• May 2, 2016
    Strong, confident, competitive - Part 1

    Strong, confident, competitive - Part 1

    For the first time this year, Canadian Lawyer conducted a survey of Canada’s top 10 corporate law boutiques. The top vote-getters in this category were equally confident of their ability to match Big Law’s strength in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and securities work.

    “If you take our firm and put it inside any of the Seven Sister law firms, you’d have a corporate finance department that’s equal to theirs — maybe not in size but certainly in calibre, in execution, and in expertise,” says Perry Dellelce, managing partner of Wildeboer Dellelce LLP. “When we left the large firms — and most of the partners here were at large, Seven Sister firms — we didn’t leave our brains behind,” says Dellelce. “But we knew we wouldn’t take the large multi-national Canadian and foreign corporations as clients [to our new firm].”

  • Jan 4, 2016

    Heavy hitters - Part 2

    This article is a continuation of ''Heavy hitters'' from the January 2016 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine.

    Click here to read part 1.

  • Jan 4, 2016

    Heavy hitters - Part 1

    Top 10 Labour & Employment Boutiques

    If the story of boutique law firms and big national shops was ever about the little guy’s unlikely victory against a giant, that’s no longer the case. “It’s not a matter of David versus Goliath and we’re the David; we’re actually the Goliath,” says Gregory Heywood, founding partner and a member of the management committee at Roper Greyell LLP, a Vancouver-based law firm and one of the top 10 vote-getters in this year’s Canadian Lawyer labour and employment boutique law firms survey.

  • May 11, 2015
    The new normal  - Part 2

    The new normal - Part 2

    This article is a continuation of ''The New Normal'' from the May 2015 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine.

    Click here to read part 1.[strong]

  • May 4, 2015
    The new normal  - Part 1

    The new normal - Part 1

    The Top 10 Personal injury boutiques

    This year’s top personal injury boutiques boasts two new firms — BolandHowe and Litwiniuk & Co. — since the last survey in 2013. Firms from Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta are represented in the top 10.

  • Jan 12, 2015

    Success at all levels - Part 2

    This article is a continuation of ''Success at all levels'' from the January 2015 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine.

    Click here to read part 1.

  • Jan 5, 2015
    Success at all levels - Part 1

    Success at all levels - Part 1

    Top 10 Insurance defence boutiques

    When insurers sneeze, insurance defence firms are likely to catch a cold. There are only a handful of other practice areas that are as sensitive to the ebbs and flows of an industry controlled by a small number of corporations. And while recent developments in the insurance world might appear to be trivial from the outside, they’re having an outsized effect on the law firms that inhabit that domain.

  • May 5, 2014
    Facing challenges head on - Part 1

    Facing challenges head on - Part 1

    Litigation boutiques face increasingly stiff competition from each other as well as from larger firms; those named in Canadian Lawyer’s Top 10 have proven themselves in a field with many high performing players. In a crowded market, top litigation boutiques cannot afford to offer services falling anything short of excellent says Matthew Gottlieb, managing partner at one of this year’s winners, Lax O’Sullivan Scott Lisus LLP. “There’s no doubt litigation is becoming more competitive,” he says. But “large businesses are bringing very significant mandates to the boutiques,” he adds.

    Many of this year’s Top 10 litigation boutiques have acted for some of Canada’s biggest banks, energy firms, and telecommunications companies securing wins at every level of court.

  • May 5, 2014
    Facing challenges head on - Part 2

    Facing challenges head on - Part 2

    This article is a continuation of ''Facing Challenges head on'' from the May 2014 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine.

    Click here to read part 1.

  • Jan 13, 2014
    Shifting sands - Part 1

    Shifting sands - Part 1

    A slew of government pronouncements on everything from strike laws to arbitration rules are helping to keep Canada’s labour and employment boutiques busy. “Every time governments make changes, that creates work for labour and employment lawyers,” says Kuretzky Vassos Henderson LLP senior partner Barry Kuretzky.

    Labour-side boutiques see the attention being paid by politicians to their clients as a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, professional associations and trade unions are launching legal challenges against policies seen as threatening their members’ interests. This creates opportunities for labour and employment boutiques, especially those able to take on a slightly broader range of cases, particularly constitutional law issues.

    Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre Cornish LLP, for example, has worked on denominational rights issues for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association. The firm sees its wider interest in public law — several lawyers have served on major public inquiries — as an essential part of its offering to clients. Edmonton-based Neuman Thompson, which acts for employers, is also noting an uptake in constitutional work often related to public sector restructuring, says lawyer Craig Neuman, whose firm is seeing more collective bargaining work these days.

    But there are also concerns political reforms could weaken a client base already hurting under the pressures brought by globalization and increasing privatization. Cavalluzzo senior partner Paul Cavalluzzo highlights “the problems trade unions are having in terms of maintaining the density of their membership” as one of the main challenges facing union-side boutiques.

    Kuretzky, whose firm acts for public- and private-sector employers, agrees working in a constantly evolving arena presents challenges for a specialist boutique. “Every boutique has to keep abreast of the law and ahead of the law — we’re interested in not only what’s currently going on but where things are going,” he says.

    The changing economic climate is also keeping labour and employment boutiques on their toes. A few years ago, much of the work revolved around lay offs due to the economic downturn. This is markedly different to the type of business now being chased. “Companies acquiring other companies, mergers and acquisitions — these are the issues we’re seeing now,” says Stephen Shamie, Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP’s managing partner, who also points to litigation as an expanding area.

    Companies are also becoming increasingly aware of the longer-term financial challenges of growing workforces, and boutiques’ pensions teams are benefiting from the growing fear defined-benefit plans may be unsustainable. “There’s really no downturn for us,” argues Shamie.

    However, there is no doubt labour and employment boutiques operate in a competitive field containing many strong and well-established players. Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP’s managing partner Paul Young says the need to stand out in a crowded market is one of the reasons his firm belongs to L&E Global, an international alliance of boutiques. “We’re able to connect clients to firms in other jurisdictions and they’re able to refer work to us,” says Young.

    For many intellectual property firms, concerns pharmaceutical litigation would dry up, removing a core source of income for many, appear to be as yet unfounded. However, the type of litigation “seems to be changing in character,” says Bruce Stratton, partner at Dimock Stratton LLP.

    Court fights have moved “out of the regulatory space,” towards the realm of patent enforcement, he says. Patents in general are seen as a strong area by IP boutiques. Two major patent cases in the past year, involving National Oilwell Varco Canada and Merck & Co. Inc., have helped to demonstrate “the benefits that can be unlocked by patent litigation,” says Stratton.

    Joseph Ulvr, a partner at Moffat & Co./Macera & Jarzyna LLP, agrees patent law is booming, but says trademark law is experiencing “pressures.” “There are a lot more people hanging out their own shingle in the trademark area,” says Ulvr. At the other end of the scale, some larger companies are opting to bring IP in-house, he adds. Stratton echoes Ulvr’s comments about trademarks, saying they seem to be more “sensitive to price pressures.”

    Despite these challenges, and against growing competition from Big Law’s IP practice groups, boutiques believe their specialist approach will continue to attract clients. “We have [lawyers] who have very considerable training, with a variety of science disciplines,” says Bereskin & Parr LLP founding partner Dan Bereskin. “A lot of our people have PhDs and science degrees,” he adds. “That’s really essential.” As science evolves and IP litigation grows more complex, having a high level of specialist knowledge will become even more crucial, believes Bereskin.

    Canadian IP firms may also be well placed to soak up work from clients south of the border. “Canada and the U.S. share a long border where goods travel relatively freely between the countries,” says Ulvr. “Clients may want to take advantage of Canada’s close geographical proximity to the U.S., in terms of another potential market for their product, or idea.”

    The growth of digital media is helping to turn the relatively niche area of copyright into another bright spot, according to Stratton.

    In order to grasp these chances, IP boutiques will need to stay on top of a raft of legislation and international agreements set to have a major impact on their clients. These include anti-counterfeiting laws, the European Union trade agreement, and trademark consultations.

    Canadian Lawyer selected Canada’s top IP and labour and employment boutiques by asking readers to rank a shortlist of notable firms in each area, and by drawing on the experience of in-house counsel and large-firm lawyers. The following results are an alphabetical list of the 10 boutique firms in each area that are rated most highly by other lawyers.