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The Top 25 Most Influential

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|Written By Gail J. Cohen
The Top 25 Most Influential

Canadian Lawyer is back with our second annual list of the Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession in Canada. Our inaugural Top 25 was one of our most-read, and most commented-on, features in 2010. As expected, it was controversial and lawyers across the country had lots to say about it. We took heed of the comments and this year put our list together slightly differently, asking for nominations from: legal groups and associations representing a variety of memberships and locations; some winners from last year’s Top 25; our general readership; and our internal panel of writers and editors. We received more than 100 nominations, which the internal panel then whittled down to about 55 candidates. We then posted the list online and once again asked our readers to participate, with more than 1,300 people voting in the poll. The final list is based on that poll with input and the last word from the internal panel.

The Top 25 Most Influential is not just about bright stars, big deals, or number of media mentions — although those may play a part. What sets our list apart is that we have endeavoured to select the most influential within the profession over the last 18 months. For instance, some lawyers may get the billion-dollar deals but may not have influence in other areas. It’s about respect, ability to influence public opinion, and help shape the laws of this country; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; and social and political influence and involvement.

This year, we also split the list up into five areas of influence and have chosen the top five in each of: corporate-commercial law; in-house counsel; criminal and human rights law; government, associations, and non-profits, including public inquiries and officers of Parliament; and outliers, a catch-all category for anyone who’s a lawyer and has been influential over the past 18 months but doesn’t fit into the other categories. Nominees were put in the category in which the individuals exercised their influence during the time period. As such, law firm leaders who may practise corporate-commercial law but were this year the driving force behind a merger would fit into the outlier category rather than the corporate-commercial one.

Some of last year’s winners are back, such as law professor Alan Young and constitutional law legend Peter Hogg, but this year’s list also sees a crop of different faces who have been the movers and shakers over the last year to 18 months, including Green party Leader Elizabeth May, Norton Rose OR LLP managing partner John Coleman, and a group of highly respected corporate counsel.

There were also a few write-in candidates in our online poll but one deserves mention due to the many voters who suggested him. In the government/non-profit category, Ontario ombudsman André Marin was frequently mentioned for “his incredible leadership, passion for fairness, and care and concern for those who have been disadvantaged by sometimes well-intended policies and practices and decisions of government.” Another voter said Marin “had an incredible positive impact on government administration in Ontario, acting as a catalyst for change in diverse areas, including expansion of the newborn screening program, greater fairness and transparency in property assessment and consumer protection in provincially run lotteries.”

So without further ado, here are the 2011 Top 25 Most Influential. They are listed with the top vote getter first in each category, followed by the others in alphabetical order.

[strong]Corporate-Commercial

Kelly Friedman[/strong]

Partner, Davis LLP, Toronto

Kelly Friedman is chairwoman of Sedona Canada and was instrumental in the group that produced the Sedona Canada principles on e-discovery as well as several other commentaries on proportionality, privacy, cost containment, and letters rogatory. Litigators and in-house counsel alike see her as the go-to person on e-discovery in Canada. She has appeared before all levels of Ontario’s courts, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada. She has represented clients such as Bell Canada International Inc., Eli Lilly Canada Inc., and Toronto Hydro as an intervener. She also has considerable expertise in the hot energy sector.

What voters had to say:

[em]“Having worked closely with Kelly for many years (in my capacity as a corporate client), I can say with great confidence that she is a Big Thinker, a True Strategist, a Powerful Intellectual and a woman of unending energy and ideas, with the temerity to carry them through for the benefit of the entire legal community and all those within the country who seek justice and fairness!”

“Kelly is a great example for all female lawyers to follow.”

“A thought leader, highly likeable, and obviously very bright!”[/em]

Lucien Bouchard

Former premier of Quebec and now a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Montreal

Lucien Bouchard has the ear of politicians and industry. He is an adviser to big companies on strategic issues and acts as negotiator and mediator for significant disputes. His active involvement in the business community includes advising large corporations on strategic issues and policy matters as well as acting as negotiator and mediator for significant disputes of all kinds. Last year, he was chief negotiator for Montreal’s transport agency for the awarding of a $1.2-billion-plus contract to build new subway cars and convinced members of the National Assembly to vote for a law restricting competing bids. In 1990, he founded the Bloc Québécois and served as premier of Quebec from 1996-2001. He is currently the president of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association.

What voters had to say:

[em]

“I have worked with [him] in various files and [he is] truly [one of] the best of the best. Smart and practical as well as a great person.”[/em]

Peter Hogg

Professor emeritus, Osgoode Hall Law School; scholar in residence, Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP, Toronto

A member of our inaugural Top 25 Most Influential list in 2010, over the past year Peter Hogg has been heavily involved in the Supreme Court of Canada reference on a national securities regulator, landing him in the corporate-commercial category this year. Known, perhaps, as Canada’s pre-eminent constitutional expert, the securities regulator reference is just the latest in a long line of seminal cases he has been involved in. He was also reportedly the go-to guy for constitutional guidance for former governor general Michaëlle Jean.

What voters had to say:

“Peter Hogg has long-standing credibility. Hot deal makers may come and go, and new ‘experts’ may hop on the bandwagon of certain types of deals, but nobody has the credibility that Hogg has.”

Justice Geoff Morawetz

Ontario Superior Court, Toronto

Justice Geoff Morawetz is the Commercial List judge overseeing the Nortel Networks Corp. bankruptcy dating back to January 2009, which has had worldwide press and application regarding creditors, assets, patents, and more. The dismantling of the once-iconic Canadian company is setting precedents and breaking new ground in bankruptcy law around the world, particularly because of the case’s global reach. The most recent and notable Nortel decision in which he was involved was the approval of the sale of $4.5 billion of the telecomm giant’s patents to a group including Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Research in Motion Ltd. Before being appointed a judge in 2005, he was a partner at Goodmans LLP.

What voters had to say:

“A judge who is practical and realistic, shaping the common law and making the law make sense.”

Paul Schabas

Partner, Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP, Toronto

Paul Schabas has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada numerous times, including on some of the most important decisions involving the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His recent cases include persuading the Supreme Court to adopt the new public interest responsible communication defence to libel. Schabas is an elected bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada, a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto. Perhaps most importantly in terms of influence, he is a founding director and past president of Pro Bono Law Ontario and pioneered and championed the practice now followed by major Canadian firms of giving associates billable-hour credit for pro bono work performed.

What the inside panel had to say:

“Paul Schabas continues to be a shining example of service in the community above and beyond his influence as one of the country’s top libel lawyers.”


In-house counsel

[strong]Nathalie Des Rosiers

[/strong]General cousel and executive director, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Toronto

Since joining the CCLA in 2009, Nathalie Des Rosiers has boosted the influence and reach of her organization to put it on the front lines fighting against government abuse and supporting individual rights. She had big shoes to fill following the departure of Alan Borovoy, but in 2011 showed her mettle by becoming the voice of those opposing alleged Charter rights violations by police during mass arrests at Toronto’s G20 summit. She was a finalist for The Globe and Mail’s 2010 Nation Builder title — losing out in the end to John Furlong, organizer of the wildly successful Vancouver Olympics. She was dean of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law from 2004 to 2008 and is past president of multiple organizations, including the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Council of Canadian Law Deans, Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario, and Canadian Association of Law Teachers. In 1999, she received the Law Society Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada.

What voters had to say:

[em]“A nation builder full of audacity and imagination.”

“Nathalie is a scholar with vision and real-world perspective.”[/em]

Daniel Desjardins

Senior vice president and general counsel, Bombardier Inc., Montreal

Daniel Desjardins is a member of Bombardier’s management committee and in that capacity is very closely involved in all strategic initiatives of the Montreal-based global transportation company. Desjardins is a very “hands-on” general counsel, being closely involved in corporate transactions (for example, two significant refinancing initiatives in March and November 2010) as well as guiding the legal team. Of note, under his watch, Bombardier released its Corporate Social Responsibility report last November which was rated AAA by RiskMetrics and Bombardier is now included on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index. He is very well respected by his colleagues at Bombardier, the external counsel around the globe with whom he works, and his peers in the Canadian corporate counsel community.

What voters had to say:[em]

“A lawyer’s lawyer with excellent business instincts. Personifies the general counsel as statesman.”[/em]

Lori Evans

General counsel, Birch Hill Equity Partners Management Inc., Toronto

Lori Evans has been involved in a tremendous number of deals recently, including the 14-month effort that finally saw Birch Hill Equity Partners selling its 60-per-cent stake in Marsulex Inc. to Chemtrade Logistics Income Fund for $420 million in cash. Before joining Birch Hill, Evans was in-house counsel for companies with operations throughout North America. Prior to that she was in private practice with Goodmans LLP and McCarthy Tétrault LLP. She also sits on the international committee of Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association. Evans was a finalist in the mid-market excellence category of the 2010 Canadian General Counsel Awards.

What voters had to say:

“What a star; personable and energetic!”

Anne Giardini

President and general counsel of Weyerhaeuser Co. Ltd., Vancouver

Anne Giardini has used her significant influence to advocate for the presence of women in law and corporate Canada. She is also a bestselling author and very active in her community. She has spent much of her career as in-house counsel. At Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest forest products companies, she works closely with senior management in Canada and the United States. She is also a member of Simon Fraser University’s board of governors. Earlier this year she was honoured by the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association with an award recognizing her leadership and exceptional contributions to the development or promotion of the corporate counsel bar. “Her active involvement in the in-house community, along with her writing on substantive legal issues important to all corporate lawyers, combine to make her the ideal candidate and winner,” said CCCA chairman Robert Patzelt.

What voters had to say:

“Incredibly talented; a bundle of energy; does more than any other 5-feet-nothing, 100-pound woman can ever hope to achieve.”

Martine Turcotte

Executive vice president and chief legal officer, BCE Inc., Montreal

In addition to guiding an in-house team of close to six dozen lawyers, Turcotte oversees the awarding of external work to the offices of nine big law firms with offices in Montreal. As a board member of the Association of Corporate Counsel, she has spoken out publicly about the need for better rates from big firms. In that capacity, she has also been instrumental in increasing the reach of the ACC in Canada and working to improve legal education for in-house lawyers. She first joined BCE in 1988 as legal counsel. She is also a board member at McGill University and a member of the University of British Columbia Dean’s Advisory Committee for the National Center for Business Law.

What the inside panel had to say:

“There is no doubt Martine Turcotte is a true leader in the Canadian in-house bar.”


[strong]Criminal/Human Rights Law

Alan Young

[/strong]Associate professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto

Last September, Alan Young championed the case in which the Ontario Superior Court struck down three of the country’s prostitution laws. In June, he was back at the Ontario Court of Appeal, arguing the federal and provincial governments should be protecting sex workers and not pursuing laws that interfere with their security of the person. Young, who appeared last year in our Top 25 Most Influential, is notorious for providing legal services (often pro bono) to individuals whose alternative lifestyles have led them to the courtroom — one of his most significant cases was the “bondage bungalow” dominatrix case in 1998. He is also the director of the Osgoode Hall Innocence Project, which investigates suspected cases of wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

What the inside panel had to say:

“Young is unafraid to take on some of the toughest, and least palatable, issues in society but his work is invaluable in upholding every Canadian’s Charter rights.”

Photo: Jean Sorensen

Joseph Arvay

Partner, Arvay Finlay, Vancouver

One of Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential in 2010, Joseph Arvay continues to push the boundaries. This year he argued the case for the Insite injection site and whether it falls under provincial or federal jurisdiction, and will be working with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in a fight to decriminalize assisted suicide. He’ll contend the law removes a person’s right to make decisions about their body and also restricts physicians’ freedom to administer compassionate end-of-life care. He is often involved in constitutional cases and recently represented the plaintiff in a landmark case granting children of sperm donors the same rights regarding access to information about their birth parents as adopted children.

What voters had to say:

“Not only is Joe a master of telling the story in a factum, his oral arguments are irrepressible. At the May 2011 appeal of the Insite case before the SCC, Joe, having run the clock out, seamlessly asked the chief justice: ‘There have been a lot of questions, I wonder if I have another five or 20 minutes?’ He got five more minutes to finish — that done with about 24 counsel gowned and sitting in the courtroom.”

Marie Henein

Principal, Henein and Associates, Toronto

Marie Henein successfully represented former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant and continues to be one of the most sought-after criminal lawyers in the country. She is the president of The Advocates’ Society and an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, providing mentoring to younger lawyers. She is also one of the founders of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s Appellate Duty Counsel program, which sees top defence counsel represent inmates pro bono.

What the inside panel had to say:

“Marie Henein is a key go-to lawyer for high-profile accused in Toronto. As president of The Advocates’ Society, she’s also helping shape the legal profession in Canada.”

Clayton Ruby

Partner, Ruby Shiller Chan, Toronto

Clayton Ruby is famous for standing up for the little guy. In the past, he’s gone to bat for pit bull dog owners in the face of the Ontario government’s push to criminalize the breed. In May, he launched one of many civil lawsuits against the Ontario government and its controversial G20 law and the ensuing arrest of British filmmaker Charles Veitch. He has devoted his professional career to ensuring that those who are underprivileged and who face discrimination are given a fair shake in the justice system, including the likes of Donald Marshall, Guy Paul Morin, and the Dionne quintuplets. He was counsel in the Supreme Court of Canada case that established a constitutional guarantee to a speedy trial and is a strong proponent of freedom of the press.

What the inside panel had to say:

“Clay may take on the sexy pit bull cases and get tons of publicity but he also fights for the little guy in important criminal and constitutional law cases.”

Beth Symes

Partner, Symes & Street, Toronto

Beth Symes is a strong advocate, not only of women’s rights, but of strengthening the role of women in the legal profession. She is a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada and was one of the founders of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. She is also a founder of the Feminist History Society and Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators. In December, she was awarded the Order of Canada for her work promoting women’s rights in the legal profession.

What voters had to say:

“Best lawyer in Canada, bar none.”


Government/Non-profit/Associations

Elizabeth May

Leader, Green Party of Canada and MP Saanich-Gulf Islands

As Canada’s first elected Green party MP, defeating fellow lawyer and 12-year Conservative incumbent Gary Lunn, Elizabeth May has been an influential voice for addressing climate change. Over the past five years, she has gained the overwhelming support of the Green party with increasingly better results in each election. She has pushed for, and often won, a seat at the table during leadership debates and now as the first Green party MP, is in a position to further advance her party’s agenda and influence the Canadian political scene. Recently, she blocked the Conservative government’s efforts to fast-track mega-trials legislation in the House of Commons (although it did get passed before the summer break). She has been an active participant in environmental issues from a young age, and was executive director of Sierra Club Canada for some time as well as earlier using her law degree from Dalhousie University in her role as one of the founders of the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund.

What the voters had to say:

[em]“If Elizabeth May makes a statement on an issue, the media and the public listen. She has a rare gift of communication, and has the trust of the public at large, and as such, she has more influence than most politicians or lawyers who lobby or advise.”

“Managed to prove that not participating in the leaders’ public debate does not hurt.”[/em]

Melanie Aitken

Federal Commissioner of Competition, Ottawa

As competition commissioner, Melanie Aitken has become a thorn in the side of many organizations since taking the reins in August 2009. Her office also has teeth with the capacity to fine and levy other sanctions against companies and organizations that can strongly influence changes in corporate behaviour. Aitken has recently taken on the Canadian Real Estate Association over its multiple listing service; scolded Rogers Communications Inc. for questionable marketing claims; and has targeted Visa and MasterCard for forcing merchants to accept customer use of high-fee points cards. In June, her latest efforts on behalf of Canadian consumers saw her fining Bell Canada $10 million for misleading advertising.

What the internal panel had to say:

“The actions of the competition commissioner’s office make Aitken a champion for consumers and a force for change in the corporate marketplace.”

John Major

Counsel with Bennett Jones LLP and former Supreme Court of Canada justice, Calgary

In June 2010, John Major released his report from the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182 in June 1985. Not only was it one of the first efforts to actually appease the families of the victims, it made important recommendations regarding security measures, including an expanded role for the national security adviser in the Privy Council Office and amendments to the Canada Evidence Act to get rid of the two-court system on national security confidentiality in terrorism prosecutions. The government has already put some of those recommendations into action. On the Supreme Court bench from 1992-2005, he wrote majority reasons in seminal cases such as 1999’s R v. Ewanchuk, which determined there is no defence of implied consent in sexual assault cases; 2004’s Peoples Department Stores Inc. (Trustee of) v. Wise, regarding the extent of directors’ and officers’ fiduciary duties; and 2005’s British Columbia v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., which supported legislation permitting B.C. to sue tobacco companies for recovery of health-care costs.

What the internal panel had to say:

“Justice Major was fearless in his quest to get answers for the families in the Air India tragedy, winning their respect and that of the counsel who appeared before him.”

Peter Milliken

Former speaker of the House of Commons, Ottawa

Peter Milliken’s two rulings that took the government to task over breach of procedure and lack of transparency were instrumental in the fall of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government in March. Last year, Milliken ruled the government had breached parliamentary privilege by refusing to disclose sensitive Afghan detainee documents. He said Parliament has an absolute and unlimited right to see information, even if it involves national security. That ruling forced the government to strike a deal with two of three opposition parties for vetting, and eventually, in June, releasing heavily redacted documents. These landmark rulings have ensured his place in the annals of parliamentary precedent — in Canada and the Commonwealth. Elected as speaker in 2001, Milliken holds the title of longest-serving speaker of the House following his retirement from politics in June. He recently joined Queen’s University as a fellow in the School of Policy Studies.

What voters have to say:

“An outstanding public servant.”

Jennifer Stoddart

Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Ottawa

In an age of increased global connectedness, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is a world leader in ensuring individuals’ rights are protected in the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by an organization in the course of commercial activity. She made global headlines in June 2010 after lambasting Facebook’s privacy policy, essentially forcing the social media giant to change its rules so applications could only access the public parts of a user’s profile. Her recent annual report blasted Staples for not wiping all data from consumers’ used electronics and she also took on Internet dating site eHarmony for not allowing users to permanently delete their profiles. Her office was instrumental in changes to Google Buzz and WiFi. She continues to be a powerful voice for individuals’ privacy rights.

What the internal panel had to say:

“Stoddart is passionate about protecting individuals’ rights and manages to effect change despite the limited powers of her office.”


[strong]Outliers

John Coleman

[/strong]Managing partner, Norton Rose OR LLP, Montreal

As managing partner of the former Ogilvy Renault LLP, John Coleman led the firm into its historic merger with one of the top 10 global law firms, Norton Rose Group. It was a watershed moment for Canadian law firms in an increasingly globalized economy that has forced some  soul-searching among firms across the country. Since joining Norton Rose, at least one other Canadian firm has joined an international operation and that may be just the start of things to come. Many called Coleman’s leadership during the negotiations with Norton Rose both bold and visionary. In the new global firm of more than 2,600 lawyers in 39 offices worldwide, he continues to sit on the executive committee that devises and executes strategy for the global group as well as continuing to lead the firm’s Canadian operations.

What voters had to say:

[em]“Through his courage to craft, enunciate, and persuade others to share his global vision for the practice of law by Canadians, John has undoubtedly reshaped how many law firms and individuals will approach their clients and practices in the years ahead.”

“Showed how Canadian law firms can meet the challenges of globalization without sacrificing their core values and autonomy.”[/em]

Michael Geist

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

Michael Geist is probably the most influential voice on law and technology in Canada not only within the legal profession but also by educating the general public through his columns in the Toronto Star and Ottawa Citizen and his highly regarded blog. He serves on several boards, including the CANARIE Board of Directors, the Canadian Legal Information Institute Board of Directors, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Expert Advisory Board, the Electronic Frontier Foundation Advisory Board, and the Information Program Sub-Board of the Open Society Institute.

What voters had to say:

[em]

“Regardless of whether you agree with Mr. Geist’s positions and legal opinions, he is the most publicly active person in the area of technology and copyright law and policy in Canada. Everyone practising in this area reads what he has written, and he has made it accessible for the public and for the technology obsessed as well.”[/em]

Andrew Kent

Chief executive officer, McMillan LLP, Toronto

As CEO of McMillan, Andrew Kent has been the driving force behind the firm’s growth from a regional law firm to one of Canada’s top national firms. Most recently, he led McMillan through a highly publicized merger with Lang Michener LLP, building on his vision of creating a modern, ambitious, Canadian business law firm. Kent is recognized nationally and internationally both as a leading Canadian banking practitioner and as one of Canada’s pre-eminent restructuring practitioners. He is also chairman of his firm’s financial services and restructuring group.

What voters had to say:

“Well respected and liked by junior associates at McMillan.”

Patrick LeSage

Counsel at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP and former Ontario Superior Court chief justice, Toronto

Patrick LeSage seems to be the go-to person whenever the Ontario government needs advice on everything from the Special Investigations Unit to how the courts handle big cases. The report on big cases he authored led to changes at both the federal and provincial levels and arguably had an effect on increased funding for legal aid. In 2005, he was appointed to conduct a review of Ontario’s police complaints system, in which he made recommendations to create a new and independent police review body.

What the internal panel had to say:

“Patrick LeSage’s knowledge and understanding of both the people and the justice system in Ontario make him an invaluable asset.”

Ezra Levant

Lawyer, author, and host of The Source on Sun News Network, Toronto/Calgary

Ezra Levant’s book Ethical Oil ignited hot debate over energy issues in 2010. Prime Minister Stephen Harper even began using the phrase to describe the oil coming from Alberta. He was then hired by the fledgling Sun News Network to spend each day opining from the right with his thoughts about all things. Through his show The Source, as well as his columns in Sun Media Corp. newspapers, his often outrageous ideas and opinions now influence many Canadians. In May, his book won the National Business Book Award. Love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion about Levant.

What the internal panel had to say:

“Ezra is never afraid to take on controversial issues and put forward unpopular opinions that can really make you think.”

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