The 2017 Who’s Who in Canadian Law Firms:

Serving Clients in the US, Canada, and Globally

By Jean Cumming, Editor-in-Chief

Canadian Legal Talent

Firm Rankings

The bull’s-eye charts and text that follow are a guide to identifying legal talent as identified in peer surveys in support of the 2017 edition of The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory and this, its sister publication, The 2017 Lexpert®/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada. The survey work uses peer reviews to identify which counsel the Canadian legal profession regards as the top lawyers in various practice areas. Moreover, law firm positions in the bull’s-eye charts depend on the cumulative recognition their individual lawyers have achieved in these surveys. More particularly, the formula is as follows:

  • 1.5 points for each lawyer in the “Most Frequently Recommended” tier in any of the relevant practice areas in the 2017 edition of The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory OR The Lexpert®/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading Lawyers 500 in Canada;
  • 0.75 points for each lawyer in the “Consistently Recommended” tier in any of the relevant practice areas in the 2017 edition of The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory;
  • 0.5 points for each lawyer in the “Repeatedly Recommended” tier in any of the relevant practice areas in the 2017 edition of The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory;

If one lawyer appears in multiple practice areas, the calculation is treated as if it were for more than one lawyer.

The Method Behind the Rankings

The identification of leading practitioners and firms is based upon comprehensive survey work across the country, which has been ongoing since 1994. The process targets lawyers acknowledged as leaders in their respective fields, lawyers prominent in professional organizations, and lawyers otherwise enjoying significant recognition from their colleagues.
Certain surveys also canvass in-house counsel. Again this year, in-house counsel were formally surveyed in the following practice areas: Banking; Computer & IT Law; Corporate Commercial Law; Corporate Finance & Securities; Litigation – Corporate Commercial; Litigation – Intellectual Property; Mergers & Acquisitions; and Property Development.
On our surveys, Lexpert® sets out a list of the lawyers represented in the previous year’s directories, with room for write-in votes. Lawyers on the list who garner insufficient votes are not named in the surveys in the following year, while write-ins who receive sufficient support do appear as named nominees on the following year’s surveys.
The surveying does not proceed by way of random, unsolicited mailings. Lexpert® follows up on unanswered surveys and also conducts personal interviews with senior members of the profession.
These methods have produced an unusually high response rate. In 2016, Lexpert® made 14,002 requests for completed surveys from lawyers at law firms, and 7,154 additional requests were sent to corporate counsel. We received 11,545 completed surveys from law firm practitioners representing a response rate of 82.45 per cent. Our response rate from corporate counsel was 1.57 per cent.

An Evolving Approach

In keeping with extensive consultations conducted with stakeholders in 2016, Lexpert® has revised the practice groups embraced by its various rankings to accord with the realities of an evolving legal market. Accordingly, the text that goes with each chart has at its outset a listing of the practice groups included in the surveys for the particular ranking.
It is important to remember that these changes reflect the market as it is today. Our rankings do change and evolve, year after year.
Lexpert® will continue with its consultations on an ongoing basis in 2017, and beyond, to ensure that the bull’s-eye charts continue to reflect an accurate picture of the legal marketplace.
There are also elements of editorial discretion applied to the rankings and the bull’s-eye charts. This is applied in a principled approach. So, for example:

  • If there have been several lawyers who have made lateral moves from a firm, notwithstanding that they were individually ranked at the time of the Surveys, we have updated the overall firm results in the bull’s-eye charts to reflect the current situation. 
  • This year we have added our Lexpert’s “Rising Stars: Leading Lawyers Under 40” Winners and Finalists to the The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory.
  • Discretion is applied in determining the levels of ranking, among Most Frequently, Consistently and Repeatedly Recommended — we attempt to draw the lines between identifiable clusters within the vote numbers.


Select a Practice Area:
Source: 2017 Canadian Legal Lexpert™ Directory.

Lexpert® practice groups included in this category are:

  • Insolvency & Financial Restructuring
  • Litigation — Corporate Commercial
  • Litigation — Corporate Tax
  • Litigation — Securities
Commercial Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Toronto

As with the litigation bull’s-eyes, several of the firms ranked in this category are boutiques, many of which originated because of the challenges of client conflicts within corporate Canada. The Canadian Bar Association and the Federation of Law Societies are in the process of clarifying the conflicts protocols in Canadian litigation.

Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP is in the centre of the bull’s-eye chart, followed by Torys, then Goodmans. Then come Blakes; Stikeman Elliott; Osler; McCarthy Tétrault; Bennett Jones; Davies Ward; Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb LLP; BLG; Gowlings WLG; Norton Rose; Fasken Martineau; Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP; McMillan; Thornton Grout Finnigan LLP; WeirFoulds LLP; Stockwoods LLP; Cassels Brock; Crawley MacKewn Brush LLP; and Chernos Flaherty Svonkin LLP.

Commercial Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Montréal

Stikeman Elliott heads the commercial litigation list, followed by Davies Ward; McCarthy Tétrault; Norton Rose; then Osler; and Woods LLP. Next come BLG; Fasken Martineau; Irving Mitchell Kalichman s.e.n.c.r.l./L.L.P; and Gowling WLG; followed by Blakes.

Commercial Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Vancouver

Fasken Martineau is in the centre of the bull’s-eye this year, followed by Nathanson, Schachter & Thompson; Hunter Litigation Chambers; and Blakes. Then come Dentons; BLG; DLA Piper (Canada) LLP; Taylor Veinotte Sullivan; and Gowlings WLG.

Commercial Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Calgary

BLG leads here; followed by Norton Rose; Peacock Linder Halt & Mack LLP; Bennett Jones; BDP and Osler. Next come Dentons; Gowlings WLG; and Blakes.