This article is a continuation of "Looking to the future" from the April 2012 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine. Click here to read part one.
The following are Canadian Lawyer's top five immigration boutiques and top five tax boutiques, in alphabetical order.
Corporate Immigration Law Firm
This functionally named firm was established in 2006 after lawyer Barbara Jo Caruso and immigration consultant Harry Goslett, a former immigration officer, broke off from Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP. The unique partnership had to be approved by the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the firm has since added two more lawyers, although its client list would not look out of place at a firm many times its size. Among the firm’s estimated 600 clients are Target Corp., Scotiabank, McCain Foods Ltd., and Bruce Power Ltd. “They have a bunch of top-tier clients, and they get a Seven Sisters standard of service,” says a Toronto immigration lawyer.
(Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal)
Egan LLP has its roots in an abortive attempt by Ernst & Young LLP to set up an interdisciplinary law firm in Canada. James Egan had moved across with his four-person immigration team from Fraser & Beatty in 1998, and four years later, in 2002, they formed the core of the new Egan LLP, focusing solely on immigration. The firm’s 13 Canadian lawyers are now spread across four offices, which also house an additional 16 U.S. lawyers and 75 law clerks. Egan has also headed the global immigration practice at Ernst & Young, which covers direct practices in 129 countries, plus a vendor network in 52 more. “If you had to pick one, it’d be Egan. They’re very, very good,” says one large firm immigration lawyer working in Toronto.
Green and Spiegel LLP
“Mendel Green is the grand-daddy of all immigration,” says one Bay Street wag of the firm’s founder, who is still practising 50 years after his call to the bar in 1962. And the reputation is well-deserved. He was counsel for the Federation of Canadian Sikh Societies in the landmark 1985 Supreme Court of Canada case Singh v. Minister of Employment and Immigration and was one of the first lawyers in Canada to specialize in immigration law. The firm is very much a family affair, with five members of the Green clan among its 15 lawyers: two of Green’s sons, a daughter, and a daughter-in-law. It also handles immigration issues for a number of Fortune 500 companies, helping them move corporate executives and expert staff to and from Canada.
The firm’s five lawyers take care of the immigration needs for some of the largest companies in the world, as well as significant entertainment firms and well-known sports figures. Founding partners Joel Guberman and David Garson got together in 1991 intending to fill a niche in the immigration bar by providing strategic support to companies and individuals in an increasingly globalized world. Lawyer Lainie Appleby is currently the chairwoman of the citizenship and immigration law section at the Ontario Bar Association, while partner Heather Segal recently became the first Canadian elected to the board of directors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Maynard Kischer Stojicevic
MKS was formed in 2002 by Alex Stojicevic and Gordon Maynard, both of whom are past chairmen of the Canadian Bar Association’s national citizenship and immigration law section, which may explain why they’re the first port of call for one Halifax immigration lawyer any time he’s unsure on a legal issue. “On inadmissibility, especially, Gordon is pre-eminent,” he says. The firm, which added Rudolf Kischer in 2005, is part of an increasingly small group of immigration law firms that crosses the refugee/business law divide, providing a full range of immigration services to individuals and families in addition to companies. A Montreal immigration lawyer says she’s comfortable handing over any type of file to them. “If you go to Vancouver, it’s Maynard Kischer Stojicevic. They have a very wide range of services they can render,” she says.
The firm was founded in 1994 by former Canadian Tax Foundation governor Pierre Barsalou, and tax lawyer Geoffrey Lawson, and now has 12 lawyers servicing the needs of clientele from Canada, the U.S., and Europe with transfer pricing and litigation issues. Barsalou’s background is in tax litigation, having worked for the federal departments of Justice and Finance in the 1980s before switching to private practice, while Lawson’s focus is dispute resolution and tax planning for corporations. “Their practices complement each other well. I can’t think of anyone better in Quebec,” says a tax lawyer at a full-service firm. Sébastien Rheault joined the partnership in 1997, and is currently the president of the Canadian Bar Association’s tax section in Quebec.
Couzin Taylor LLP
(Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal)
Ernst & Young ally Couzin Taylor LLP has 38 lawyers in five offices across Canada, and deals in all areas of tax law, including tax litigation and tax controversy, corporate tax, human capital, international tax, transaction tax, and sales, customs, and indirect tax. Founded in 2002 by tax law heavyweights Robert Couzin and Roger Taylor, the firm acts for a wide array of clients that include individuals, tax planners, and public and private companies. Canadian Tire, Dow Chemical, Hudson’s Bay Co., and Standard Life Assurance Co. of Canada are among those the firm has advised. In a recent Tax Court of Canada case, Sommerer v. The Queen
, the firm won an appeal on behalf of the taxpayer over the application of the Canada-Austria Tax Convention. That decision is currently on appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal.
Felesky Flynn LLP
This Alberta boutique was founded in 1978 after Calgary tax lawyer Brian Felesky and Edmonton’s Gordon Flynn hatched the idea during a flight of launching a regional tax boutique, but their reputation stretches far beyond the province. “They have a lot of very bright people there, and historically, they’ve had a real range of people, too,” says one Bay Street tax lawyer. Last year, the firm appeared for the City of Calgary at the Supreme Court of Canada in a battle over tax credits related to the construction of a transit system. Recently, the firm has carved an even finer niche for itself in butterfly transactions, where large companies are broken up into smaller pieces, leading the tax planning for clients in two of the largest such deals in Canadian history. Flynn is one of a number of the firm’s 32 lawyers who double as professional accountants.
Moskowitz and Meredith LLP
(Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal)
Toronto-based Evy Moskowitz and Vancouver-based Mark Meredith founded this KPMG-affiliated tax law firm in 2003, after both joined the professional services giant from major Toronto law firms. The pair brought with them varied corporate tax practices, with an emphasis on acquisitions, reorganizations, and financings, as well as dispute resolution and international tax matters. Their clients include large pension funds, mining companies, and real estate firms. The firm has grown steadily since its founding, with a Montreal office established in 2004 and resource taxation law heavyweight Brian Carr added to the roster in 2008. In 2011, the firm added a Calgary office with the recruitment of three lawyers. Today, just over half of its 23 lawyers are based in Toronto.
In 1964, Pat Thorsteinsson, one of the first tax law specialists in Canada, founded the firm, which now has 27 lawyers at its Vancouver headquarters, with another 13 in the Toronto office, which opened in 1991. The firm has had strength in the resource sector since its early days, and the area is still a source of some of its most significant mandates. The firm acted for BHP Billiton during its proposed takeover of PotashCorp of Saskatchewan, while Vale S.A., Goldcorp Inc., and Weyerhaeuser Co. are all clients. The firm is also strong in tax litigation and tax planning, and has produced a disproportionate number of judges, including Federal Court of Appeal Justice Karen Sharlow and Tax Court of Canada Justice Leslie Little. “Thorsteinssons is the best kept secret in tax law in some ways, because they don’t have as high a profile as the big firms, but they have a quite remarkable breadth of practice and some first-rate lawyers,” says a tax partner at a full-service Toronto firm.