The 2018 Who’s Who in Canadian Law Firms:

Serving Clients in Canada, the US, 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 2018 edition of The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory and this, its sister publication, The 2018 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 2018 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 2018 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 2018 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 2017, Lexpert® made 15,203 requests for completed surveys from lawyers at law firms, and 7,257 additional requests were sent to corporate counsel. We received 12,233 completed surveys from law firm practitioners representing a response rate of 80.46 per cent. Our response rate from corporate counsel was 1.89 per cent.

An Evolving Approach

In keeping with extensive consultations conducted with stakeholders in 2017, 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 2018, 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. 
  • If we have secure market knowledge about changes to a particular lawyer or firm’s practice, we will make adjustments on bull’s eye charts and rankings.
  • 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. Every year there seem to be new competitors who are in some cases tied with individual lawyers at established firms.

Select a Practice Area:
Source: 2018 Lexpert™/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada.

Lexpert® practice groups included in this category are:

  • Asset Securitization
  • Banking
  • Commodity Tax/Customs
  • Competition Law
  • Corporate Commercial Law
  • Corporate Finance & Securities
  • Corporate Tax
  • Derivative Instruments
  • Energy (Electricity)
  • Energy (Oil & Gas)
  • Insolvency & Financial Restructuring
  • Pensions & Employee Benefits
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Mining
  • Project Finance
Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Toronto

Many of Canada’s most important law firms are based in Toronto (although Calgary’s importance to law firms is high and continues to rise). Toronto is the financial centre of Canada, in much the same way as New York plays that role in the US. It is home to most key financial institutions and boasts the highest number of corporate head offices. A considerable portion of the corporate legal work in Canada as a whole is directed from Toronto.

Stikeman Elliott LLP is in the inner circle. Next are: Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP; Torys LLP; McCarthy Tétrault LLP; Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP; Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP; and Goodmans LLP. In the next circle, are Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP; Bennett Jones LLP; Borden Ladner Gervais LLP; Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP; McMillan LLP; Gowling WLG; Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP; and Aird & Berlis LLP.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Montréal

Stikeman Elliott is in the centre of the bull’s-eye chart this year with McCarthy Tétrault second. Fasken Martineau; Davies Ward; Osler; and Norton Rose complete that circle. In the next circle are Blakes; BLG; Dentons; Lavery, de Billy, L.L.P.; Gowling WLG, and McMillan.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Vancouver

Blakes is Vancouver’s leading corporate law firm this year followed by McCarthy Tétrault; Lawson Lundell LLP; Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP; BLG; and Fasken Martineau. In the next circle, are Cassels Brock; Dentons; Stikeman Elliott; Norton Rose; and McMillan.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Calgary

Calgary is Canada’s energy Capital. Leading its corporate law practices this year is Bennett Jones; followed by Blakes; Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP; Osler; Stikeman Elliott. and Norton Rose. In the next circle are Torys; Dentons; and BLG.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Regina

McDougall Gauley LLP leads in Regina, followed closely by MLT Aikins LLP; and Miller Thomson LLP. Kanuka Thuringer LLP and McKercher LLP come next.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Winnipeg

MLT Aikins leads in Manitoba’s capital with Fillmore Riley LLP second and Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP third. Following them are Pitblado LLP, then Taylor McCaffrey LLP.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Halifax

McInnes Cooper and Stewart McKelvey are tied in the lead, followed by Cox & Palmer third. Wickwire Holm; BOYNECLARKE LLP; and Pink Larkin complete the rankings.