The 2023 Canadian Law Awards took place May 11 in Toronto
At the 2023 Canadian Law Awards, winners highlighted the strength, talent, and perseverance of the teams behind them that helped them reach the stage.
The occasion brought together many of the legal profession’s leading exemplars, who gathered to celebrate this year’s outstanding firms, teams, individuals, deals, and cases. The event took place May 11 at the Liberty Grand in Toronto and was hosted by award-winning business journalist Amanda Lang.
Pam Hrick, the executive director and general counsel at the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), counts herself lucky to work with a “dedicated, passionate, talented, and thoughtful team” devoted to gender equality. LEAF took home the LexisNexis Canada Award for Canadian Law Department of the Year.
WeirFoulds claimed the Ontario Regional Firm of the Year award for the second year in a row. Co-managing partner Denise Baker attributed the repeat to her team, which she described as “very collegial,” dedicated, and hard-working.
“[The award] recognizes the dedication of all the partners and lawyers that work at the firm, as well as the staff that work alongside us,” she said. “We work very hard for our clients, whether it's on the litigation side or the corporate side, and this is recognition of that.”
To get the most out of her team members in the legal department at EY Canada, chief legal counsel Shara Roy said that leadership has been guided by the motto: “What is in it for me?” The reminder helped them transform the legal department into one in which people see a career path for themselves, are excited about their work, and have the tools to make that work easier, she said.
“How are each of our people going to put in the extra effort? How are they going to dig deep? How are they going to put in what's needed to really transform a legal department,” said Roy. “What's amazing is that we did that in six months. What's amazing is that we did it while considering an existential deal for Ernst and Young that might have seen the breakup of the business. We did it while we kept our eye on the prize, which was serving the business. And I'm so proud of our team.”
EY Canada accepted the Dye & Durham Award for Law Department Innovation.
“It's amazing celebrating the achievements of all these top lawyers in their fields,” said Malcolm Muthulingum, CEO of LEAP Legal Software Canada, presenter of the LEAP Legal Software Award for Family Law Firm of the Year. “It's fantastic to get out and let them know the good job that they're doing.”
Muthulingum said his company wanted to recognize family law firms across Canada in recognition that family law is currently one of the fastest-growing areas of law.
Winning the Lawson Lundell LLP Award for Law Department Leader of the Year, Roger Chouinard of QuadReal Property Group said that he shared the honour with his team.
“They're able to balance being commercial with looking after the best interests of the company – thinking long-term and thinking about what's going to get the deal done, but also what is going to protect the interests of QuadReal’s pensioners.”
“Awards like this are won by the people at firms, not the firm itself,” said Graham Hood, principal at Smart & Biggar LLP, which took home the prize for IP Boutique of the Year. “We share this honour with all of them.”
Donna Young, dean of the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Toronto Metropolitan University, presented the Lincoln Alexander School of Law Award for Shaping the Future to Access Pro Bono of BC. Now that her law school has been in operation for three years and is graduating its inaugural class of lawyers, Young said TMU wanted to present an award which reflected the pillars on which the school was founded: equity, diversity, and inclusion; technology; and access to justice.
The award winners and excellence awardees were selected among hundreds of nominations from across the country. Key Media’s Awards Research Team reviewed the nominations, applying its own knowledge and third-party insight to recommend the excellence awardees from each category. Then, an extensive independent judging panel used strict criteria to score the excellence awardees and arrive at winners from each category.
Winners and excellence awardees travelled from all over Canada to attend the event. Gregory Connors and Melanie Comstock, partners at McInnes Cooper, came from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their firm took home the prize for Regional Law Firm of the Year – Atlantic Canada.
Montreal’s Gerry Apostolatos accepted the Regional Law Firm of the Year – Quebec award on behalf of Langlois Lawyers. Among the stiff competition in La Belle Province, he said that teamwork allowed his shop to stand out.
“Competition in Quebec is excellent,” said Apostolatos. “But I think what we did this year is that we worked together as a team to bring it over the top.”
With society slowly emerging from the pandemic, Lenczner Slaght LLP’s Matthew Lerner said that this year team members were able to get “back to the fun part of the practice of law.”
“Getting back to a sense of normalcy has brought a lot of positivity to what we do – getting to be around each other and collaborate and work together more as a unit than we did when we were all spread out all over the place on teams.”