Skip to content

Coveting mid-market deals

Cover story: Coveting mid-market deals
|Written By Beth Marlin

While national law firms duke it out for the shrinking pie of corporate work in Canada’s rapidly consolidating capital markets, central Canada’s regional firms say their strategy to remain independent and target mid-market deals and entrepreneurial clients will leave them standing at the end of the day — something, they say, that many so-called national law firms won’t be able to accomplish. Here''s our latest ranking of central Canadian firms.

Central Canada’s leading regional law firms may have more in common with the most prosperous U.S. law firm than some of the country’s national firms, the largest of which hovers around the 700-lawyer mark.

“The most profitable law firms south of the border aren’t necessarily the largest,” says J. Gregory Richards, managing partner of Toronto’s 82-lawyer WeirFoulds LLP. “The most profitable law firm in the U.S. according to American Lawyer’s survey, is a firm of 185 lawyers in one location, New York City. By U.S. standards, that’s positively miniscule.”  

While Canadian law firms do not make their annual revenues public, and it’s a safe bet Bay Street’s earnings are still straining to crack the Wall Street stratosphere, there is a dawning realization that there’s a critical mass unique to each partnership. And managing partners at Canadian Lawyer’s top 10 mid-size regional law firms in Ontario and Quebec acknowledge their own profit-maximizing sweet spot isn’t necessarily arrived at through the seemingly indiscriminate growth patterns employed by some national firms.

“We think our scale is probably a realistic scale for the Canadian market. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to recruit or add practice areas or strengthen existing ones — it’s a dynamic market — but we don’t think we need to be bigger just for its own sake,” says Andrew Kent, managing partner of the 190-lawyer McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP, which placed first for the second year in a row.

Indeed, many law firm executive committees are musing aloud about the inevitable impact on their client base given the wave of mergers and acquisitions, many of them by U.S. and other foreign interests, that has been relentlessly consolidating the Canadian and global business landscape over the past few years.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there were some (law firm) mergers,” says Gary Luftspring, chairman of Toronto’s 110-lawyer Goodman and Carr LLP, which took third place honours in this year’s ranking. “If you look at the number of clients who have disappeared over the last couple of years, it’s huge. If you look at the national (law) firms or even the so-called, tier-one regional firms, I don’t think there’s enough work nationally for the number of firms that are chasing it.”  

Nor are the national firms, with high-end legal fees that top out at $700 an hour and team-structured approach to legal files, well-positioned to encroach on the less eroded mid-cap client work so efficiently serviced by the leaner firms. “Can they compete with the solid regional firms? Probably not,” says Luftspring. “I think there’s lots of opportunity for mid-market (law) firms.”

Other managing partners interviewed by Canadian Lawyer magazine also spoke of a need to calibrate their firm’s optimal size and practice specializations with almost surgical precision as the legal services industry comes under greater pressure.

Eldon Bennett, managing partner of Toronto’s 120-lawyer Aird & Berlis LLP, which climbed two spots this year to fifth place, expects the regional marketplace to become more competitive as the financial markets become more globalized, forcing the Toronto Stock Exchange to compete for listings of Canadian companies with overseas bourses, drying up some of the legal work that has historically fed the national firms. “I think we’re better able to cope with that [than the national firms],” says Bennett. “We’re probably a more resilient size.”

Still with any economic change comes opportunity for the nimble. Luftspring points to the re-emerging tech sector and the strong entrepreneurial market, as well as creative tax work, such as advising wealthy individuals. “That’s not work that the biggest firms want, yet it can be very lucrative, very important, and it’s very satisfying for those who do it,” he says, acknowledging that he, like some of his rivals, is closely watching for signs of an emerging private health care sector in Canada, in light of the Supreme Court of Canada’s groundbreaking 2005 Chaouli ruling.

As Richards puts it: “I think it was Wayne Gretzky who said: ‘You don’t want to skate where the puck is, you want to skate to where the puck is going to be.’”

1. McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP
Total Lawyers: 190
Offices: Toronto; Montreal
Lawyers by Office:
Toronto: 140, Montreal: 50

Core Practice Areas:
Mergers and acquisitions; antitrust/competition; banking and finance; commercial real estate; corporate and tax; structured products/derivatives/hedge funds; corporate restructuring; international business and trade; labour and employment; litigation and dispute resolution; mining; securities and public markets; and securitization.

Key Clients:
Honda; Brookfield Properties; Stelco; RBC Financial Group; Bank of Nova Scotia; Novartis; Boehringer Ingelheim; GE Capital; ING Canada; Mercedes-Benz; Boeing; Monarch; Canderel; Morguard; Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment; Aramark; Armstrong World Industries; Kilmer Capital; Borealis Capital; Canon; BMO Nesbitt Burns; BASF; Mead; Crystallex; Boliden; Catterton Partners; McKenna Gale; Toronto Hydro; First Asset Funds; Technicolor; Comerica; Kraft; Kohler; Hershey’s; Tyco Group of companies; JPMorgan Chase; Becton Dickinson; Nickel Institute; NYK; Invista; GMAC Commercial Finance; Medisys Health Group; La Senza; Intrawest; American Iron & Metal; Monit Group; MDS Aerospace; and Coastal Corporation.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel to RSM Richter, receiver for Ravelston Inc.; creditors’ committee in Stelco’s current restructuring; Bank of Nova Scotia as agent for the financing of the recent Masonite acquisition; ING on its recently filed $1-billion shelf prospectus; BPO Properties Inc. in its investor documents in the purchase of the $2.2 billion O & Y Portfolio of office buildings, including the 72-storey First Canadian Place; Royal Bank of Canada and RBC Dexia Inc. in their new office tower lease; Honda Canada Inc. in its $160-million greenfield development of an engine plant in Alliston, Ont.; AmerisourceBergen in its acquisition of Trent Drugs and Asenda Pharmaceuticals; Western Forest Products in its acquisition of Cascadia Forest Products and TFL 37 forest lands; and Sony in its acquisition as part of a consortium of MGM.
 
Star Alumni:  
Newton Rowell, chair of  the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations, and later Ontario chief justice, founded McMillan Binch. Other alumni include: the late William Howland, former Ontario chief justice; the late Ontario Superior Court justice Samuel Grange;  Ontario Superior Court Justice Sarah Pepall; Quebec Superior Court Justice William Fraiberg; retired Quebec Superior Court justice Benjamin Greenberg; former senator Leo Kolber; former prime minister John Turner; former International Trade minister Jim Peterson; and Tony Clement, federal Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario.

Pro Bono/Community Service:
Patron of the Western Business Law Clinic at the UWO’s Faculty of Law; launched the new “McMillan Binch Mendelsohn classroom” in the law school faculty building; established McMillan Binch Mendelsohn Scholarships at University of Windsor, University of Western Ontario, Queen’s University, and University of Ottawa; donated $300,000 to Osgoode Hall Law School’s scholarship endowment and $333,000 to the University of Toronto Faculty of Law; United Way Campaign.

Affiliations:
Member of State Capital Global Law Firm Group, an association of firms representing all 50 U.S. states.

The Firm:
McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP’s legacy traces back to 1903 and the firm founded by Newton Rowell. In May, central Canada’s leading regional law firm celebrated the first anniversary of the synergistic merger between Toronto’s 103-year-old McMillan Binch with Montreal’s Mendelsohn GP.  With a sophisticated business services practice that rivals many national firms, the 190-lawyer firm markets itself south of the border as  “America’s Canadian Law Firm,” building on the legacy set during the 1940s and 1950s when Bill Binch cut a swath through the mid-western United States in his Oldsmobile, soliciting legal business of mid-sized companies expanding into Canadian markets. Last year, the firm reported no interest in expanding beyond Ontario and Quebec, however, newly appointed managing partner Andrew Kent says McMillan Binch Mendelsohn has been eyeing the Calgary market. “It’s no secret that we were in an association with (western firms) Bull Housser and Milner Casgrain, as they were then known for 10 years from 1989-1999, and I don’t think it’s any secret that the three firms considered doing a deal in 1999 and elected not to,” says Kent. “We’ve had opportunities to be ‘national’ that we’ve passed on. For better or worse. Whether we should or shouldn’t have, we did.” Asked whether the firm is currently negotiating a merger with a western law firm, Kent is coy. “I have to give you the CIA answer: neither confirm nor deny.” Stay tuned. . . .

[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

2. Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP[/span]

Total Lawyers: 180

Offices: Toronto

Lawyers by Office: Toronto: 180[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Core Practice Areas:[/span]

Advocacy; banking and financial institutions; business re-organization and insolvency; competition; construction; corporate/commercial; cross-border issues; energy and utilities; franchising; government relations; health; information; communications and entertainment; income trusts; insurance; corporate and regulatory; international trade; labour and employment; mergers and acquisitions; mining; municipal; planning and environmental; pensions and benefits; product liability; real estate; securities; tax and trusts; technology; and corporate finance.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Key Clients:[/span]

University of Toronto; Canadian Tire; Kinross Gold Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Teranet Enterprises Inc.; Manulife Financial Corporation; Rogers; Cushman & Wakefield LePage Inc.; Goldcorp Inc.; Rose Corporation; Royal Bank; GMP Securities LP; Interac Inc.; E.D. Smith & Sons; Harley-Davidson Financial Services Canada; Equinox Minerals Ltd.; Sprott Securities Inc.; and Lundin Petroleum AB.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Notable Mandates:[/span]

Acted for Goldcorp Inc., which entered into an agreement with Barrick Gold Corporation to acquire certain mining assets and interests of Placer Dome Inc. for $1.485 billion; Harley-Davidson Financial Services Canada in a $1.1-billion global line of credit facility; Canadian counsel to Lundin Petroleum AB in the $720-million acquisition of outstanding shares of Valkyries Petroleum Corp.; GMP Securities Ltd. in an $81-million secondary offering completed by Harris Steel Group Inc.; Goldcorp Inc. in its $70-million acquisition of the Bermejal Gold Deposit in Mexico; and E.D. Smith Income Fund in its acquisition of Seaforth Creamery Inc. and its $60-million treasury offering.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Star Alumni:[/span]

The late Margaret Hyndman, first Canadian woman to appear before the Imperial Privy Counsel and appointed King’s Counsel in 1938, the second woman to be so honoured in the British Commonwealth; the late John Graham, chairman emeritus of Rogers Communication Inc. and one of the founding members of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association; W. David Griffiths, who was a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal; Joseph O’Brien, formerly a judge of the Ontario Superior Court; and Cameron Stewart, vice-president, secretary, and general counsel of Canadian Tire Corporation.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Pro Bono/Community Service:[/span]

Donation to the Toronto Foundation for Student Success for school nutrition programs; sponsored the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic’s 12th Annual Tribute; raised more than $7,000 for multiple sclerosis research during the 2006 Super Cities Walk for MS; real estate lawyer David Eveline represented pro bono 14 buyers of Habitat for Humanity homes; and bronze sponsor of the 2005 Becel Ride for Heart.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Affiliations:[/span]

World Services Group; a global non-profit association.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

The Firm:[/span]

Established in 1888 as Cassels & Cassels, this top-ranked business law firm underwent five more name changes before settling on Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP five years ago. After 120 years, it has grown to 180 lawyers, 133 of them partners, two counsel, and 45 associates, supported by more than 200 staff. Housed within six floors of Toronto’s Scotia Plaza tower, Cassels Brock is one of the few law firms of its size in Canada that operates out of a single office. Cassels Brock represents a wide range of companies, from entrepreneurial start-ups to mid-market enterprises to global corporations, handling files ranging from tax advice for the small business owner to cross-border mergers and multinational class action lawsuits. Managing partner Mark Young recently hired nine lawyers to expand the firm’s competition law, financial services, and securities groups. This firm also has a strong tradition of doing significant community service work. As one Canadian Lawyer survey respondent noted, Cassels Brock is an “excellent firm that made the decision to grow as a regional firm.”



3. Goodman and Carr LLP

Total Lawyers: 110
Offices:  Toronto
Lawyers by Office:  Toronto: 110

Core Practice Areas:
Business; banking and insolvency; technology, securities; litigation; tax; real estate; leasing; municipal; and personal planning.

Key Clients:
BFI Canada Inc.; BMO Capital Corporation; Bentall Retail Services LP; Brookfield Asset Management; cars4U Ltd.; Cedara Software Corp.; Chubb Insurance Company of Canada; Comweb Group Inc.; European Minerals Corporation; FNX Mining Company Inc.; George Brown College; IBI Income Fund; Laurentian Bank of Canada; McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada; Menkes Developments Inc.; Mills Corporation; Niagara Health System; Nitrochem Corp.; Northland Power Inc.; Orlando Corporation; Quinlan Road Limited; Research In Motion Limited; Richtree Markets Inc.; Royal & Sun Alliance; St. Joseph Printing Limited; Shoppers Drug Mart; Sobeys Inc.; Sterling Centrecorp Inc.; Summit Real Estate Investment Trust; TD Meloche Monnex/SNIC; The Toronto Land Partnership; TransGlobe Property Management Services; Trilon Bancorp Inc.; Willis Canada Inc.; and WorkBrain, Inc.

Notable Mandates:
Acted for Brookfield Properties Corp. on agreement to acquire all of the shares of Trizec Properties, Inc., a publicly traded U.S. REIT, and Trizec Canada Inc.; cars4U Ltd. and Chesswood Income Fund to convert cars4U into Chesswood, and the proposed IPO of trust units by Chesswood; reached a multi-million-dollar settlement of the “Baby GS” litigation case, a precedent-setting case in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. arising from the failure of physicians to recommend HIV testing; Tricon Capital, with $515-million equity and mezzanine loans to developers in Canada and the U.S.; Tricap Management Ltd. in the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act restructuring of Stelco; Brookfield Bridge Lending Fund in a $450-million financing of the Hudson’s Bay; owner and operator of Bowring in its CCAA restructuring; commission counsel to the Ipperwash Inquiry into the shooting death of aboriginal protestor Dudley George; and excess insurers of Hollinger International directors in a hearing related to the $50-million settlement of a derivative action against the outside directors.

Star Alumni:
Allen Karp, former CEO of Cineplex; Jeffrey Blidner, vice-chairman of Brookfield Asset Management; Joseph Freedman, general counsel of Brookfield Asset Management; Harvey Shapiro, co-CEO of NovaDent Inc.; Ken Kirsh, co-CEO of Gamma North Peel Laboratory Limited; Sandra Cowan, partner and general counsel of EdgeStone Capital Partners Inc.; Karen Hacker, general counsel of St. Joseph Printing Limited; and Wolfe Goodman, who still comes to the office from time to time, is one of the deans of Canadian tax law and a recipient of the Law Society Medal.

Pro Bono/Community Service:
During a six-month period this year, Goodman and Carr lawyers contributed more than 1,200 hours to pro bono work. Almost half the firm’s lawyers are involved in charitable or community organizations, including: Amnesty International Group; Baycrest Foundation; York University; March of Dimes; Canadian Association of Family Enterprise; Canadian Friends of Boys Town Jerusalem; Canadian National Institute for the Blind; Canadian Piggy Bank Charitable Fund; Canadian Red Cross; Hellenic Heritage Foundation; Hong Fook Mental Health Association; JVS Toronto; Jewish National Fund of Canada; Mount Sinai Hospital; North York Harvest Food Bank; Ontario HIV Treatment Network; Ronald McDonald House; Theatre Passe Muraille; Three Trilliums (assisted living for handicapped people); UJA Federation; and United Israel Appeal of Canada Inc.

Affiliations:
None.

The Firm:
Established by a group of 11 lawyers in 1965,  Goodman and Carr has trimmed its ranks from 140 lawyers to 110 in the past year with the assistance of talent-raiding national firms that seem to view the top-ranked regional firm as an excellent training ground. Perhaps to help stem the talent-drain, the firm recently appointed a new managing partner, Paul Bleiwas, a 36-year-old tax whiz described by chairman Gary Luftspring as representing the firm’s “youth movement.” After expanding in the 1980s and 1990s, Goodman and Carr later closed short-lived offices in North York, Ottawa, and New York, and is today content in its mid-sized regional status. Known for its entrepreneurial culture, embodied in its respected “Hard working law” slogan, the firm’s client companies tend to be led by lean management teams who insist on the same efficient style in their legal service providers. “The people we’ve been able to recruit tend to be of a type: young, entrepreneurial, wanting to be more of a voice with their clients than simply doing sophisticated legal work,” says Luftspring. “That’s clearly what we’re about. That’s something that we’re watching and those are the type of people we’re looking for.”


4. Desjardins Ducharme LLP
Total Lawyers: 150
Offices:  Montreal, Quebec City
Lawyers by Office: Montreal: 100,  Quebec City: 50

Core Practice Areas:     
Business law.

Key Clients:
National Bank of Canada; Mouvement Desjardins; Industrielle Alliance; Coop Fédérée; American International group; Rona; SAQ; Genome Canada; Heroux-Devtek; Mistral Pharma; Bridgestone/Firestone; and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel to the government of Quebec for the privatization of Innovatech Grand Montréal; Caisse de dépôt in the purchase of Gaz Metro with a consortium of other institutional investors; Caisse de dépôt in the acquisition of an interest in Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline in the United States; Kunz Group in the sale to Pfleiderer AG of Uniboard Canada Inc. and its affiliates; federal government before the Gomery Commission; and 2006 victories before the Supreme Court of Canada in Barbie’s Restaurant v. Mattel and Concordia University v. Bisaillon.

Star Alumni:
Jean Lesage, former Quebec premier; Louis St. Laurent, former prime minister; Yves Pratte, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; Pierre Michaud, former chief justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal; Claude Wagner and Jérome Choquette, both former Quebec ministers of justice and solicitor general; Warren Allmand, former federal solicitor general; Robert Demers, former president of the Montreal Stock Exchange and the Quebec Securities Commission; and Gilles Hébert, judge of the Quebec Superior Court.

Pro Bono/Community Service:
Fondation de l’Hôpital Sainte-Justine; Orchestre I Musici de Montréal; and L’Arrêt-Source.

Affiliations:
Lex Mundi, an association of 160 independent law firms.

The Firm:  
Desjardins Ducharme originates from the 1949 association of Guy Desjardins and Claude Ducharme in Montreal, which joined the even older firm of Gélinas Bourque in 1975. In 1991, the firm expanded to Quebec City by merging with the highly respected Stein Monast, briefly becoming Desjardins Ducharme Stein Monast before switching its name to Desjardins Ducharme upon becoming a limited liability partnership in May 2005.
Now led by managing partner André Vautour, Desjardins Ducharme counts former a prime minister, a Quebec premier, and innumerable judges among its alumni. Located in Montreal’s National Bank Tower and with new offices in Quebec City, this establishment firm represents many of the province’s top francophone institutions. As “a distinct partnership in a distinct society,” the firm has given the cold shoulder to numerous national firms seeking a merger to establish a presence in the vital Quebec legal market, which is increasingly seen as a linguistically and culturally amenable gateway for European companies seeking to gain access to the North American markets.

[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

5. Aird & Berlis LLP[/span]

Total Lawyers: 120

Offices:  Toronto

Lawyers by Office:  Toronto: 120[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Core Practice Areas:[/span]

Banking; corporate/commercial; corporate finance; environmental; insolvency and restructuring; litigation; municipal and land-use planning; real estate; tax; and energy.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Key Clients:[/span]

Allied Canadian Group; BMO; Dynatec Corp.; Falcon Oil & Gas; GMAC Commercial Finance; La Salle Business Credit; Ontario Power Authority; ROW Limited Partnership; Royal Bank; TD Financial Group; Wachovia Capital Finance Corp.; the municipalities of Markham, Mississauga, and Oakville, Ont.; Enbridge Group; Environment Management Solutions Inc.; and Enersource Corp.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Notable Mandates:[/span]

Counsel to Falcon Oil & Gas Ltd. in a $100-million public offering; Dynatec Corp. in the acquisition of a 27-per-cent interest in FNX Mining Company and a $119-million share issuance; St. Louis-based Ralcorp Holdings Inc. in the Canadian aspect of their US$80-million purchase of Western Waffles; and Allied Properties REIT in the acquisition of a $56-million portfolio from Camwood Properties Ltd.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Star Alumni:[/span]

Founding partner John Aird was appointed to the Senate and served as Ontario’s 23rd lieutenant governor from 1980-1985; Gilbert Bennett, chairman of the board of Canadian Tire Corp. and Fortis Ontario Inc.; and Toronto Mayor David Miller.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Pro Bono/Community Service:[/span]

Sponsored speed skater and Olympic gold medalist Clara Hughes during the 2005-2006 competitive season; organizes a law firm challenge for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual Ride for Research; and partner Nick Torchetti recently received the Villa Charities’ Heart and Hand Award for embodying the true spirit of volunteerism.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Affiliations:[/span]

Toronto representative of Interlaw, an international association of independent law firms.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

The Firm:[/span]

Aird & Berlis, situated in BCE Place, is the product of the 1974 union of Zimmerman Grant Hugo Paddon Worley & Bennett, founded in 1919, and Edison Aird & Berlis, founded in 1953. Today, the 120-lawyer Aird & Berlis enjoys a strong reputation as a leading corporate finance and real estate and development law firm. Toronto Mayor David Miller once practiced law with the firm, specializing in employment and immigration law and shareholder rights. While Aird & Berlis once had an Ottawa office and an association with a Vancouver firm, it is now content to maintain a single Toronto office, says managing partner Eldon Bennett. While the firm plans to hire about 15 lawyers in banking, financial services, corporate finance, and energy law, Bennett says the firm’s modest size leaves it well-positioned to cope with a consolidating Canadian business world that is placing downward pressure on the domestic legal services market. “We’re on the opposite side of lots of sides of deals with larger (law) firms,” he says. “The way they man the deal is so much more expensive than the way we do the deal.” [span style="font-weight: bold;"]

6. Lavery, de Billy LLP[/span]

Total Lawyers: 145

Offices: Montreal, Quebec City, Laval, and Ottawa

Lawyers by Office:  Montreal: 114; Quebec City: 27; Laval: 2; Ottawa: 2[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Core Practice Areas:[/span]

Business law; mergers and acquisitions; securities; financial services/business finance; competition law; tax and trusts; mining; real estate; leasing; employment and labour; commercial; class action; securities; professional liability and insurance litigation; environmental law; privacy law; and health law.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Key Clients:[/span]

Hydro Quebec; Gaz Metropolitan Inc.; Labatt Breweries; University of Montreal; Goodyear Canada; Canadian National Railway Co.; Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec; BMO Financial Group; AXA Insurance Inc.; Campbell Resources Inc.; Cambior; Brookfield Power Corp.; La Presse Ltée; Noranda Inc.; Sobeys Inc.; McCain Foods Limited; The Home Depot, Inc.; and Metro Richelieu Inc.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Notable Mandates:[/span]

Acted for Rabaska Limited partnership in regulatory and environmental approvals for a $840-million LNG terminal project on the St-Lawrence River near Quebec City; Campbell Resources Inc. and its subsidiaries in its reorganization and plan of arrangement pursuant to the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act; Advanced Fiber Technologies Income Fund in the $37.4-million purchase by Aikawa Iron Works Co. Ltd., of all outstanding units; the University of Montreal in its development of a new campus.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Star Alumni:[/span]

Quebec Superior Court judges Michel Caron, Paul Carrière, Jean-François de Grandpré, Pierre Gagnon, Marie Gaudreau, Jean Guilbault, Hélène Langlois, Marc Lesage, Diane Marcelin, Édouard Martin, J. Fraser Martin, Anne-Marie Trahan, and Richard Wagner; Federal Court associate chief justice Allan Lutfy; and Quebec Court of Appeal justices Marc Beauregard, Jacques Chamberland, and Lorne Giroux;[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Pro Bono/Community Service:[/span]

Jean Saint-Onge, chairman of the Marie-Vincent Foundation; Canadian Centre for Architecture; the Montreal International Music Competition; the Metropolitan Orchestra of Greater Montreal; the YMCA; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; partner Odette Jobin-Laberge recently received the Barreau du Québec’s Mérite award; Jules Brière chairs an inter-ministerial committee to consult with the aboriginal community; and firm lawyers have authored French-language legal texts.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Affiliations:[/span]

None.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

The Firm:[/span]

Founded in 1913, Lavery, de Billy is a full-service law firm headquartered in Montreal’s 41-storey cruciform tower, with smaller offices in Quebec City, Laval, and Ottawa. It’s no mystery why this 145-lawyer firm has been so keenly courted by several national law firms wishing to expand into Quebec. “We act for numerous entrepreneurial start-up, mid-size, and multinational corporations in numerous sectors of the economy. Amongst many other important clients, we act for Labatt Breweries, Hydro-Quebec, Canadian National, Goodyear Canada, Parmalat, SNC Lavalin, Cambior, the Quebec Hospital Association, Gaz Métropolitain, and McCain Foods,” says managing partner Richard Dolan. “We are the only regional firm in our market offering significant bench strength and expertise in all major practice areas, including business law, employment and labour law, litigation, class action work, and environmental law.  In fact, in many of these areas, we occupy a position second-to-none in our market.”


7. WeirFoulds LLP
Total Lawyers: 82
Offices: Toronto
Lawyers by Office:  Toronto: 82

Core Practice Areas:
Litigation; corporate finance; mergers and acquisitions; commercial real estate/leasing and infrastructure development; and public sector law.

Key Clients:
Law firms across Canada seeking Ontario representation; public and private corporations; entrepreneurs; financial institutions; governments; governmental authorities; non-profit and public interest organizations and individuals. Unless it is a matter of public record, the firm keeps the identity of its clients confidential.

Notable Mandates:
Ontario counsel for WestJet Airlines in its litigation with Air Canada;  the former controller of Nortel on the restatement issues of its financial statements; Ontario Realty Corporation in its action on fraudulent land sales; commission counsel on the Ipperwash Inquiry; the Hollinger Group litigation over cross-border venue and corporate governance issues; the provisional liquidator of The Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada in litigation that held that all charitable property may be used to pay a charity’s debts; senior financial creditors on the ranking of more than $1 billion of Air Canada’s subordinated financial debt (in which the Superior Court held that subordination covenants in debt instruments were enforceable in CCAA proceedings);  Amoco Canada on the Chippewas of Sarnia case in litigation denying an Indian Band its claim for ownership of land encompassing Sarnia, Ont.; Town of Oakville in which the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a municipality’s rights to regulate or prohibit billboards; the Canadian Bar Association in the SCC decision that invalidated the appointments of retired judges as labour arbitrators in interest disputes in Ontario; the Jane Doe case in which the Toronto Police Service was sued for failing to issue a sufficient warning to the community about a serial sex offender; and member of the Osborne Committee reporting to the Ontario Securities Commission on structural changes to the commission.

Star Alumni:

Former Ontario chief justice George Gale; former SCC justice Roy Kellock; former Ontario Court of Appeal justices John Arnup, who was also a former treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, James Carthy, and Allan McNiece Austin; Nova Scotia Appeal Court Justice Thomas Cromwell; and Ontario Superior Court justices Joan Lax and Paul Perell. 

Pro Bono/Community Service:
Represented Community Living Ontario in successfully resisting a constitutional challenge to the closure of government institutions for adults with intellectual disabilities; a student in an appeal of an identification, placement, and review committee decision to the Special Education Tribunal  as part of the Child Advocacy Project of The Advocates’ Society; appeal to the Court of Appeal of a leading decision on dismissal of an employee with disabilities in Keays v. Honda; an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board on behalf of a victim of spousal violence; the minority advocacy and rights counsel in the Quebec Secession Reference case before the Supreme Court of Canada, successfully arguing that minority rights should be recognized as one of the foundational principles of Canadian federalism; the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies in SCC challenge to the Criminal Code defence which allows “reasonable force” to be used by parents and teachers in child discipline; and the Eurig Estate case in which the SCC held that Ontario’s probate fees were unconstitutional.

Affiliations:  
None.

The Firm:
WeirFoulds LLP has been a continuous partnership since 1860, when Theodore Spencer opened his practice. Now located in Toronto’s 36-storey Exchange Tower, the firm is best known for its litigation strength, with more than half of its 82 lawyers regularly appearing before courts and tribunals, though practices revolve around four pillars: advocacy; finance; property; and government law. WeirFoulds also sponsors the Arnup Cup, an annual trial advocacy competition named after one of the firm’s most distinguished former partners for Ontario law schools and organized by The Advocates’ Society. The firm is content with its status as a leading regional law firm, with no aspirations for national expansion. “Our strategy is to not try to be all things to all people but to play to our strengths,” says managing partner J. Gregory Richards, who recalls Canada’s largest law firms were about the same size as WeirFoulds now is when he began articling interviews in 1978. “We’re much more comfortable right here in one of the greatest economic regions in the world — the Toronto region.”

[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

8. Fogler Rubinoff LLP[/span]

Total Lawyers: 78

Offices: Toronto

Lawyers by Office: Toronto: 78[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Core Practice Areas:[/span]

Business, securities, and commercial law; real estate law and property development and leasing; banking, institutional lending and asset securitization; municipal and planning law; litigation; bankruptcy, insolvency, and restructuring; tax and estates; employment and labour law; regulatory affairs and public law; and transportation law.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Key Clients:[/span]

RioCan REIT; FirstService Corporation; Cinram International Income Trust; Bennett Environmental Inc.; Kingsway Financial; TD Bank; HSBC Bank Canada; Bank of Montreal; First National Financial; and Colliers International.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Notable Mandates:[/span]

Cinram International Inc. in its reorganization to Cinram Income Trust;  Riocan REIT in its sale of seven shopping malls to Retrocom Mid-Market REIT;  Air Source Power Fund LLP in the financing of its Manitoba project; TD Bank and First National Financial Corporation in Schooner Trust’s in two public offerings of Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities totalling $969 million; Loyalty Management Group Canada Inc. in its purchase of ICOM Information & Communications Inc.; CMN  International Inc., a subsidiary of FirstService Corp. in its acquisition of a majority interest in Colliers Seeley in Los Angeles; AMR Technologies Inc. in its combination with Magnequench, Inc.; TD Bank in the financing of Scotia Centre in St. John’s, Nfld.; and Colliers International Mortgage Corp. in Merrill Lynch Financial Assets Inc.’s $548 million public offering of Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Star Alumni:[/span]

Ed Sonshine, president and CEO of RioCan REIT; Jay Hennick, president and CEO of FirstService Corp.; Eugene McBurney, chairman of GMP Capital Trust; and former Supreme Court justice Arthur Gans.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Pro Bono/Community Service:[/span]

Lloyd Fogler is past chairman and is on the board of directors of Mount Sinai Hospital as well as on the board of  the Royal Ontario Museum and Canadian Opera Company; and the firm is a major donor to the Miles Nadal JCC and supports other charities and causes.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

Affiliations:[/span]

International Lawyers Network.[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

The Firm:[/span]

Formed through the 1982 merger of Siegal Fogler and Rubinoff & Rubinoff, the firm’s roots date back to the 1930s. In 2000, the firm changed its name to Fogler Rubinoff LLP. Since then, the firm has grown by 50 per cent to 78 lawyers and in January 2005, moved into new offices in the Toronto-Dominion Centre big enough to fit 100 lawyers “if, as, and when appropriate,” says Michael Appleton, managing partner since 1982. “Our intention is to continue our controlled growth strategy, adding lawyers not just for the sake of growing larger, but as and when the opportunity arises to further strengthen and improve our firm and better serve our clients by so doing,” he says. “We have no plans to merge with another firm or open another office within the next 12 months or in the foreseeable future.” [span style="font-weight: bold;"]

9. Siskind Cromarty Ivey & Dowler LLP[/span]

Total Lawyers: 73

Offices:  London, Windsor, Toronto, Quebec

Lawyers by Office:  London: 67; Windsor: 1; Toronto: 1; Quebec City: 4


Core Practice Areas:
Class actions and product liability; business law; litigation; medical malpractice; franchise law; immigration; labour and employment; municipal and environmental.

Key Clients:
Columbia Sportswear Canada Limited; Emco Corp.; Marriott International; Pacific & Western Bank of Canada; Linamar Corp.; Pizza Pizza; Volvo Construction Equipment; GoodLife Fitness Clubs; Trojan Technologies Inc.; and Employers Reinsurance Corp.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel in a series of price-fixing settlements totalling more than $10 million in the rubber chemical industry; co-counsel on a retirement benefits case settled for $20 million; settled a secondary market securities case against Canadian Superior Energy; several pending price-fixing cases; securities cases against Nortel, Royal Group, FMF, and Molson Coors; and pending liability cases against Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer.

Star Alumni:
Superior Court Justice Ladie Haines; and Ontario Court Justice Katie McKerlie.

Pro Bono/Community Service:

Siskinds is involved in a wide variety of organizations and causes and pro bono work including the Home At Last Program; the new St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation and Siskinds Studentship in Spinal Cord Injury Research; London’s International Children’s Festival; Community Living London; London Health Sciences Centre; and SARI Therapeutic Riding Association.  

Affiliations:
Quebec City-based affiliate firm, Siskinds Desmeules, has four lawyers.

The Firm:
Based in southwestern Ontario, with offices in London, Windsor, and Toronto, along with an affiliate in Quebec City, Siskinds is a leader in the practice of class action law. The first firm to certify and settle a class action in Ontario under the 1992 Class Proceedings Act, 16 of Siskinds’ 70 lawyers now practice class action law. Since then, Siskinds has been involved in more than 45 class action lawsuits involving: breast implants; TMJ implants; diet drugs; vanishing premium insurance products; improper mortgage penalties; plastic venting for mid-efficiency furnaces; improper pricing of consumer products; wrongful termination and employment benefits; retirement benefits; oil refinery emissions; fireplace design; investment schemes; the E. coli tainted water tragedy; price-fixing cases against multinational chemical companies; and securities cases. Siskinds has also developed one of Canada’s pre-eminent franchise law groups, representing more than 80 franchise companies around the world. First established in London in 1932 by A.B. Siskind, who was joined by Don Cromarty in 1959, the firm became London’s leading real estate and litigation firm. The 1989 merger of  Siskind Cromarty with corporate and commercial law firm Ivey & Dowler was followed with the 2002 merger with London’s Berg Kennedy Cleaver Broad LLP to form one of the largest business law practices in southwestern Ontario.

[span style="font-weight: bold;"]

10. Lerners LLP[/span]

Total Lawyers: 112

Offices: London, Toronto

Lawyers by Office: London: 65; Toronto: 47


Core Practice Areas:
Personal injury; all aspects of commercial litigation including but not limited to class proceedings, securities, appeals, Charter of Rights and constitutional law; insurance and medical defence; business law; real estate and land development; municipal law; and family law.

Key Clients:
Air Canada; Genuity Capital; John Boultbee, a former officer and director of Hollinger International; Royal Bank; Interfaith Coalition on Marriage and the Family; Ruland Realty; Canadian Red Cross Society; Clarica; and Sinclair Stevens.

Notable Mandates:

Air Canada v. WestJet; overturned the largest punitive damages award in Canadian history, $2.5 million, against an insurer; Genuity Capital, in litigation with CIBC for allegedly raiding the bank’s staff; 10 senators who completed a study of Canada’s health care system in the Supreme Court of Canada case, Chaoulli v. Quebec; intervenor at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Reference re Same-Sex Marriage case and M. V. H.; the Canadian Red Cross Society at the Commission of Inquiry into the safety of the blood system; trial and appeal counsel in Toronto-Dominion Bank v. Leigh Instruments Limited (Trustees of); board of directors in Field Resources Ltd. v. Bell Canada International Inc.; successful plaintiff shareholders in Kerr v. Danier Leather Inc.; plaintiff in Royal Bank of Canada v. Societe Generale (Canada) Inc.; plaintiff shareholders of YBM Magnex International, Inc. in the first settlement of a major Canadian securities class action in Royal Trust Corp. v. Fisherman; shareholder plaintiffs in Carom v. Bre-X Minerals Ltd.

Star Alumni:
The Hon. Mayer Lerner; The Hon. Mary Anne Sanderson; The Hon. John C. Kennedy; The Hon. B. Thomas Granger; The Hon. Margaret McSorley; and Steven Stefanko of the Ontario Municipal Board.

Pro Bono/Community Service:

Acts for intervenors such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Affiliations:

None.

The Firm:
Arguably Ontario’s leading litigation firm, Lerners began in 1929 when Mayer Lerner hung his shingle in London, driven by the philosophy that no matter who his clients were, each and every one deserved the best representation possible. Lerner’s brother, Sam, joined the practise after fighting for Canada in the Second World War. The firm began to grow after one of Canada’s most prominent barristers, Earl Cherniak, joined the firm in 1960.  In 1986, a three-lawyer Toronto office was established to handle trial and appellate work. Today, that office has 47 lawyers and practices as a litigation boutique, while the 65-lawyer London office, while it is also known for its litigation benchstrength, maintains other practice expertise, says Kirk Stevens, managing partner in Toronto. “We’re two different animals in two different cities although we get along,” says Stevens. “In one sense, we could be the largest litigation firm in the country although we do have an added dimension in London and so it makes sense to think of us in southwestern Ontario as a regional law firm.” The firm, which has grown by 12 lawyers since last year’s survey, has won some of the largest personal injury judgments in the country.

SPECIAL REPORTS



Save