The Top 25 Most Influential

  • Subtitle: Cover Story
Written by  Posted Date: August 3, 2015
The Top 25 Most InfluentialCanadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession in Canada is now in its sixth year. Every year, the Top 25 is the magazine’s most-read, and most commented-on, feature. And once again, the number of nominations as well as votes in our public poll show how engaged our readers are in supporting and highlighting their colleagues who are doing extraordinary things both within the profession as well as beyond it.

As in previous years, we put out a public call for nominations to legal groups and associations representing a variety of memberships and locations; last year’s Top 25 honourees; our readership; and our internal panel of writers and editors.

We received an incredible 135 nominations, which the internal panel whittled down to the 120 candidates who met our criteria. We then posted that list online and polled our readers for their votes — and you let us know in droves what you thought. The number of voters increased by a third over last year, with 9,105 people participating and commenting on those who they thought made their mark over the past 18 months. The final list of 25 is based on that poll with input and the last word from the Canadian Lawyer editorial panel.

Being named one of Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential is not just about those who’ve steered the biggest deals or made the most splash on the news pages — although those are a part of it. Closing a big deal, for instance, may not have a substantial impact beyond that particular business or industry. We aim to select lawyers who have been influential within the profession as well as society over the last year and a half — both at home and beyond Canada’s borders. Inclusion in the Top 25 talks to a level of respect, the ability to influence public opinion, and to help shape the laws of this country and others; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; involvement and impact within the justice community; and social and political influence and involvement.

The Top 25 is split into five areas of influence with five winners in each of the following categories: government, associations, and non-profits — including courts, public inquiries, and officers of Parliament; changemakers; criminal and human rights law; the world stage; and corporate-commercial law. Nominees were put in the category in which the individual exercised their influence during the time period.

A number of previous honourees are back this year: perennial winner Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin; perpetual rabble rouser Rocco Galati, who is intent on making the government actually follow the law; and Louise Arbour, Murray Klippenstein, and Pascal Paradis all in the world stage category.

For the first time, we have included a write-in candidate. Justice Murray Sinclair, who made the list last year for his contributions as the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, wasn’t on our list of nominees but with the release of the TRC’s recommendations and executive summary of its hearings, Sinclair’s impact and influence on Canadian society deserved mention.

There are also some great new additions to the list this year including Omar Khadr’s lawyers Dennis Edney and Nathan Whitling, who are only the second duo to win the honour for their combined accomplishment. Marie Henein, who has had some of the most noteworthy clients this past year including former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, has a very high profile. The changemakers category boasts a slew of new names including fertility law expert Sara Cohen, Crown attorney Allison Dellandrea, law firm re-engineer Mark Tamminga, and Calgary law professor Alice Woolley — all of whom have been instrumental in making change across a wide range of areas.

This year’s top vote getter was Louise Arbour, who has knocked off McLachlin, who has held that title for most of the Top 25’s six-year run. For the first time in her storied career, Arbour joined a law firm last year becoming counsel in residence at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Montreal, where she’s providing strategic counsel as part of the firm’s litigation practice. Voters in the online poll variously described Arbour as “Canada’s legal star abroad,” and an “international superstar.” That sentiment is likely why she was awarded with her own star on Canada’s Walk of Fame recently. One voter went so far as to say Arbour made them “proud to be Canadian.”

While only 25 of the impressive nominees made the final list, every single one of them made a distinct impact and their accomplishments are many, and varied — not to mention what many of them have done behind the scenes or on a pro bono or volunteer basis. It’s these lawyers and judges from across Canada and many different areas of practice who uphold the greatest ideals of the profession and are worthy of recognition.

In the following pages, we present the Top 25 Most Influential for 2015. They are listed with the top vote getter in each category first, followed by the others in alphabetical order.

Want to add your own kudos? Disagree with the choices? Did we miss someone obvious? Post comments below or e-mail to We’ll be doing it all again next year.

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0 # President and CEO Independent Sports Advisory services! Mediation/arbitration/Financial Mattersjames Francis Regan 2017-02-12 09:30
On a snowy Sunday Morning any committed lawyer should run 20 K just to stay on top of their game!!! Amazing inner strength here!!! Dodging that snow takes lots of hard work! Congratulations Ms. Dellandrea!!
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-15 # M.Francois Godere 2016-02-04 02:56
This message is meant for M. Henein. As a woman you should be ashamed to defend Mr. Gomeshi and denigrate the victims with your unreasonable cross examination. I am certain that you would not feel the same way should it be someone in your family or close to you who would have suffered abuse like these women have. You are a soulless person and you should not help this abuser get away with his crimes.
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0 # Ignorant postMichael Cohen 2017-07-13 14:16
Why does Ms. Henein's gender matter when the sole responsibility of a hired lawyer is to best represent their client in the most effective manner possible? Keep your feminism out o this discussion. She did her job very well otherwise Mr. Ghomeshi would be behind bars right now. Sure, morality does play a role in the law but a lawyer's sole duty is to their client. Should Ms. Henein or any other women that defended Mr. Ghomeshi just say the hell with it, he is my client but I don't like him so I'll just lose on purpose? That's professional and ethical suicide and can lead to your licence being cancelled.

Marie Henein was not a bystander watching this case from the outside as you are. She was hired to do her job and she did it fine. If the opposition had stronger evidence then she would not have won. Learn about the justice system before you make such ignorant remarks.
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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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