Here are the leading commercial arbitration lawyers in Canada based on the results of Lexpert’s extensive yearly peer review. Find out who else made the full list of the country’s most recommended lawyers and law firms in the field in our practice area rankings.
In our survey, commercial arbitration involves advising and advocating with respect to contractual provisions for arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR), advising as to appropriate arbitration rules and procedures and conducting arbitration either ad hoc or under the rules of key arbitration institutions. As an alternative to litigation, commercial arbitration cuts across almost every area of law and business activity, including banking, intellectual property, insurance, engineering, construction and infrastructure projects, agreements for joint development of natural resources and financial and capital markets.
Most frequently recommended commercial arbitration lawyers
Year called to the Bar: 1983
Pierre Bienvenu is a senior partner at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP and the global co-head of international arbitration at Norton Rose Fulbright. He has more than 30 years of experience in international arbitration, corporate and commercial litigation and constitutional law. Bienvenu has acted as counsel and served as arbitrator in numerous international arbitrations involving disputes in telecommunications, aeronautics, joint ventures, construction, mergers and acquisitions and foreign investment. He has also appeared before the courts of Québec, the Federal Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) and participated in numerous challenges to the constitutional validity of provincial and federal legislation. His SCC experience includes representing government bodies, institutions and individuals in a range of constitutional and commercial law disputes, including the attorney-general of Canada in the landmark Reference re Secession of Québec. Bienvenu also represents parties in court proceedings to enforce or set aside arbitral awards. He is a former co-chair of the Indigenous Bar Association’s Arbitration Committee and vice-president of the London Court of International Arbitration. Bienvenu currently serves as alternate member of the International Criminal Court. He is also a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and is fluent in English and French.
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Year called to the Bar: 1967 (ON); 1966 (England & Wales); 1985 (YT)
Ian Binnie is considered one of Canada’s top commercial arbitration lawyers. He has served as a justice at the Supreme Court of Canada for nearly 14 years and is a currently a counsel at Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP. Binnie has authored more than 170 opinions on landmark cases involving issues of patent interpretation and validity, protection of trademarks, media law, commercial disputes, punitive damages, expert evidence, and many aspects of constitutional, criminal and administrative law. He draws not only on his judicial insights, but also his wealth of courtroom experience acquired over 30 years to become one of Canada's top litigators. Since returning to private practice, Binnie is regularly consulted by governments and private parties on a range of private and public law issues and carries on an active practice as a domestic and international arbitrator.
Year called to the Bar: 2000
Robert J.C. Deane is a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) and the national leader of the firm’s international trade and arbitration group. He practises in the areas of international and domestic commercial arbitration, commercial litigation, privacy law, intellectual property litigation and advertising and competition law. Deane has litigated in all levels of court, including at the Supreme Court of Canada. He has served as counsel on many significant arbitration proceedings in North America, Asia and Europe under many different institutional rules and in court litigation arising from such arbitration proceedings. Deane is a frequent speaker and author on topics ranging from electronic discovery to arbitration and privacy law.
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Year called to the Bar: 1991
Stephen L. Drymer is a partner at Woods LLP, where he also heads the international arbitration group. He is considered one of the best commercial arbitration lawyers in Canada. Drymer acts as counsel and serves as arbitrator and mediator in domestic and international commercial and investment treaty disputes. He is educated and trained in both the common and civil law. Drymer is fluent in French and English and has a working knowledge of Spanish. He has pleaded cases and served as mediator, party-appointed arbitrator and tribunal president in disputes in a wide range of industries, involving the laws of many jurisdictions. Drymer is also active in the resolution of sport-related disputes in Canada and before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. In addition to numerous professional associations in which he is active, Drymer is a member of the CAS list of arbitrators, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution Panel of Arbitrators and Mediators and the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission International Panel. He is also chair of the Arbitration Committee of International Criminal Court (ICC) in Canada and the Canadian National Committee of the ICC International Court of Arbitration.
Law firm: Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
Year called to the Bar: 2000 (ON); 2000 (New York); 2005 (QC)
Martin J. Valasek is a partner and the head of international arbitration at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP. He is considered among the top commercial arbitration lawyers in Canada. Valasek is a leading practitioner in international arbitration, with extensive experience in investor-state and commercial contract disputes. He regularly acts as counsel and sits as arbitrator. His experience covers a wide range of legal systems and industries, including aerospace, airport development, banking, construction, mining, energy, environmental remediation, pharmaceuticals, IT outsourcing, lotteries and steel manufacturing. Valasek has handled matters under the International Criminal Court, London Court of International Arbitration, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and United Nations Commission on International Trade Law rules, and other ad hoc and institutional rules. He also has extensive experience with investment disputes under bilateral investment treaties, North American Free Trade Agreement and the Energy Charter Treaty. Valasek has served as president of the Young Canadian Arbitration Practitioners from 2007 to 2010. He has also clerked for Justice Gonthier of the Supreme Court of Canada. Valasek is fluent in English, French and Czech and has a working knowledge of Spanish.
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Law firm: Woods LLP
Year called to the Bar: 1976 (QC); 1979 (ON); 2006 (AB ); 2007 (England & Wales); 2006 (BC); 2013 (Paris)
James A. Woods is a senior partner at Woods LLP. He specializes in litigation and arbitration and pleads at all levels of federal and provincial courts in Ontario and Québec, including the Supreme Court of Canada. Woods is an expert in the fields of bet-the-company litigation, class action litigation, corporate and commercial litigation, director and officer liability, legal malpractice law and securities law. He is member of the Faculty of Law and lecturer in civil litigation at McGill University. Woods is also a fellow on several legal professional organizations, including the American College of Trial Lawyers, Litigation Counsel of America, Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel, and CIA (London). He is also a member of the panel of arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association, Canadian Bar Association, Québec Bar Association, Law Society Ontario, Law Society of British Columbia, Law Society of Alberta, Law Society of England and Wales, American Bar Association, International Bar Association, London Court of International Arbitration, American Association for Justice and Canadian Commercial Arbitration Centre. Woods was discerned Advocatus Emeritus by Québec Bar in 2013. He has acted as attorney or arbitrator either as president or member of arbitration tribunal in commercial and international arbitrations, either ad hoc or ICC.
Consistently recommended commercial arbitration lawyers
Year called to the Bar: 1974
Sheila R. Block is a partner and the chair of the litigation and dispute resolution practice at Torys LLP. She is also a senior trial and appellate counsel with a broad civil litigation practice, which includes corporate, commercial and securities litigation, intellectual property, defamation and administrative law cases. Block has appeared as counsel on a wide range of cases before all levels of court in Canada and in international arbitrations and other tribunals. She is considered one of the best commercial arbitration lawyers in Canada. Block has taught advocacy in Canada, the US, England, Scotland, New Zealand and El Salvador.
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Law firm: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG)
Year called to the Bar: 2002
Craig R. Chiasson is a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s international arbitration group. He has extensive experience in domestic and international arbitration, focusing on commercial and investment arbitration, including as counsel and arbitrator. Chiasson’s arbitration experience includes cases seated around the world and governed by the substantive laws of many jurisdictions, including the UAE, England, France, Portugal, Iceland, Finland, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Albania, Turkey, Canada and the US. He also has a vast array of industry experience, including in the sectors of mining, power generation, pharmaceuticals, construction, joint ventures and shareholder disputes, and oil and gas.
Year called to the Bar: 1979
Pierre J. Dalphond serves as senior counsel at Stikeman Elliott LLP’s litigation and dispute resolution group. He is considered among Canada’s leading commercial arbitration lawyers. Dalphond is a chartered arbitrator, accredited mediator, former guest professor at the Faculty of Law of the Université de Montréal and former senior judge of the Québec Court of Appeal. His practice focuses on commercial arbitration and mediation and providing strategic advice in every field of law. Dalphond conducts internal investigations, provides neutral evaluations and acts as expert on Québec Law in foreign proceedings.
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Law firm: Glaholt Bowles LLP
Year called to the Bar: 1979
Duncan W. Glaholt is the founder of and a partner at Glaholt Bowles LLP. He is a fellow of the American and Canadian colleges of construction lawyers and of the International Academy of Construction Lawyers. Glaholt has also authored and co-authored several standard reference books on construction law and alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including Halsbury’s Laws of Canada Construction and Alternative Dispute Resolution, The Law of ADR in Canada: An Introductory Guide, Construction Builders’ and Mechanics Liens in Canada, Conduct of a Lien Action and The 2018 Annotated Ontario Construction Lien Act. Glaholt is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and has mediated and arbitrated a wide range of complex, multiparty construction industry disputes with particular focus on mining, energy and infrastructure, co-generation, nuclear power, power distribution systems, and conventional infrastructure and environmental projects.
Law firm: Torys LLP
Year called to the Bar: 1970
Frank Iacobucci joined Torys LLP as counsel in September 2004 after retiring as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He now serves as senior counsel in the firm. Iacobucci was chief justice of the Federal Court and deputy attorney-general for Canada prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court. He also began serving as interim president of the University of Toronto in September 2004 and assumed a full-time senior advisory role at Torys in July 2005. Iacobucci advises government and businesses on important legal and policy matters. He provides guidance, advice and support to the firm’s clients and members. Iacobucci has authored numerous publications and is a recipient of many awards and honours in Canada, the US, the UK and Italy.
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Year called to the Bar: 1958
John C. Major is a mediator and litigation consultant at Bennett Jones LLP. He is considered among Canada’s leading commercial arbitration lawyers. Major served as Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1992 to 2005 and the Alberta Court of Appeal from 1991 to 1992. His practice includes mediation, arbitration and consultation. Major was appointed to the Alberta Securities Commission as an independent member from 2006 to 2012. In 2006, he was appointed as commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the investigation of the bombing of Air India Flight 182, report released 2010. Major was also appointed a companion of the Order of Canada in July 2008. He is a member of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice and the Canadian Judges Conference and was appointed as Queen’s Counsel in 1972. Major is also the recipient of the Canadian Bar Association’s 2015 President’s Award, which recognizes the significant contribution of a Canadian jurist to the legal profession.
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Law firm: Woods LLP
Year called to the Bar: 1959
Joseph R. Nuss has been serving as a senior counsel at Woods LLP since 2009. Formerly a judge of the Québec Court of Appeal, he now acts as an independent arbitrator and mediator in matters of Canadian and international arbitration and mediation. Nuss also acts as counsel and has been retained as an expert on Québec law. He was appointed claims officer to decide unresolved disputes between creditors and the debtor company in the restructuring and reorganization of the AbitibiBowater group of companies under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and the liquidation of Penson Financial Services Canada under the Canada Business Corporations Act. Nuss is a lecturer on arbitration and mediation at national and international conferences, delivered a paper entitled “Public policy invoked as a ground for contesting the enforcement of an arbitral award or for seeking its annulment” published in Dispute Resolution International. He is also one of the authors of the chapter on arbitration in the annual LegisPratique: Code de procédure civile annoté. Nuss is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and member of Canadian Bar Association, International Bar Association, London Court of International Arbitration, International Centre for Dispute Resolution panel of arbitrators and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Committee. He is fluent in English and French and speaks Italian.
Law firm: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG)
Year called to the Bar: 1966
Dennis R. O’Connor serves as counsel at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Toronto office. He is also a member of Arbitration Place, Toronto and recognized as among Canada’s top commercial arbitration lawyers. O’Connor sat on the Court of Appeal for Ontario from 1998 to 2012. He also served as the associate chief justice of Ontario from 2001 until he retired at the end of 2012. While on the bench, O’Connor wrote numerous judgments dealing with a wide variety of issues, including public, criminal, commercial, securities and insurance law. He also conducted two successful public inquiries, namely the Walkerton Inquiry in 2000 to 2002 and the Maher Arar Inquiry in 2004 to 2006. Prior to his appointment at the Court of Appeal, O’Connor was senior counsel at Borden & Elliot, a predecessor firm of BLG, for 18 years. His practice focuses on commercial and public law litigation. O’Connor is an officer of the Order of Canada and appointed to the Order of Ontario. He is also the chair of Pro Bono Canada and a member of the board of directors of the Innocence Canada Foundation. O’Connor is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1980.
Law firm: Torys LLP
Year called to the Bar: 1991
John A. Terry is a partner at Torys LLP. He is recognized as among Canada’s leading commercial arbitration lawyers. His civil litigation practice focuses on public, business and international trade and investment law. Terry has appeared as counsel at all levels of court in Ontario, the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada and in commercial and investment arbitrations and before a variety of administrative tribunals. He regularly provides advice to corporations and federal, provincial and municipal governments on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization matters. He has acted for and advised major Canadian and multinational corporations in investor-state arbitrations under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. Terry has a significant practice in Aboriginal matters, with extensive experience in Aboriginal negotiations and on advising project developers and lenders on issues respecting the duty to consult with First Nations. He also regularly advises natural resource and energy companies on corporate social responsibility issues.
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Law firm: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG)
Year called to the Bar: 1984
Jeffrey D. Vallis is a partner and a member at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s construction, international trade and arbitration and international construction projects groups. He is considered one of the best commercial arbitration lawyers in Canada. Vallis devotes his practice to dispute resolution in the construction, engineering, manufacturing and industrial sectors. He has appeared as counsel at all levels of court in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the Supreme Court of Canada. Vallis acts as an arbitrator, primarily in construction matters. He is a fellow of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyers, the American College of Construction Lawyers and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a member of the Western Canada Commercial Arbitration Society. He is also a former instructor at University of Calgary’s Law School Trial Advocacy Program. Vallis was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004.
Year called to the Bar: 1996
Robert Wisner is a litigation partner and co-chair at McMillan LLP’s international arbitration group. He specializes in international dispute resolution and corporate litigation. Wisner has argued numerous cases before arbitral tribunals seated in venues throughout Canada, the US, Asia and Europe. He has also appeared at all levels of court in Ontario and other Canadian jurisdictions. Many of Wisner’s cases have involved matters of international law, including disputes relating to foreign investment protection, the jurisdiction of Canadian courts and the enforcement of arbitral awards and foreign judgments. He has also handled a wide range of disputes relating to corporate governance, shareholder remedies and complex commercial contracts, including mergers and acquisitions, joint venture, shareholder, supply and services agreements. Legal directories have consistently recognized Wisner’s work in international arbitration, cross-border business litigation and disputes relating to the global mining sector. Many of his clients are involved in the mining, energy, aviation, infrastructure or telecommunications sectors. Wisner has assisted clients seeking litigation financing and leading litigation funders conducting due diligence on potential claims.
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