The Top 10 Arbitration chambers and Top 5 Aboriginal law boutiques
The reason so many judges are continuing to work as arbitrators after stepping down from the bench, is that after a lifetime in the law, “you can’t just turn it off like a tap,” says former Supreme Court of Canada justice Ian Binnie. Instead, “you kind of go into a slow fade,” he jokes.
Far from fading, Binnie is one of a number of former senior judges and prominent lawyers who are now active in the increasingly competitive arbitration and mediation sector. Binnie is a member arbitrator at Arbitration Place in Toronto, along with a number of other leading legal practitioners, including former chief justice of Ontario Warren Winkler, associate chief justice Dennis O’Connor, and Court of Appeal justice Robert Armstrong. Former SCC judges, Michel Bastarache and Jack Major are at ADR Chambers, as is former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry.
The high-profile roster likely helps explain why these firms were among those selected as the top 10 arbitration chambers in Canadian Lawyer’s readers survey. A record number of responses were submitted to select the top arbitration chambers and aboriginal and personal injury law boutiques.
The top arbitration firms ranged from operations with large rosters of lawyers to small ones such as AR Group in Toronto. Guy Jones and Shari Novick offer mediation and arbitration services primarily in the areas of personal injury and employment law. “It is important to find a niche,” says Jones, whose past experience includes time spent as the director of litigation for the City of Toronto.
There have been a number of new entrants into the field in the past five years and it is becoming more competitive, Jones suggests. “You can’t rest on your laurels,” he adds. While the ongoing backlog in the civil courts may mean more potential litigants are looking for alternative solutions, it doesn’t mean a reduction in expectations. “They want quick decisions. You have to provide a good service,” says Jones.
For Binnie, who went straight from private practice to the Supreme Court, the crowded ADR field is not that different a concept from when he was first on Bay Street. “It is a more dignified system of entrepreneurial justice,” says Binnie. Speaking to Canadian Lawyer the day before he was scheduled to fly to Singapore to arbitrate a dispute, Binnie says increasingly, there are international opportunities for Canadian arbitrators. “It is a chance to put Canada on the map,” he says.
Another area of the profession where the practice is growing and constantly evolving is in aboriginal law. For the first time, Canadian Lawyer readers were asked to pick the top aboriginal law boutiques. The five firms selected are based in a number of different provinces.
Jean Teillet, a partner at Pape Salter Teillet LLP, says it is still a much smaller field than other legal areas, but the scope of the work is changing. “For 20-plus years, what we were doing almost exclusively was trying to negotiate or litigate some kind of recognition,” says Teillet, a founder of the Métis Nation of Ontario. “The idea that there could be equity partnerships was not even on the table,” she recalls. As a result of a number of Supreme Court decisions over the years, “those doors are now open. That litigation has changed the landscape.”
Pape Salter has offices in Vancouver and Toronto and it is not uncommon for aboriginal law boutiques to have an association with a lawyer in another province. Victoria-based Devlin Gailus Westaway Law Corp., also has an office in Ottawa, headed by a former lawyer for the federal government. The practice of aboriginal law is now very much negotiation-based, says Christopher Devlin. “A significant amount of the practice is negotiation of claims and economic opportunities,” he says. While the discussions with governments are always civil, “it takes place at a brutally slow pace,” says Devlin.
For a firm to stand out in this area “a personal touch,” is essential, he says. “You have to be in the communities. Trust is so important.”
The length of time for a case to make it through the courts or for an agreement to be negotiated between a government and First Nations can be a financial stress on a boutique firm. Maurice Law in Calgary has tried to find a way to deal with this form of “access-to-justice issue,” by entering into an arrangement with an insurance firm. If there has been an independent review of the possible litigation and it is found to have merit, there is funding similar to a “line of credit,” explains Ron Maurice, senior partner at Maurice Law.
His firm focuses on specific land claims and unfulfilled treaty obligations, many of which involve territory that was “surrendered” to the federal government in deals signed in the early 1900s, under the pretext the land was being under-utilized. “About 25 per cent [of First Nations land] was surrendered back to the Crown,” during Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s tenure as prime minister says Maurice, often in deals tied to land speculators with ties to the federal government. The firm’s most successful negotiation to date was a $130-million agreement reached with the federal government on behalf of the Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan. The settlement involved 15,000 acres of reserve land surrendered in 1905.
While this area of the law has grown to the point that some firms specialize, Montreal-based Dionne Schulze is a “full service firm” for its aboriginal clients. Enforcing treaty rights, interpreting statutes as they apply to First Nations and providing specialized services to individual bands, are all part of the practice, says David Schulze. He describes the firm’s clients as being similar to “small governments” and as a result, they require a wide range of legal services. One example was a class action over the application on reserves of a provincial fuel tax. Schulze acted for the chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, in a $27-million settlement reached in 2011.
The following are the Canadian Lawyer's top 10 Arbitration chambers and top 5 Aboriginal law boutiques in alphabetical order.
The Top 10 Arbitration chambers
ADR Chambers was founded in 1995 and says it is now the largest private alternative dispute company in the world. Over the last two years, ADR Chambers has administered more than 15,000 arbitrations and 20,000 mediations. ADR Chambers has more than 50 neutrals who conduct arbitrations and mediations across Canada and internationally. It has its own set of regular arbitration rules, and a set of streamlined expedited arbitration rules for those who prefer a faster, less expensive arbitration.
“ADR Chambers provides excellent service and works hard with both parties to accomplish an acceptable resolution.”
Earlier this year, Neeson Arbitration evolved into Amicus Chambers. It is a collaborative group of retired judges of the Ontario Superior Court — Colin L. Campbell, J. Douglas Cunningham, Lee K. Ferrier, John (Jack) D. Ground, and Susan E. Greer. They offer extensive judicial experience in mediation, arbitration, and case management. Their independent practices create distinctive and innovative methods of dispute resolution of complex matters efficiently, effectively, and through all levels of the process, from evaluative, interest-based neutral mediation to adjudicative arbitration.
Recommended for its “experienced ADR specialists” and “great service and surroundings.”
Arbitration Place continues to grow and is now home to 22 resident and member arbitrators, including Warren K. Winkler, Robert P. Armstrong, and Louise Barrington. It was recently recognized as the sevent ranked international arbitration facility in the world, and founder Kimberley Stewart and her team are continuing their push to put Toronto on the international arbitration map. Domestically, Arbitration Place has become a hub for ADR activity, even expanding its facilities to accommodate the growing demand. Among the services offered at its Bay Adelaide Centre headquarters are on-site court reporting for examinations and discoveries, simultaneous translation, and concierge services.
Recommended for its “quality and depth of arbitrators.”
AR Group Inc.
AR Group was formed in 2000 as a boutique arbitration and mediation firm providing dispute resolution services in the personal injury field. Its initial areas of focus included tort, accident benefits, and LTD claims. When Shari Novick joined founding member Guy Jones in 2001, the firm expanded its focus to include similar services in the field of labour and employment law. Jones and Novick have each conducted thousands of mediations, and have also been very active in providing arbitration services, primarily between insurers. Jones states that the firm’s success has been based on the principle of attempting to resolve disputes in a quick and cost effective manner.
“They listen to everyone and give everyone an opportunity to speak and voice their opinion.”
Bay Street Chambers
Bay Street Chambers was founded in July 2012 by J. Brian Casey and Janet Mills, senior barristers practising as arbitrators and mediators in international and domestic commercial disputes. Casey’s 37 years in practice includes a stint as head of the Baker & McKenzie disputes group in Canada, while Mills practised commercial litigation for 17 years before sitting as a registrar in bankruptcy. Supported by a case manager, each member practises independently.
“Excellence in the delivery of high quality, timely, and cost-effective arbitral expertise and services.”
[strong]British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre
Founded off the back of Vancouver’s hosting of Expo ’86, the centre was initially a joint project of the federal and provincial governments. Since then, it has morphed into a non-profit society providing “competent, consistent, and fiscally responsible” alternative dispute resolution services, according to Patrick Williams, president of the board of directors. While almost half of the centre’s 114 panellists are international, domestic arbitrations are also addressed, and 2014 was once more one of the busiest years since formation. It is also the registry for the Woodlands School abuse claims.
“They take the time to do things right,” said one voter who gave the centre top marks.
Canadian Commercial Arbitration Centre
Montreal, Quebec City
This non-profit organization was formed in 1986 to act as an independent manager of private, public, and para-public alternative dispute resolution programs. It pairs up clients with more than 50 mediators and arbitrators, drawn from various professional backgrounds, ensuring, throughout the process, “that procedural acts, proceedings, and choice of arbitrators, in view of costs and time, are proportionate to the nature and purpose of the claim and its level of complexity,” according to president Michel Jeanniot.
“Settle cases all the time,” said one voter who put the CCAC in top spot.
Global Resolutions was founded in 1996 by Paul Torrie. Its panel consists of 12 members who specialize in mediating multi-party, multi-faceted cases in commercial, insurance, and estate matters. Global has been involved in the resolution of class actions and mass torts covering land claims, business interruption, financial services, E. coli outbreaks, sexual assault, and product liability. The recent additions of Kathleen Urdahl, Ted Ayers, and Leanne Andree have expanded its expertise in municipal liability and long-term disability.
Voters gave them top marks for “excellent mediation style, excellent results.”
International dispute resolution giant JAMS entered the Canadian market in 2012 as part of an international expansion that has taken the company to a total of 30 locations around the world. Seven of JAMS 300-plus neutrals are based in Canada’s largest city, including former Federal Court of Appeal justices Edgar Sexton and Judith Snider and former CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein. The practice focuses on complex, multi-party disputes and specializes in energy, intellectual property, and business/commercial matters. The 7,000-square-foot facility in downtown Toronto includes nine conference and break-out rooms and a business centre for clients.
Voters recommended JAMS for “great client contact” and “reputation and success.”
YorkStreet Dispute Resolution Group Inc.
Paul Iacono founded the YorkStreet group in 2003. Recently expanding to serve southwest Ontario, YorkStreet now consists of 16 expert panellists who cover dispute resolution in all practice areas. They are a diverse group, experienced and ADR trained, including former Ontario Superior Court justice Harvey Spiegel, former Ontario attorney general Charles Harnick, and former Grand Council chief John Beaucage, insurance executives, legal professionals, and chartered accountants. Their expertise covers insurance law, municipal, life/health, First Nations, IT, estates, forensic accounting, construction, commercial, and employment.
“Facility and staff provided setting conducive to settlement.”
The Top 5 Aboriginal law boutiques
Devlin Gailus Westaway Law Corp.
Devlin Gailus Westaway focuses on providing a wide range of services to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, as well as partners working with aboriginal interests in Canada. Its service areas include litigation, negotiation, economic development, and strategic advice respecting indigenous rights and interests. The firm was founded in 2005 by Christopher Devlin and John Gailus, two well-known and respected aboriginal law practitioners in Western Canada. In June 2014, they were joined by Cynthia Westaway, a lawyer practising out of Ottawa. Cynthia has worked within government and with national law firms with a focus on aboriginal law.
“Phenomenally versed in the law,” said one voter who put them at the top of the list.
Dionne Schulze s.e.n.c.
Dionne Schulze provides legal advice and representation mainly to aboriginal governments, organizations, and individuals, in all areas of law. Dionne Schulze offers a wide range of legal services, from constitutional litigation to corporate and commercial transactions, including employment relations, governance, and environmental assessment. The two founding partners, Paul Dionne and David Schulze, have frequently been named among the best in their field. Its team consists of five lawyers who all share the same passion for a thoughtful, innovative, and high-quality practice of law. They are all bilingual and trained in both Quebec civil law and Canadian common law.
Recommended for “deep knowledge in their specialty.”
Calgary, Saskatoon, Toronto, Ottawa
Maurice Law is a boutique firm specializing in aboriginal law with a focus on land claims, treaty rights advocacy, and consultations with government and industry on commercial and industrial projects. With dedicated professionals in Calgary, Saskatoon, Toronto, and Ottawa, Maurice Law is the first — and only — aboriginal-owned national law firm in Canada. Chief Norman Whitehawk of Cote First Nation said: “The commitment and expertise of Maurice Law not only helped our Nation achieve one of the largest settlements ever in Canada but the legacy trust they designed will help generate wealth and jobs for our people for seven generations.”
“Very professional approach,” enthuses one voter.
Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP
Olthuis Kleer Townshend is considered a national leader in the field of aboriginal law and was formed in 2000. OKT is committed to working toward justice for Aboriginal Peoples and protection of the environment. Its 10 partners — John Olthuis, Nancy Kleer, Roger Townshend, Bob Rae, Kate Kempton, Bryce Edwards, Renée Pelletier, Maggie Wente, Lorraine Land, and Larry Innes — practise with 15 associates and seven support staff. OKT provides litigation, negotiation, and other legal support for First Nations regarding aboriginal rights, title, treaties, self-government, resource development, consultation, reserves, trusts, impact and benefit agreements, and corporate commercial matters.
“The firm is committed to creating social change to benefit the communities they work with.”
Pape Salter Teillet LLP
For more than 30 years, Pape Salter Teillet LLP has represented First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in advancing their rights and interests through litigation, land claim negotiations, and self-government implementation. It is a 12-lawyer boutique firm with six partners in its two offices. It only represents aboriginal communities and governments and has clients throughout Canada. The firm is known for its advancement of key aboriginal rights litigation before all levels of courts as well as for its work on the negotiation and implementation of significant land, self-government, and economic partnership agreements on behalf of its aboriginal clients.
“I really enjoyed working with this firm and was really impressed with the strong connections the firm had with their clients. It was inspirational.”
To read Part 1: Top 10 Personal injury boutiques, click here.
Correction: Amount of settlement in class action involving the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.