Offering more for less: Top 10 Ontario Regional Law Firms

In-house counsel value expertise and lower fees offered by Ontario’s leading regional law firms

Offering more for less: Top 10 Ontario Regional Law Firms

Canadian Lawyer’s top 10 Ontario regional law firms serve a wide range of local, national and global companies in a host of different legal areas including litigation, construction, insurance defence, insolvency and IP, to name but a few. Clients value the high-quality work, specialized knowledge and the reasonable fees offered by these leading firms, so relationships often last for many years. 

Voted in second place among the Ontario firms, Pallett Valo LLP counts many large brands among its clients, including Cineplex Inc. and Parmalat Canada Inc. As Cineplex prepares for its acquisition by U.K.-based Cineworld, which is expected to close in spring 2020, Canada’s largest movie chain relies on external counsel for a variety of work. 

“We don’t hire firms. We hire lawyers,” says Thomas Santram, vice president, deputy general counsel at Cineplex. “We’re looking for excellent legal representation, wherever that may be.” The entertainment company has been working with Pallett Valo for seven years and Santram values the high-quality service provided, together with fair pricing. 

“Pallett Valo provides Bay Street quality work. It just happens to have a Mississauga address,” says Santram. “I like that they are not over-billing each file just because we’re a big company, and they are careful about staffing the file appropriately.” The firm has worked for Cineplex on construction law and insurance defence law and has been involved in various lease negotiations in the cinema business. Santram’s priorities for 2020 include being proactive in monitoring changing laws, as well as integrating the company into its new corporate family when the acquisition is complete.

Also dealing with an integration process, Pallett Valo’s client Parmalat Canada Inc. (a subsidiary of the Lactalis Group) purchased the natural cheese business of Kraft Heinz Canada last year, which included three brands  — Cracker Barrel, P'tit Québec and aMOOza!, so the dairy manufacturer is working to integrate its new brands into the business. Parmalat is gradually transitioning to its new identity — Lactalis Canada. The organization hires national, regional and local law firms to assist with a range of issues including litigation, complex M&A and real estate matters.

“When I work with lawyers at Pallett Valo, they provide clear and practical recommendations so there’s no guessing or complicated legal memos to sift through,” says Tony Cugliari, vice president, legal affairs and general counsel at Parmalat Canada. Pallett Valo’s construction lawyer, Scott Price, recently provided advice on Parmalat’s $50-million development of a milk plant in Winnipeg.  

“We’re very proud of that project,” says Cugliari. “Scott is the type of lawyer who understands how large organizations work, and if I’m not available, he will work directly with our business people in a very productive fashion.” In order to reduce spend, Parmalat is considering the idea of hiring a specialized in-house lawyer to carry out some of the tasks that are currently sent to outside counsel.

“We’re not sure if we can make the business case for this, but we’re looking at it to see if it makes sense,” says Cugliari. 

Blaney McMurtry LLP ranks at number four on the list of top Ontario firms. Among its key clients, SmartCentres Real Estate Investment Trust makes use of a select number of firms for complex title work and conveyancing matters, joint venture structuring and agreements and tax advice.

“When specific expertise is required, we retain the required expertise,” says Joseph Amato, vice president, legal at SmartREIT. Amato has been working with Blaney since he joined the shopping centre developer 20 years ago. Among the projects Blaney has worked on for SmartCentres are two recent joint ventures that included providing title opinions, structuring and conveyancing work.

“I like their expertise, the quality of work, the organization of materials and their ability to turn documents around quickly,” says Amato of the Blaney team. “The value is unparalleled — there is nobody in the city that produces what Blaney delivers at that price.”

Also a client of Blaney McMurtry, Geotab Inc. works with a large roster of external counsel for matters including data privacy, compliance advice and advice relating to the company’s international expansion. 

“I like that they are responsive, the fees are reasonable as compared to some of the larger national law firms and yet they still have very high-quality practitioners. You’re not sacrificing quality for lower fees,” says Laurence Prystawski, general counsel at Geotab. Prystawski works with Blaney’s David Ma on wireless carrier agreements in Canada and around the world and he greatly values Ma’s expertise in this area. 

“David has this amazing manner of never losing his cool and, at the same time, not giving up on a point until either I say ‘OK, I can live with this result’ or he gets what he considers to be a just and reasonable outcome on a point,” says Prystawski. “For a company this size, we have really good agreements with Canadian and U.S. wireless carriers and that’s largely thanks to working with David on these and letting him run the negotiations.”

As Geotab is in rapid growth mode, Prystawski is working hard to keep up with the demand for the company’s products and services and to establish the necessary relationships in different geographical regions. 

Coming in at number nine on the list, Loopstra Nixon LLP is an Ontario law firm with a strong reputation for representing municipalities including the City of Toronto and the City of Kawartha Lakes. 

“Because of their history of working with municipal clients and their long history with us, I don’t need to introduce them to different staff,” says Robyn Carlson, city solicitor at the City of Kawartha Lakes. “I know that they understand what documents they are looking for in terms of reports, counsel resolution and who to talk to in the public works to get records, so it’s a lot less administration for me.”

According to Carlson, firm co-founder Charles Loopstra has a calm demeanour and the ability to reassure clients with the emotional aspect of a litigation. 

“I appreciate that I can leave things with Chuck if I’m engaged somewhere else, and I know that he will take care of the client very well,” says Carlson. Loopstra is currently working with the City of Kawartha Lakes on a matter involving a competing interest around the right to use water access.

Loopstra Nixon also works with several corporate clients including Index Exchange. The global advertising marketplace favours mid-size local law firms over global firms and often outsources for matters such as commercial support, reviewing and negotiating contracts, litigation, IP and bankruptcy insolvency.

“I like working with Loopstra Nixon because they are highly attuned to the industry and the specific challenges that we face,” says Jason Cicchetti, general counsel at Index Exchange. “They are highly service-oriented and provide the best-in-class service.” Cicchetti’s goals for 2020 include building up his legal department with new hires and navigating a variety of privacy issues. 

With many businesses preparing for growth and diversification, Ontario law firms can expect to have plenty on their plates in the year ahead. 

How we did it 

To come up with our top 10 Ontario regional firm list last year, Canadian Lawyer asked lawyers, in-house counsel and clients from across Canada to nominate firms worthy of being ranked. We took that list, created a survey and pushed that survey through all our channels to summon the widest participation possible. Respondents’ rankings were based on firms’ regional service coverage, client base, notable mandates, service excellence and legal expertise, and we included an opportunity for respondents to suggest a firm not already on the list. To be included, firms had to have offices providing local legal advice in Ontario exclusively and offer a wide range of legal services. Voters ranked firms from one to 10, with first-place votes earning 10 points and points decreasing by one up to one point for a 10th-place vote. Points were added up and firms ranked accordingly.

1. Torkin Manes LLP

Total lawyers: 101
Office: Toronto

Core practice areas: corporate, including tax, technology, banking and insolvency; litigation, including construction, health, estate and insurance defence; commercial real estate; employment and labour relations; family law  

Key clients: Canada Goose Inc.; Harbour Mortgage Corp.; SmartREIT; Spin Master Corp.; Stewart Title Guaranty Company  

Notable mandates: Represented HyLife Investments Ltd. in its $498-million sale to CPF Canada Holdings Corp., a subsidiary of Charoen Pokphand Foods Pcl, Thailand’s largest agriculture conglomerate; acted for LGC Standards Canada Limited in their acquisition of Toronto Research Chemicals Inc. and Synfine Research Limited; represented Questica in its sale to GTY Technology Holdings Inc.; acted for Canada Goose in negotiating the terms of the company’s lease for its first standalone retail store in Yorkdale Shopping Centre and for certain of its shareholders in connection with its IPO; represented Spin Master in connection with its $510-million credit facility and various acquisitions  

Star alumni: David Butt, first Canadian prosecutor to specialize in internet child abuse cases, counsel to KINSA; Anne Giardini, chancellor of Simon Fraser University; Kimberley McVittie, vice president, Risk Shared Services, CIBC; Deborah Rogers, senior vice president, legal counsel, Brookfield Office Properties; Daina Selvig, deputy general counsel, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals; Michael Silver, mediator and arbitrator; Ian Tod, former chairman, Deloitte Legal; Kathleen Waters, former president and CEO, LawPRO  

Affiliations: Ally Law (international alliance of law firms)  

Firm history: A mid-sized, full-service law firm with 100+ lawyers located in downtown Toronto, Torkin Manes is currently recognized by the legal industry as the leading regional law firm in Ontario. In 2019, Torkin Manes was named Regional Law Firm of the Year by Chambers Canada and is currently ranked the #1 Ontario Regional Law Firm by Canadian Lawyer. Torkin Manes was founded in 1974 by corporate and tax lawyer Larry Torkin and litigator Ron Manes. The firm grew to six lawyers in 1979 and gradually developed practices in real estate, employment and labour and family law. Over the years, litigation expanded to include insurance defence, health, construction and personal injury, while the corporate department grew and became known for providing comprehensive services to mid-market owner-operated companies. The firm’s broad client base and its reluctance to become overly dependent on a small number of large clients helped it withstand economic recessions, as many other medium-size firms struggled. Torkin Manes’ clients now include some of Canada’s largest financial institutions, insurance companies, major corporations, private businesses, entrepreneurs and land development companies.

2. Pallett Valo LLP 

Total lawyers: 40 lawyers 
Office: Mississauga

Core practice areas: litigation including commercial, construction and estates; commercial real estate and leasing; business law; insolvency and corporate restructuring; wills, estates and trusts; employment and labour .

Key clients: HOOPP Realty Inc.; Peel District School Board; Stewart Title Guaranty Co.; Parmalat Canada; Canam Group Inc.; Bayshore HealthCare Ltd.; Yamaha Motor Finance Canada Ltd.; Cineplex Inc.; Pivot Financial Inc.; Digital Specialty Chemicals Limited

Notable mandates: lead Ontario counsel for a global engineering firm; counsel to global automotive manufacturer on product liability matters; lead counsel in an $80-million inter-jurisdictional M&A transaction; lead counsel in a $65-million sale of several auto dealerships; acted on the sale of several hotel properties; frequently called upon to act as counsel under s. 3 of the Substitute Decisions Act .

Star alumni: John Pallett, MP from 1954-62; Sidney Valo, founding director and first CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority; Thomas Santram, vice president and deputy general counsel at Cineplex Inc.; Suzanne Michaud, adjunct professor, Osgoode Hall Law School; Liana Turrin, general counsel and secretary of Altus Group Inc.

Affiliations: Geneva Group International.

Firm history: It began in 1948 with the establishment of Pallett & Pallett and, by 1987, after a merger, was known as Pallett Valo. After 1997, Pallett Valo expanded its historical focus as a firm with expertise in commercial and residential real estate to become a business law firm with specialized groups focusing on commercial litigation, which includes construction, employment, insurance defence, estate litigation and insolvency; business law; commercial real estate and leasing and wills, estates and trust. In 2013, the firm moved to custom-designed space to accommodate its growth and expanding use of technology and, in 2018, it added two by-appointment-only workspaces in downtown Toronto and Vaughan, Ont. Pallett Valo is the largest law firm in Peel Region and has expanded its reach outside of the GTA to become a truly regional firm.

3. WeirFoulds LLP 

Total lawyers: 105
Office: Toronto

Core practice areas: litigation; corporate; property; government law; international.

Key clients: public and private corporations; governments, public authorities and agencies; entrepreneurs; national firms seeking regional representation; non-profit and public interest organizations and individuals.

Notable mandates: acted for Harte Gold Corp. in its US$70-million debt financing package with Sprott Private Resource Lending (collector), L.P. and Appian Natural Resources Fund to fully fund the construction of the Sugar Zone Project; acted as co-counsel for Trillium Motor World Ltd., the class representative for 181 former General Motors dealers, in the highly publicized Trillium Motor World Ltd. v. General Motors of Canada Ltd. and Trillium Motor World Ltd. v. Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP; acted for Benefit Partners Inc. in the completion of its acquisition by People Corporation; acted for the LCBO in the acquisition of its head office lands from a joint venture among Menkes Developments and Greystone Managed Investments, with Triovest Realty Advisors acting as advisor to Greystone, for $260 million following a procurement process managed by Infrastructure Ontario; acted for the Regional Municipality of York in the planning, development, land acquisitions and construction of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

Star alumni: four treasurers of the Law Society of Upper Canada; Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell; former Ontario chief justice George Gale; former Supreme Court of Canada justice Roy Kellock; former Ontario Court of Appeal justices James Carthy, Allan McNiece Austin and John Arnup; Ontario Superior Court justices Joan Lax and Paul Perell.

Affiliations: SCG Legal

Firm history: WeirFoulds LLP has established itself as one of Canada’s premier regional law firms, and it has provided strategic, cost-effective and innovative legal advice to clients since 1860. WeirFoulds has thrived by becoming a true partner to clients, ensuring that legal advice addresses their priorities. The firm is repeatedly ranked as one of Canadian Lawyer’s Top 10 Ontario Regional Firms, and it is regularly listed in Novae Res Urbis Top 10 Development Law Firms in the GTA.

4. Blaney McMurtry LLP 

Total lawyers: 121 
Office: Toronto

Core practice areas: litigation and advocacy; real estate; business law.

Key clients: Toronto-Dominion Bank; SmartREIT; First National Financial LP; KingSett Capital; G4S Secure Solutions (Canada) Ltd.; Greenwin Inc.; Verdiroc Development Corporation.

Notable mandates: Lead insolvency counsel for 300 Sears Hometown Stores in their certified class action and oppression remedy claim against Sears Holdings, Edward Lampert’s ESL Investments Inc. and the board of directors of Sears Canada, seeking damages of more than $100 million and to set aside more than $500 million in dividends paid by Sears to ESL and other shareholders in 2013; represented Grasshopper Solar in its continued acquisition of solar portfolios throughout Ontario and the refinancing under its $270-million credit facility; represented Verdiroc Development Corporation in connection with the acquisitions of land and property throughout the GTA; acted for industry-leading property development companies on major Toronto projects, including the construction financing of Linx Condos and Y&S Condos; successfully represented Cadillac Fairview in a noteworthy appeal overturning a “reverse summary judgment” decision; acted for leading insurance companies on major insurance coverage, fidelity and cyber-liability cases.

Star alumni: former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry; Ontario Court Justice Feroza Bhabha; Ontario Superior Court Justice Janet Wilson; former Tax Court of Canada justice J.A. Brulé; Superior Court Master Robert Muir; Larry Grossman, former Ontario government cabinet minister and Ontario Conservative party leader

Affiliations: TAGLaw; Risk Management Counsel of Canada; Insurance Law Global

Firm history: The original firm, Blaney Pasternak, was founded by James Blaney and Irwin Pasternak in 1954. The late Bill McMurtry joined the firm in the early 1960s, building a litigation department that is now a core strength of the firm. In subsequent years, the firm underwent several smaller mergers, lateral hires and ensuing name changes. In 2000, the firm was established as Blaney McMurtry LLP.

5. Minden Gross LLP 

Total lawyers: 63
Office: Toronto

Core practice areas: business law; commercial leasing and real estate; financial services; property taxation and assessment law; employment and labour law; litigation; securities and capital markets; tax and succession planning; wills and estates.

Key clients: Lanterra Developments; Fieldgate Development Construction Ltd.; First Gulf Corp.; The Global Group; H&R REIT; Royal Bank of Canada; Marlin Spring Investments Limited.

Notable mandates: Acted for the majority shareholder as part of Debco Bag Distributors’ merger with HUB Promotional Group; advised on the TSXV listings for Enthusiast Gaming and for GTEC Holdings; acted for Shotgun Fund, FirePower Equity, Lynx Equity Limited and Succession Capital on multiple M&A transactions and for FirePower Equity and Area One Farms on multiple fund formations; acted for a premier residential developer on the acquisition of a portfolio of multi-family rental properties in Montreal and Quebec City for $117.5 million; acted for a syndicate of developers in the sale of a residential mixed-use development with a purchase price in excess of $100 million.

Star alumni: Robyn Kestenberg, executive vice president, corporate development, H&R REIT; David Feldberg, president and CEO, Teknion; Mark Mandelbaum, co-founder, Lanterra Developments; Mark Weisleder, author, columnist and speaker; David Glass, senior vice president, The Global Group; retired senator Jerry Grafstein; Mordecai Bobrowsky, vice president, legal, Primaris Management Inc.; Lauren Corber, president & executive producer, LoCo Motion Pictures.

Affiliations: Meritas Law Firms Worldwide.

Firm history: Arthur Minden, Edwin Pivnick and Morris Gross founded the firm in 1950. Early on, the firm gained a reputation for its skills in commercial real estate transactions. Jerry Grafstein and Herbert Greenstein joined in the 1960s and established corporate and civil litigation services to meet the growing needs of clients. The firm expanded further into commercial leasing, bankruptcy and insolvency, tax and succession planning, employment and labour and wills and estates law. In 1992, Minden Gross became an affiliate of Meritas Law Firms Worldwide, a global alliance of independent law firms. It has recently grown further, branching out into securities and capital markets as well as property taxation and assessment.

6. Fogler Rubinoff LLP 

Total lawyers: 118
Lawyers by office: Toronto, 116; Ottawa, 2

Core practice areas: business law including corporate, securities, IP/IT; energy and environmental law; commercial real estate including condominium law and leasing; financial services; health law; Indigenous law, with an emphasis on business matters; litigation; labour and employment; tax and wills and estates.

Key clients: RioCan REIT; FirstService Corporation; Colliers International Group Inc.; Coco Paving; Computershare; Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corp.; WeedMD; CannTrust; Toronto Parking Authority; TD, HSBC, RBC and other major banks.

Notable mandates: acted for Neo Performance Materials Inc. in its $200-million IPO; R. v. Coco Paving Inc. brought successful due diligence defence and obtained dismissal of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change prosecution of Coco Paving Inc. related to a 2013 natural gas line strike in Windsor, Ont.; acquisition, development, financing and sale of multiple utility scale solar projects for Canadian Solar; representation of both investment dealers and licensed producers for significant financings in the cannabis industry; in Re Imex Systems Inc. 2018, successfully defended an application to set aside a private placement in the BC Securities Commission; representation of developers on significant condo and mixed-use projects including Art Shoppe Condos; representation of many Indigenous communities on large-scale energy and infrastructure partnerships.

Star alumni: Ed Sonshine, founder and CEO of RioCan REIT; Jay Hennick, founder and chairman of FirstService Corporation and CEO of Colliers International Group Inc.; Eugene McBurney, co-founder and chairman of Griffiths McBurney & Partners; Ontario Superior Court Justice Arthur Gans; Pinar Ozyetis, general counsel at LoyaltyOne; Lesley Munk, vice president and general counsel at RSA Canada.

Affiliations: International Lawyers Network.

Firm history: Fogler Rubinoff, with 25 lawyers, was created in 1982 through a merger of the firms of Siegal Fogler and Rubinoff & Rubinoff. In the 38 years since the merger, the firm has more than quadrupled in size and has diversified its areas of practice, creating a full-service business law firm.

7. Lerners LLP 

Total Lawyers: 127
Lawyers by office: London: 76; Toronto: 49 Strathroy: 2 

Core practice areas: agribusiness; appellate advocacy; class actions (plaintiff and defence) commercial arbitration, commercial litigation; corporate commercial; education; family law; health law; insurance defence; land development and planning; privacy; product liability; professional regulation; plaintiff personal injury; real estate and planning; workplace investigations.

Key clients: Lawyers Professional Indemnity Company; Canadian Medical Protective Association; Frank Cowan Company; CPA Professional Liability Plan; Deloitte; Chubb Insurance; General Motors; Durham Regional Police Services; Telus; Hensall Co-operative; University of Waterloo. 

Notable mandatesTown of Oakville v. Clublink; Martin v. Barrie (City); lead defence counsel on national class proceedings in General Motors class actions regarding ignition switch, EPS, antifreeze and Takata air bags; Langenfeld v. Toronto Police Services Board; Sheridan Chevrolet v. Tokai Rika et al. Smith v Ontario (Attorney General); 1688782 Ontario Inc. v. Maple Leaf Foods Inc., et al.; National Steel Car Limited v. Independent Electricity System; Intact Insurance v. Gore Mutual Insurance Co. 

Firm history: Lerners was established in 1929 by Mayer Lerner. His brother Samuel Lerner joined the firm in 1939 and together they built Lerner & Lerner. The firm has progressively grown to become one of Southwestern Ontario’s largest firms, with offices in London, Toronto, Strathroy and Owen Sound. Now known as Lerners LLP, the firm supports more than 100 charities and not-for-profit organizations on an annual basis. In 2019, in celebration of its 90th anniversary, the firm launched a charitable giveaway that saw $90,000 donated to charities and not-for-profit organizations nominated by staff, clients and friends and selected by the public.  

Star alumni: Nathalie Des Rosiers, former Liberal MPP for Ottawa-Vanier; former Superior Court justices John Kennedy, Thomas Granger and Margaret McSorley; Ontario Superior Court justices Jasmine Akbarali, Ian Leach, Mary Anne Sanderson, Michael Varpio and Kelly Tranquilli; Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Bradley Miller; David Shore, television writer for NYPD Blue, Family Law, Due South and creator of House, Battle Creek, Sneaky Pete and The Good Doctor; Bryce Rudyk, climate program director of the Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law, adjunct professor of International Environmental Law, International Environmental Law Clinic, and Global Environmental Governance at the NYU School of Law, and former senior legal adviser to Alliance of Small Island States; Amy Archer, policy advisor to the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

8. Gardiner Roberts LLP 

Total lawyers: 68
Office: Toronto

Core practice areas: corporate-commercial law; securities; commercial litigation; real estate; tax; health; IP, employment and labour; class actions.

Key clients: Conundrum Capital; LawPro; Pharmascience Inc.; Castlepoint Investments Inc.; Toronto Real Estate Board; E.I. du Pont Canada Co.; Open Text Corp.; Toronto and Region Conservation Authority; TD Canada Trust; Scotiabank; First National Financial LP.

Notable mandates: successfully represented former Toronto mayor Rob Ford in a libel and defamation action; representing former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj in litigation proceeding contesting election in Etobicoke Centre; acting on the establishment of a large residential real estate private equity fund; acted on a complex reorganization of an existing real estate private equity fund into private REIT in a matter involving investors such as Canada’s largest pension plans and mutual funds; acted for the purchaser in excess of 230 quick-service restaurants in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec.

Star alumni: former Metropolitan Toronto chairman “Big Daddy” Frederick Gardiner; former Superior Court justices John Fitzpatrick and William J. Anderson; former Ontario Court of Appeal justice Lloyd Holden; Ronald J. Farano, who worked on policies preceding a significant overhaul to Canada’s federal taxation.

Affiliations: MSI Global Alliance & Consulegis.

Firm history: Founded in the 1920s, the firm has become a mid-size, full-service law firm with a diverse client base that includes several of Canada’s largest banks, numerous medium- to large-size municipalities, agencies, boards and commissions, government entities, high-tech and software companies, real estate developers, lenders and investors. Gardiner Roberts is involved in numerous charitable and community initiatives, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Peacebuilders International, Prostate Cancer Canada, LAWS program at the University of Toronto, Humber College Advisory Consortium for a legal course, Ride to Conquer Cancer, Hope for Children Foundation Adopt-a-Family Program, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Ballet School of Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, Hot Docs and various research ethics boards affiliated with SickKids and the Bloorview Research Institute.

9. Loopstra Nixon LLP 

 Total lawyers: 49
Office: Toronto

Core practice areas: business law including: corporate, securities, insolvency, restructuring and intellectual property; municipal and land use planning; commercial real estate and leasing; financial services; commercial litigation; construction litigation; insurance defence litigation; labour and employment; tax and wills and estates.

Key clients: City of Toronto; CRH Canada Group Inc.; Swift River Energy Limited; Consolidated Fastfrate Group; Toronto Dominion Bank; Bank of Montreal; Scotiabank; Tepper Holdings Inc.; Outfront Media; Trader Corporation; Henry’s Camera Stores; Trillium Auto Dealers Association; Dilawri Auto Group; MNP; PwC; Deloitte; BDO; Fuller Landau; Titanium Transportation Group Inc.

Notable mandates: acted for Roynat Capital in the sale of Comtrad Strategic Sourcing to Ardenton Capital Corp.; acted for Besra Gold Inc. in the debt and equity restructuring of its gold-mining operations in Asia; Bruell Contracting Limited. v. J&P Leveque Bros. Haulage Limited (obtained judgment for breach of construction contract against the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario); acted for Group Cabico Inc. in its acquisition of The Elmwood Group Limited; acted for the City of Mississauga in respect of the Lakeview Generating Station Redevelopment; Palumbo v. Quercia (determination of post-employment fiduciary obligations).

Star alumni: Jason Cicchetti, general counsel, Index Exchange; Riccardo Bozzo, vice president, general counsel, Bozzo Group; Natalia Ackers, assistant general counsel, Aramark; Brent Duguid, legal counsel and director of partnerships, University of Toronto Scarborough; John McLeish, founding partner, McLeish Orlando LLP.

Affiliations: Law Exchange International (1,600 lawyers in 30 countries).

Firm history: The firm was formed in 1973 by Charles Loopstra and John Nixon. Loopstra built a strong reputation representing municipalities. Sandy Nixon led the solicitor side, which grew into top-rated midmarket practice teams in corporate and commercial law, commercial real estate, banking and finance. In the past decade, the firm has tripled in size without mergers or large-scale group hires. In the last five years, the firm has added a bankruptcy, insolvency and restructuring practice and an intellectual property practice. It has a cross-border team of six dual-admitted U.S. lawyers who provide specialized business law advice on Canada-U.S. matters. The firm also has developed a growing Canada-China practice with several Mandarin-speaking lawyers and professional staff. The firm has recently opened satellite offices in Vaughan, Ont. and in Toronto’s financial district.

10. Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP 

Total lawyers: 42

Office: Ottawa

Core practice areas: litigation (including personal injury, commercial litigation, insurance law and mediation); labour and employment law; family law; real estate and development; Indigenous law; estate law; fertility law; family arbitration; business law; intellectual property law; elder law; lawyer-to-lawyer services

Key clients: Institutional clients include chartered banks, trust companies and financial institutions, major insurance companies and their insureds, many unions and labour organizations, real estate developers (commercial, institutional and residential), non-profit and public interest corporations and small- and medium-size enterprises. In addition, the IP Group represents some of the largest companies in the Asia/Pacific region, including trade organizations, as well as local startups and mid-size corporations.

Notable mandates: Current and ongoing class actions have included representing employee groups in several insolvency proceedings, including Nortel, Canwest and Plasco; representing former patients of Norman Barwin, who is alleged to have negligently inseminated his patients with the wrong sperm; representing air pilots employed by Air Canada over a breach of contract; representing former students of the residential schools system and their entitlements under the 2007 Residential Schools Settlement Agreement; and representing employees of BlackBerry Canada after a transfer of employees. Other cases include successful judgments in leading personal injury decisions, such as Monks v. ING and Gardiner v. MacDonald, successful defence of liability waiver in Isildar v. Kanata Dive Supply, as well as several claims (including constitutional challenges) against the federal government. The firm has also been involved with many major redevelopment projects in Ottawa, including LeBreton Flats, Zibi and Greystone Village.

Star alumni: John Nelligan, one of Canada’s leading advocates; Ontario Superior Court Justice Denis Power; Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken; Ontario Superior Court Justice Giovanna Toscano-Roccamo; Ontario Superior Court of Justice Pamela MacEachern.

Affiliations: Lexwork.

Firm history: John P. Nelligan was called to the Ontario bar in 1949, and in 1963, he opened his own firm. With Denis Power, he established the Nelligan Power partnership in 1969. In October 2000, Power was appointed as a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and the firm’s name changed to Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP, in recognition of long-time firm partners Allan O’Brien and Janice Payne. Since then, the firm has grown to 42 lawyers and more than 50 staff. 

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