ashton & McKay looks at recent legislative developments in the trademarks sector.

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Firm Profiles: Canada


Since its foundation 90 years ago, Bennett Jones has expanded across Canada and throughout the world, most recently opening an office in Washington, DC. With over 360 lawyers at its disposal, the firm is able to advise clients on corporate, commercial, restructuring and litigation matters with particular expertise in the energy, natural resources and project development areas. The firm’s impressive client list includes Gibson Energy, Darling International, Argent Energy Trust and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Bennett Jones achieves 41 listings across 17 practice areas demonstrating the firm’s forefront position in the Canadian legal market.


Blake Cassels & Graydon was founded in 1856 and has since developed its international presence to include 10 offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Bahrain, Beijing, New York, London, Chicago and Vancouver and associated offices in Shanghai and Al-Khobar. The Canada-based international law firm serves a diverse national and international client base in transactions of all sizes and levels of complexity. Blakes is also our Canadian firm of 2013. In this edition the firm achieves 102 listings across a remarkable 25 chapters. The firm is especially strong in the areas of energy, banking and corporate tax.


Borden Ladner Gervais stands out in our research for the breadth and depth of expertise of its lawyers. With more than 750 lawyers, IP agents and professionals spread across its offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Waterloo Region, Ottawa and Montreal, the firm is well placed to provide specialist advice across a full range of legal sectors. The firm achieves 52 listings across 24 practice areas, a testament to its leading position in the legal marketplace.


Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg has offices in Toronto, Montreal and New York and holds approximately 240 lawyers. Business law is at the heart of the firm’s work and they successfully advise and represent clients on a number of complex commercial matters in a range of countries. With offices located in three of North America’s largest financial centres this strong corporate focus is further cemented. Sources praise their “strong client-focused approach” and feedback indicates that their commitment to providing an efficient and effective delivery of legal services has continued to be successfully met. This year Davies boasts an impressive 50 listings across 16 different practice areas highlighting their continued dominance in the Canadian legal market.



About Davis LLP

As a national full-service law firm, Davis LLP provides a comprehensive range of legal services to clients around the world through offices across Canada and in Japan. Established in 1892, the firm has more than 250 legal advisers and consultants in almost 50 practice areas representing financial, corporate, government organisations and individuals. The firm’s professionals work in integrated practice groups to seamlessly deliver cross-jurisdictional advice with an unwavering commitment to innovative and outstanding client service. The firm adds value to clients’ businesses by helping them achieve their business objectives and resolve their issues efficiently and effectively.


Fasken Martineau DuMoulin is an international law firm with a strong transactional and litigation practice. It has six Canadian offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Québec City and an international presence in the UK, France and South Africa. The firm achieves 54 listings across 23 chapters.


With over 750 legal professionals, Gowling Lafleur Henderson is one of the largest law firms in Canada. It is also one of the oldest and can trace its history back to 1887. The firm represents clients from a range of industries including energy, financial services, government, infrastructure, manufacturing, life sciences and technology and is committed to achieving the highest standards in client service. Gowlings achieves 41 listings across 15 practice areas.


McCarthy Tétrault is a Canadian law firm with approximately 600 lawyers in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Québec City and London, UK. Its substantial presence allows the firm to deliver integrated services nationally and globally. The firm achieves 75 listings in our guide this year.


Norton Rose Fulbright is a global firm with a strong business law practice. Following the merger between Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski, it’s now one of the biggest legal practices in the world with more than 3,800 lawyers based in over 50 cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. It has five offices in Canada: Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec and Toronto. The firm achieves 57 listings in our guide this year.


A leading business law firm with offices across Canada and in New York, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt is considered “one of Canada’s finest”. The firm prides itself on its ability to provide “innovative, solutions-oriented advice” and its success can be seen in our research where the firm earns 51 listings across 18 practice areas.


Stikeman Elliott is one of Canada’s largest law firms with more than 500 lawyers working out of offices in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, New York, Sydney and London, UK. It offers clients a “wealth of expertise” across a full range of practice areas and remains committed to providing advice of the “highest quality”. Our research identifies the firm in 20 practice areas with a total of 67 listings.


With offices in Toronto, New York, Calgary and Montreal, Torys is well placed to service clients’ international needs. Founded in 1941, the firm has established a reputation for its “depth of expertise” across a wide range of practice areas as demonstrated in our research where the firm garners 47 listings across 20 different sectors of law.

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Corporate Counsel Q&A: Canada

Corporate Counsel Q&A: Canada 2012


April French discusses with Fernando Garcia, the general counsel of Navistar, his views on the evolving Canadian legal marketplace, the skills he looks for in external counsel and the challenges and opportunities for manufacturing companies in Canada.

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