Eric Dolden, Steve Wallace, and Lorne Folick established their insurance defence boutique in 1994 after leaving Vancouver’s Freeman and Co., Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang LLP, and Paine Edmonds LLP respectively. They have gradually expanded their reach by adding a few associates each year, and now have a stable of 22 lawyers. Their top clients include insurance companies Aviva, Lloyd’s of London, Intact, and the Economical Insurance Group. The firm has managed to stand out from the crowd by prioritizing its expertise in specialty lines of insurance, such as directors’ and officers’ liability, professional liability, technology liability policies, and cyber-liability policies.
Dutton Brock LLP (Toronto)
This firm came out of a line of shops that began about 65 years ago with Ferguson Montgomery Cassels & Mitchell. The modern firm was established in the early 1980s, and currently houses 32 lawyers. Dutton Brock’s position as one of the country’s top recipients of insurance defence work is evidenced by its impressive client list that includes Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and McDonald’s. The firm also gets the nod in highly contentious matters, with Ontario’s attorney general having retained senior partner Brian Brock to manage insurance claims flowing from the Walkerton, Ont., tainted water scandal.
McCague Borlack LLP (Toronto)
McCague Borlack, established in 1994, has built its reputation through top-notch representation of insurance companies when the stakes are at their highest. For example, it obtained a dismissal of a multibillion-dollar class action claim on behalf of Zurich Insurance Co. Ltd. at the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2005’s David Polowin Real Estate Ltd. v. Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co. The 55-lawyer firm also represents prominent insurance companies like Lombard Canada Ltd. and ACE Canada. “I hire McCague Borlack on my most difficult of cases,” said one in-house counsel. “McCague is efficient, cost-effective, and results-driven.”
Nicholl Paskell-Mede LLP (Montreal/Toronto)
Formed by John Nicholl and Mindy Paskell-Mede after they left Ogilvy Renault in 1992, this firm has grown to 27 lawyers in Montreal and nine in Toronto. Its client list consists of international property, casualty, and special risks insurers. “A great strength in professional liability matters,” one voter remarked. “Mary Margaret Fox, John Nicholl, and Graeme Mew are top choices in this area.” Mew successfully represented Lloyd’s Underwriters in its 2009 case at the Supreme Court of Canada versus Teck Cominco Metals Ltd., which sued its insurers over coverage in relation to damage caused downstream from a British Columbia smelter.
Whitelaw Twining Law Corp. (Vancouver)
Formed in 1979, this boutique’s 33 lawyers are led by director Rick Twining, who launched his career at top-notch regional firm Bull Housser & Tupper LLP. Whitelaw Twining now takes on a wide range of contentious insurance litigation. One recent notable case was last year’s The Owners, Strata Plan LMS 1751 v. Scott Management Ltd. at the British Columbia Court of Appeal. The case established a precedent on limitation issues in third-party proceedings seeking contribution and indemnity. Whitelaw’s renowned representation has helped it build a stable of clients including Lloyd’s of London and most of North America’s large insurance companies.
TOP 5 COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE BOUTIQUES
Bogart Robertson & Chu (Toronto)
With an emphasis on pension funds’ commercial real estate investments and dispositions, one voter said this firm’s lawyers “punch way above their weight” thanks to an ability to provide top-quality work in an efficient manner. It was established in 1991 when John Bogart, George Robertson, and Brian Chu left full-service firm Shibley Righton. Their enviable client list includes the pension funds of Canada Post, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., DuPont, Hospitals of Ontario, Telus Corp., and lenders such as ACM Advisors Ltd., CIBC Mortgages Inc., and the Toronto Dominion Bank. The firm helped Chartwell Seniors Housing REIT acquire and finance 36 retirement and nursing homes in five provinces.
Bratty and Partners LLP (Vaughan, Ont.)
This firm got the nod from voters for its expertise in the development industry, having represented many of the Greater Toronto Area’s most active construction firms, developers, and financial institutions. It is led by founding partner Rudolph Bratty, who has built an impressive boutique real estate practice since his call to the Ontario bar in 1957. His presence as a leader within the profession was recognized by his appointment as Queen’s counsel in 1969. Bratty and Partners was also credited by voters for expertise in land acquisition and financing, as well as commercial leasing.
DelZotto Zorzi LLP (Toronto)
Elvio DelZotto founded his firm in the early 1960s as a general practice, but eventually shifted exclusively to real estate law. The family’s presence in the construction industry — in the 1930s, DelZotto’s father Jack founded what has become prominent developer Tridel — made that concentration a no-brainer. The law firm now stands out for its focus on condominium law, representing condo corporations and litigation involving developers. Voters singled out the expertise of Harry Herskowitz, the firm’s senior real estate counsel, who received the OBA’s award of excellence in real estate law in 2007.
Harris Sheaffer LLP (Toronto)
One large-firm lawyer praised Harris Sheaffer as the “best condo shop in the city.” Another commented that the firm is “very well-connected and respected.” The shift by it and other real estate boutiques to specialization in condo law has made sense based on the Ontario government’s intensification plans for development through high-rise construction, due in part to scarcity of land in urban centres. This firm is cashing in on the shift by representing developers involved in the luxury Trump International Hotel and Tower and Shangri-La hotel and condominium developments in Toronto. It also acts for the likes of Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd., Lakeview Homes, and Monarch Corp.
Owens Wright LLP (Toronto)
Golf course real estate, subdivisions and condominiums, shopping centre leasing, easements, leases for wireless telecom infrastructures, and commercial lending are the focus of this 15-lawyer boutique. Clients include Rogers Communications Inc., First Gulf Corp., Oxford Properties Group, Royal Bank, and Bank of Montreal. It all began in 1984 when founding partners Doug Owens and John Wright decided to hang their own shingle. Owens has led the firm’s push to become one of the country’s top commercial real estate boutiques, while Wright has concentrated on corporate-commercial work.
Click here to read part I, top personal injury and trusts and estates boutiques.