Positions of influence

Every magazine and web site has a list of the top this or top that. And love or hate the lists, everybody ends up reading them and talking about them. At Canadian Lawyer, we’re no stranger to lists but for the most part we’ve not tackled the most controversial type of list: one about individual lawyers. So about 18 months or so ago, I decided to take on the task and come up with such a list. Its main characteristic, though, had to be that it was different from all other lists in the various legal publications and web sites dotting the Canadian landscape. What I realized is that most such tallies look at one particular area and don’t take into account the law as a whole: every area of practice, government, regulatory, judiciary, etc.


One of the reasons I enjoy working in the law is that it touches all aspects of society. That, I felt, should be reflected in the list and thus the idea of the most influential people in the law was born. After that, it took some time to gather our expert panel, which included internal judges from our magazines and sister companies within the Cartwright Group Ltd. as well as esteemed members of the profession from across the country.

As with the first attempts at many things, there were quite a few speed bumps along the way, including a couple of members of our judging panel who didn’t come through in the end as well as difficulty in securing a retired judge to help cast their votes. But in the end, we managed to have representation from most of the country in civil and criminal law as well as academia and corporate counsel.

In terms of nominees, the bottom line was not about power or influence but both. That included the ability to influence public opinion and help shape laws; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; and social and political influence and involvement. Each member of the judging panel was asked to put forth five candidates who they felt fit the criteria and then we went through a couple of rounds of voting to come up with the final 25. The top three were decided in an extra round of the top five vote-getters.

There was definitely some spirited debate among our internal and external judges over who to include and disagreement over the final list, as I’m sure there will be among readers, but in the end the final list was arrived at democratically. We plan to do it again next year, so I welcome all readers’ comments and thoughts — via e-mail or in the comments box below — on The Top 25 Most Influential list and the process.

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