The 2019 Who’s Who in Canadian Law Firms:

Serving Clients in Canada, the US, and Globally

By Jean Cumming, Editor-in-Chief


The bull’s eye charts here have been updated since they were first published in December 2018 in The Lexpert®/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada. This update reflects many transfers of ranked lawyers from one firm to another since that time.

We maintain strict separation between editorial (which includes the Surveys and Rankings), and advertising. The names of all lawyers, which result from the survey conducted by Lexpert®, are published at no charge whether or not they or their firms purchase advertising in any of our publications.

Lawyers advertising and communicating regarding Lexpert® rankings and awards, should follow their governing law societ(ies)’ rules and regulations concerning advertising, communications, and third party rankings and awards. Compliance with these rules and regulations is the sole responsibility of lawyer and entity members of their governing law societ(ies).

Being ranked in a Lexpert® publication one year does not guarantee that a lawyer or firm will be ranked the following year. We conduct annual Surveys and there is significant change, from one year to the next, in the subsequent Rankings.


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 2019 edition of The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory and its sister publication, The 2019 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 for the bull’s-eye charts is as follows:

  • 1.5 points for each lawyer in the “Most Frequently Recommended” tier in any of the relevant practice areas in the 2019 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 2019 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 2019 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 2018, Lexpert® made 15,793 requests for completed surveys from lawyers at law firms, and 7,016 additional requests were sent to corporate counsel. We received 12,501 completed surveys from law firm practitioners representing a response rate of 79.16 per cent. Our response rate from corporate counsel was 1.20 per cent.

An Evolving Approach

In keeping with extensive consultations conducted with stakeholders in 2018, Lexpert® has revised certain of 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 2019, 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: The Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory 2019 

Lexpert® practice groups included in this category are:

  • Class Actions
  • Insolvency & Financial Restructuring
  • Litigation — Commercial Insurance
  • Litigation — Corporate Commercial
  • Litigation — Corporate Tax
  • Litigation — Directors' & Officers' Liability
  • Litigation — Securities
  • Medical Negligence
  • Product Liability
  • Professional Liability
Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Toronto
Lexpert® presents here the crowded space of Toronto litigation firms: boutiques and large firms compete across the bull’s-eye chart. Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP, a large litigation boutique in Toronto, leads the list.
Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Montréal
Here also, boutiques, regional, national, and even international firms compete in a crowded marketplace of litigators. Stikeman Elliott LLP hits the centre of the bull’s-eye chart.
Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Vancouver
Fasken is in the centre of the bull’s eye chart. Followed by Harper Grey LLP; Nathanson, Schachter & Thompson LLP; McEwan Partners; McCarthy Tétrault; Bennett Jones; Blakes; BLG and Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP. In the next circle are Farris; Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP; Norton Rose; and Dentons.
Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Calgary
Gowling WLG is in the centre of the bull’s-eye chart. Then comes Bennett Jones; Osler; Peacock Linder Halt & Mack LLP. Next come Blakes and BLG. Norton Rose; Rose LLP; Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer; Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes LLP; and McCarthy Tétrault complete the chart.
Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Regina
McDougall Gauley leads among litigation firms in Saskatchewan. MLT Aikins is second, followed by Kanuka Thuringer; McKercher and Miller Thomson.
Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Winnipeg
MLT Aikins is in the centre of the bull’s-eye chart; Fillmore Riley, then Thompson Dorfman Sweatman follow. In the next circle are Pitblado; Marr Finlayson Pollock LLP; Hill Sokalski Walsh Olson LLP; Taylor McCaffrey.
Litigation Lawyers Who’s Who: Halifax
McInnes Cooper leads, followed by Stewart McKelvey; Cox & Palmer; and Blois, Nickerson & Bryson LLP. Patterson Law; Wagners - A Serious Injury Law Firm complete the chart.