The Top 25 Most Influential - Changemakers

  • Subtitle: Cover Story
Written by  Posted Date: August 5, 2013


Chief Justice Robert Bauman

Chief Justice, British Columbia Court of Appeal, Vancouver

Chief Justice Robert Bauman has not been shy about warning of the threats facing the Canadian legal system. He became chief justice of British Columbia in mid-June following four years as chief justice of the Supreme Court of B.C. Since being named one of our most influential in 2012 for taking a strong stance on judicial independence, Bauman continues to be outspoken about problems of accessibility and accountability in the profession. Recently he highlighted his concerns in a speech before the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, where he received the 2013 Bench Award. While many talk about access to justice issues, Bauman shook up the legal community when he warned these problems could be “potentially fatal to our profession as we know it.” At the same time, Bauman praised national access to justice initiatives, and urged lawyers to embrace change. In April, he called on lawyers to: “Wake up to the realities of these challenges; speak up about our value and our critical relevance in the lives of ordinary Canadians; and shakeup our attitudes toward lawyering.”

What voters had to say:  “Chief Justice Bauman is an unfailing advocate of access to justice and should be applauded for his willingness to take on the system from within in order to foment change.”

Thomas Conway
Treasurer, Law Society of Upper Canada, Ottawa

As treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Tom Conway is overseeing a massive change in the profession, leading efforts to respond to the articling crisis in Ontario by proposing an alternative to articling through the introduction of the Law Practice Program. Now that the law society is accepting proposals for LPP pilot projects, Conway’s influence promises to reshape legal licensing in Ontario. He faced significant opposition to get it through and is now heralding further changes to legal training in the province. His leadership on this front will likely change the face of legal licensing across the country.

What voters had to say: “Tom has continued to push for change in his second term engaging with everyone from the law schools to sole practitioners to the national firms on law society issues.”

Marc-André Blanchard
Chairman and chief executive officer,
McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Toronto

In a time of uncertainty in the legal profession, Marc-André Blanchard has been proactive in reimagining how big firms will deliver legal services in the future. Through his tenure as chairman and CEO of McCarthy Tétrault, he has introduced significant changes to the business of law. Under Blanchard, the firm was first to introduce legal project management to identify inefficiencies, make budgets more predictable, and increase value. He also helped establish a dedicated service delivery team that works to assess clients’ needs and creates staffing models using firm lawyers, in-house counsel, and third-party providers. He, too, has also made diversity a priority, and was recently given a Catalyst Canada Honours award for promotion of women in the profession.

What voters had to say: “Marc-André’s influence is creating a permanent shift in the way law firms operate and interact with clients and the public in Canada.”

Justice David M. Brown
Judge, Ontario Superior Court, Toronto

Justice David Brown has developed a reputation as much for his colourful delivery as for his outspoken judgments. Brown decried the court’s continued reliance on paper rather than an electronic document system as “scandalous.” He criticized the “motions culture” that sees lawyers preferring to bring complex motions rather than settle matters through a civil trial. For avoiding civil trials without good reason, Brown once likened counsel to a Dr. Seuss character who does not like “green eggs and ham.” In January, he issued injunctions to end railway blockades associated with the Idle No More protest movement. In the ruling, in which he scolded police for their passivity, Brown noted, “No person in Canada stands above or outside of the law.”

What voters had to say: “His tenacity and fearlessness in regard to trying to bring about change to our antiquated court system is to be commended.”

Lorne Sossin
Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto

For the second year Lorne Sossin is one of our Top 25 Most Influential for his leadership in Canadian legal education. As dean of Osgoode Hall Law School since 2010, Sossin has been leading efforts at experiential education. With the Law Society of Upper Canada planning radical changes to legal licensing in Ontario, Sossin’s novel and creative approaches to legal education promise to play an important role in the profession in the coming years. He is the author of numerous books and articles, most recently as co-editor of Middle Income Access to Justice.

What voters had to say: “I do not understand how this leader in the profession does so much — truly an inspiration to the students at Osgoode.”

Page 1:     Introduction
Page 2:    Top 5 in Corporate-Commercial Law
Page 4:    Top 5 in Criminal Law/Human Rights
Page 5:    Top 5 in Government/Non-Profits/Associations
Page 6:    Top 5 In-House Counsel
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Add comment


0 # Court ClerkEileen Cummins 2016-06-05 20:38
Ms. Cheryl Goodier is a hard working, tenacious, passionate crown attorney who advocates for those who have been victims of child abuse and/or sexual abuse. She makes a difference in this world.
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0 # missthabsile 2014-01-17 14:46
this is the best criminal laywer
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+1 # Be proactive not reactiveAnon 2013-08-07 17:38
If you want to see a variety of different names and faces in the list, you should nominate lawyers whom you feel are deserving of the honour. All the people listed here were nominated by someone else. They didn't pick the names out of a hat.
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-5 # Response to Harry BlaierMartha Abbott 2013-08-07 13:58
Mr Blaier, I don't have to meet you to know that you are white. I did my homework before responding to you. If you are not Harry Blaier from a law firm in Toronto and from U of Toronto, then I must be mistaken - however, I am pretty sure that I am not. Please do not purport to lecture to me about logic and fairness. You have already shown your prejudice by the implications in your comments that recognising minority lawyers` achievements in this context would be tantamount to tokenism. It is people like you, who pretend to be impartial, who are the real obstacles to fairness and justice for minorities in the legal profession in Canada. Please show me in which years a minority, who was not Native & Canadian, was selected for this esteemed list. Yet, you would have us believe that this selection process is fair and unbiased. Trying to convince a white man of the existence of racism and prejudice - there`s a first.
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-5 # Response to Harry BlaierMartha Abbott 2013-08-07 10:51
Naturally, the minute that someone stands up for the blatant prejudice shown to minorities in the legal profession, we get the racists like you, Harry, who also suggest that selecting a minority would be based only on tokenism. My point, which you chose to miss, is that out of the significant number of minority lawyers in Canada, who are all high achievers - based on their merit and despite the prejudice they encounter daily - not one managed to be selected. Perhaps you never read the statistics and reports about prejudice at the Bar. But then, we are asking those who perpetrate the prejudice, to try to understand the insidious effects of it - not really in their interests, is it? The irony is that some of those selected are called champions of "diversity" but even a casual glance at their employees will reveal a lily-white brigade. Of course, no one expects people like you to understand, from your Ivory Tower- pun intended.
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0 # LawyerHarry Blaier 2013-08-07 11:54
Oh my. First, I just don't "get it" and then I'm an out and out racist. I certainly hope, Ms. Abbott, that in the course of your practice you bring a bit more logic to bear. You call me a racist simply for disagreeing with you. This old fallacy of logic is called "poisoning the well"--i.e. if you can't assail the argument, attack the proponent. Must the conclusion be that the selection committee is comprised of racists or that they only "see" white and are insensitive to the visible (or other) minority communities? As for your so-called pun, I am not aware of having ever met you, Ms. Abbott, so I wonder why you jump to the conclusion that "from [my] Ivory Tower", I am white. Can it be that you believe people of colour are incapable of bringing logic to bear? I happen not to share that view.
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-4 # Response to Harry BlaierMartha Abbott 2013-08-07 10:44
Naturally, the minute that anyone attempts to highlight the prejudice against minority lawyers in Canada, we get people like Harry Blaier who are quick to jump on the bandwagon that minorities may just not have been very good that year. Apparently, the world that you live in is fair and everything happens on merit - the delusion that Canadians love to peddle for the rest of the world. In which other year have those minorities been good enough for you? Perhaps you never read the news about the discrimination suffered by minority lawyers in Canada. My point, which you so obviously missed, is not that people should be recognised on the basis of tokenism. Rather, out of the significant number of black and other visible minority lawyers in Canada, not one managed to be good enough to be selected. People were selected who claim the champion diversity - the irony is that when you look at their work colleagues you will see only the lily white. Maybe you didn't notice from your ivory tower.
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+1 # LawyerHarry Blaier 2013-08-07 08:50
I respond to the comment of Ms. Abbott, in which her opening 4 words belie her sarcasm and then spirals downward from there. I would think that selections of this kind should be based on merit, not "minority visibility". Is it not possible that in any given year, a visible minority simply does not make it to the top of the the selection process? Ms. Abbott seems to prefer the belief that discrimination is the only explanation for the result. Apparently the demand for tokenism is alive and well in some quarters.
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+12 # NoneJoanne Shiers 2013-08-07 06:57
As my late grandmother used to say, there are a lot of high falutin people on this list. I mean, a SCC judge. The head of a big firm. The head of a faculty... I've worked in big firms and in-house. In my experience, the more expensive the car, the less interesting and influential the lawyer. How about highlighting the REAL lawyers in this country? The ones who work in the trenches and out on the streets where law matters. I don't want to see yet more Benz lawyers who spend their days lunching in fancy suits and even fancier restaurants. I want to see lawyers whose work is not televised.
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-7 # Not one Visible MinorityMartha Abbott 2013-08-06 18:04
Always great to see that not one visible minority made it to your hallowed list out of such a significant proportion in the legal profession. just not good enough for you, right?
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0 # Your facts are skewedGertrude Shnibbery 2013-08-07 16:08
Pam Palmater is Mi'kmaq, a visible minority. Aboriginal people represent about 4% of Canada, and 4% of this list. This may not be enough for you, but I think it is important to acknowledge that this list reflects some diversity, and more importantly, recognizes and affirms the importance of Palmater's work in Aboriginal governance. Furthermore, this list honours the work of lawyers working for minority rights, showing that this is a concern in the profession. Your comments are extreme, imprudent, and demonstrate a knee jerk reaction to this list.
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0 # Dear Gertrude...Martha Abbott 2013-08-07 17:36
So, Gertrude, to use your logic, since 9.2% of the lawyers in Canada are visible minorities, shouldn't there be a 9.2% representation of them on this list? Oh, shock, horror, there isn't?! You are right about one thing, though, no; it is not enough for me nor for the significant proportion of minority lawyers who have to contend with prejudice and racism at the Bar and with colleagues like you, who love to try to invalidate the experiences that they have on an almost daily basis. By refusing to even countenance the fact that there may be bias, people like you help to maintain the status quo, by not asking the right questions. I really am very tired of having to explain myself on this forum to people who have no interest in learning. This is the last from me. Goodbye.
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+3 # RE: Dear Gertrude...Gertrude Shnibbery 2013-08-07 17:56
If 9% of the lawyers on the list had been visible minorities, that would mean that there would be 2 visible minorities on the list. There is 1 visible minority on the list. Over this statistically insignificant difference, you label the profession and anyone who disagrees with you as racist, biassed, and opposed to equal rights. The evidence - namely the recognition of Ms. Palmater and others advocating for minority rights - indicates the opposite of what you believe. Good day, madam.
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Gail J. Cohen

One of Canada’s most experienced and respected legal journalists, Gail J. Cohen is the former editor in chief of Canadian Lawyer and Law Times, who was responsible for the editorial direction of all the publications in the group, which also includes Candian Lawyer InHouse, Canadian Lawyer 4Students, and the daily Legal Feeds blog. Gail has covered the legal profession in Canada as a reporter and editor since 1997, which had put her in a prime position to access and engage thought leaders in the regulatory, legal, and business realms. Canadian Lawyer and its editorial team have been the recipients of many journalism awards and their publications are highly respected throughout the legal profession in Canada and abroad.

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