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Ontario’s leading firms
Canadian Lawyer’s Top 10 Ontario Regional Firms of 2023 have established themselves as guiding lights in diverse practice areas of law and are successfully navigating complex challenges in the competitive industry.
The leading law firms in Ontario are setting the bar high for:
- client service
- legal expertise
- associate development
- enterprising business solutions
They are thriving in all facets of their practice and assisting their clients to succeed.
“Our clients are paramount. You need to get out of your seat and go to their office, understand what they do, understand their goals and objectives”
Jeffrey CohenTorkin Manes LLP
Ontario’s top law firms leading the way with competitive edge
Survey respondents cast just under 2,000 votes to rank awardees from first to tenth place and said the following about five of the top-ranking law firms in Ontario:
Torkin Manes LLP
- “The advice may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the best solution to any issue.”
- “They don’t play games with clients; this is the firm you can trust.”
- “Best cannabis law lawyers, especially Matt Maurer.”
- “Their service, response time and outcomes are exemplary.”
In reflection, managing partner Jeffrey Cohen, a member of the firm’s business law and corporate finance groups, says: “Our clients are paramount, you need to get out of your seat and go to their office, understand what they do, understand their goals and objectives.”
“We don’t excel as a firm by looking at a one-year return. You want a relationship with a client long-term,” he continues. “Our clients are entrepreneurial, highly focused, driven people who are used to doing it their way, but their [law] partner shouldn’t follow along, they should push back.”
- “Always puts their client’s needs first”
- “Excellent client service and top-notch talent in a wide range of areas”
- “Chock-full of extremely high-quality, hard-working, client-focused lawyers”
- “Service and competence are unparalleled”
Regarding the business philosophy driving its client satisfaction, co-managing partner Wayne Egan, who also practices in the areas of securities and corporate law, says: “We’ve continued to generate a group of lawyers who focus on the entrepreneurial nature of what we do, and they bring a different skill set when working for that business client.”
“I think that’s something that we’ve done well. We’re focused on the client and on understanding what it is they need to be successful,” he adds. “Whether it’s a litigation, municipal, or corporate issue, I think you get really good at putting yourself into the client’s position and thinking about what it is they need to accomplish and then delivering on that in a way that allows them to meet all of their goals.”
Pallett Valo LLP
- “The candid advice and tough conversations are what I need to run my successful business.”
- “Simply the gold standard; Victor Pirone was the single greatest advisor I’ve had.”
- “They are my go-to firm to refer files; they take care of my clients with the highest level of expertise and service.”
- “We’re not just a billing number; the team learned our business, they are trusted advisers.”
Considering the reasoning behind these remarks, managing partner John Russo, who represents clients in complex business litigation disputes, explains, “We focus on client service, and it’s all driven by our core values of excellence, integrity, and respect; and all my partners, we live it, and we demonstrate it.”
“The strategy is to take really good care of our clients, and we do have very loyal clients,” he notes. “Overwhelmingly, if you were to canvas our clients, they would come back to client service as the key.”
Minden Gross LLP
- “Intelligent, pragmatic representation from the best lawyers in Ontario/Canada”
- “Firm always takes care of its clients and staff”
- “Excellent customer service and caring lawyers”
- “High expertise in many practice areas; lawyers recognized as leaders in the profession”
With respect to the underlying principles behind these statements, Brian Temins, managing partner and a lawyer in the business law group, says: “Client service is the key driver because having the knowledge is table stakes, but we go that extra mile for the client and instill that throughout the firm. There’s lots of bright, talented legal minds here and elsewhere, but how we differentiate ourselves, maintain and grow our client base, is everybody realizing the common goal, ultimately, is a happy client.”
Blaney McMurtry LLP
- “The breadth of coverage and approachability of their lawyers”
- “Competitive with a broad range of services, client loyalty, lawyers recognized as excellent in their practice areas”
- “The firm, particularly the real estate group, make a wholehearted effort to fully understand client needs and offer solutions that benefit all counterparties”
After consideration of the strategies contributing to the firm’s success, managing partner Shawn Wolfson, a commercial real estate lawyer involved in some of Ontario’s leading projects, says, “Fundamental to Blaneys are the interpersonal relationships we have fostered and strengthened throughout our firm’s history, within our organization and with clients. Whether we have worked together for days or decades, caring and camaraderie are the hallmarks of our firm culture and enrich the formation of deep bonds.”
This focus in turn fosters client loyalty.
Wolfson adds, “We are blessed with a long list of clients who have been working with us for decades, who trust us to help them with some of their most challenging and important issues, and with whom we roll up our sleeves and immerse ourselves with to understand their businesses and big-picture goals.”
“We’ve continued to generate a group of lawyers who focus on the entrepreneurial nature of what we do, and they bring a different skill set when working for that business client”
Wayne EganWeirFoulds LLP
Top law firms setting new standards for excellence
The five leaders at the top law firms in Ontario are successfully balancing teamwork, collaboration, and collegiality within their hybrid work environments and are stemming the talent pool drain with enhanced compensation structures, career pathing, and mentorship.
One challenge unique to Minden Gross was embarking on an executive search to replace the planned retirement of its chief operating officer, who had led the firm for nearly four decades.
“It was a big change because the COO has an important role with respect to the culture and direction of the firm,” Temins says. “I’m also pleased that in 2022, our retention and turnover statistics were appreciably lower than in 2021. We stabilized and that was a big success, too.”
High points that set Minden Gross apart:
- real estate, tax, and business law groups, the latter driven by partners growing their practices exponentially
- increasingly larger, more complex M&A transactions
- flexible work plan prioritizing quality learning, development, and mentorship
Torkin Manes considers itself on a three-year journey triggered by the pandemic. In 2022, it took the chance to reaffirm to its staff who they are and how they’ve achieved their success.
“It was a conscious management decision that we anticipated and budgeted for a reduction in productivity in 2022,” Cohen notes. “We said you need to take your vacation and do things you need to do for longevity, not for the short-term. We didn’t lean on people to push harder; we gave everybody a chance.”
Outstanding achievements in specific aspects of Torkin Manes’ operations:
- labour, employment, and construction law groups remain strong
- high-profile and prolific corporate law group, particularly the M&A sector
- heavy volume of transactions well above the mid-range
“The strategy is to take really good care of our clients … and it’s all driven by our core values of excellence, integrity, and respect; we live it, and we demonstrate it”
John RussoPallett Valo LLP
Helping clients is a key driver of top Ontario law firms’ success
One of Pallett Valo’s drivers of success is its professional management team that has been responsible for running the business end of the firm since 2001.
“The moment we put the team in place, the firm really took off,” Russo explains. “I hate to say this, but the second we got lawyers out of the day-to-day business of law, and they focused on their clients and on providing client service, it paid off in dividends quite quickly.”
Distinctive advantages that Pallett Valo possesses:
- consistent referrals from prominent law firms
- ‘right-sized thinking’ approach to service that includes the right expertise, leadership, value, and balance
- longevity: the firm celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023
WeirFoulds’ strength lies in its ability to outshine the competition in a variety of areas of the law and its entrepreneurial focus.
“We’re really built to work with the entrepreneurial client, and we take those skills and apply those to the institutional clients we have as well, so I think we bring a [slightly] different perspective because of that,” Egan notes. “Another driver of our success is our willingness to invest in those areas that either need further support or are growing at a rate that they need people added to keep up with the workload.”
Areas of expertise where WeirFoulds is prospering:
- growth in wills and estates sector
- commercial litigation
- hiring practices and integrating new lawyers into the firm
“Client service is the key driver because having the knowledge is table stakes, but we go that extra mile for the client and instill that throughout the firm”
Brian TeminsMinden Gross LLP
With an almost 70-year history, Blaney McMurtry continues to experience growth in most areas of its practice on the solicitor and barrister sides.
The firm prides itself on providing excellent mentorship to its young lawyers, delegating early responsibilities not usually offered by competitors.
“We have risen to the challenge of maintaining that promise, redoubling our efforts to reconnect our pundits and proteges in meaningful ways that respect the new normal,” notes Wolfson.
Notable strengths that give Blaney McMurtry a competitive edge:
- driven and ambitious commercial real estate solicitor group
- novel issues in insurance coverage at the forefront for barrister side, as group ramps up advice to major global and national insurance companies doing business in Canada
“We are blessed with a long list of clients who have been working with us for decades, who trust us with their most challenging issues”
Shawn WolfsonBlaney McMurtry LLP
- 7. Lerners LLP
- 8. Gardiner Roberts LLP
- 9. Harrison Pensa LLP
- 10. McKenzie Lake Lawyers LLP
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 in Ontario exclusively and offer a wide range of legal services, including corporate and litigation. Voters ranked firms from 1 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. The quantitative results were combined with the Lexpert peer survey results, where applicable, along with feedback from respected senior members of the bar and regional diversity considerations.