The Top 25 Most Influential - Corporate Commercial Law

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


Kristine Robidoux

Partner, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Calgary

Calgary lawyer Kristine Robidoux is a leading authority on corruption who specializes in helping businesses comply with anti-bribery and corruption laws, including the often-tricky business of operating in foreign jurisdictions. In 2011, she acted as defence counsel in the first prosecution under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. This year, as lead counsel representing Griffiths Energy, which was charged with bribing the Chadian ambassador to Canada, Robidoux oversaw the largest-ever settlement under the CFPOA, to the tune of more than $10 million. By advocating for a robust response to corruption allegations, complete with voluntary disclosures, and turning managers into what she calls “whistle blowers on their own company,” Robidoux has positioned herself as a go-to person for compliance with the CFPOA.
Her proactive approach to dealing with investigations, by trying to display good faith co-operation with authorities, has helped her clients mitigate the fallout from game-changing corruption charges.

What voters had to say: “I worked with Kris on an anti-corruption file over several months. It involved a forensic audit of over 75,000 e-mails and involved the discharge of three top executives due to bribery of elected officials in Africa. She knew her stuff. She worked tirelessly. She was responsive. Amazingly, she was fun and enthusiastic to work with throughout the file. Kris is one of the best lawyers that I have had the pleasure of working with.”

Alan D’Silva
Partner, Stikeman Elliott, Toronto

Alan D’Silva is a veteran commercial litigator with 75 appeals under his belt, including eight appearances before the Supreme Court of Canada. Defending metal producer Timminco Ltd. against fraud allegations before the Ontario Court of Appeal last year, he helped set an important precedent barring plaintiffs from bringing secondary-market class action suits if they failed to get leave to appeal within three years. Experts say the decision could significantly reduce defendants’ exposure in class proceedings. Known also for his philanthropic work, D’Silva has created the Len and Maureen D’Silva Entrance Scholarship for financially disadvantaged law students at the University of Ottawa and is a strong proponent of pro bono work.

What voters had to say: “One of the smartest lawyers around. Well known for his civility in dealing with people.”

Michael Geist
Professor, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law,
University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Ottawa

Michael Geist appeared in the Top 25 in 2012 and 2011 and continues to be a leading voice on technology law. A prolific author and blogger, his column on technology issues appears in the Toronto Star, the Ottawa Citizen, and the BBC. Through his academic work and public outreach, Geist illuminates issues surrounding copyright law and the Internet. He was a leading critic of the embattled Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which was recently rejected by the European Parliament. Expect to hear more from Geist as the federal government seeks Canada’s compliance with the ACTA.

What voters had to say: “Communicates issues well.”

Joe Groia
Principal, Groia & Co. PC, Toronto

Securities lawyer Joe Groia found himself at the centre of a debate about the limits on vigorous advocacy in the courtroom when the Law Society of Upper Canada slammed him with a whopping fine of nearly a quarter-million dollars for “uncivil” behaviour. Twelve years ago Groia successfully defended a Bre-X Minerals geologist against insider trading charges, but his conduct during the trial landed him in a prolonged battle with the LSUC. The legal profession remains split, with some applauding his temerity while others suggest he might have gone too far. Groia continues to speak out against the “civility movement,” and plans to appeal the law society’s finding. His case may well redefine the boundaries of acceptable behaviour inside a courtroom.

What voters had to say: “Even if he is found by some to go too far, we need fearless advocates who push and test the bounds that need pushing and testing. Frankly, most of us don’t have that courage.”

Alan Lenczner
Founding partner, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP, Toronto

Though pushing 70, Alan Lenczner doesn’t seem to be slowing down and is one of Canada’s top litigators. In May, he took on a case seeking to have a Canadian court enforce a $19-billion Ecuadorian judgment against multinational oil giant Chevron Corp. Recently Lenczner made his mark as the “man in Rob Ford’s corner,” as the Toronto Star dubbed him. He was the man who fought the Toronto mayor’s very public conflict of interest charges all the way to the Court of Appeal and was instrumental in helping Ford keep his job as leader of Canada’s largest city. He was named a commissioner of the Ontario Securities Commission this year.

What voters had to say: “From Conrad Black to Rob Ford, he’s been the go-to counsel for folks in big trouble for a very long time and never more than today.”

Page 1:    Introduction
Page 3:    Top 5 Changemakers
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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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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