The 2017 Who’s Who in Canadian Law Firms:
Serving Clients in Canada, the US, and Globally

By Jean Cumming, Editor-in-Chief


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 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 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 2016 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 2016 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 2016 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 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.

This year, we have included “Lawyers to Watch” in their respective practice areas. They will have this status for one year. These lawyers were Finalists or Winners in last year’s “Lexpert Rising Stars: Leading Lawyers Under 40” Awards program. Those who were already Lexpert-ranked in their practice area are shown as ranked, rather than as “Lawyers to Watch”. 


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.
  • 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:

  • 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. Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP is next. Then come McCarthy Tétrault LLP; Torys LLP; Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP; Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP; Goodmans LLP; and Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. In the next circle are Bennett Jones LLP; Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP; McMillan LLP; Borden Ladner Gervais 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. Then come Davies Ward, Fasken Martineau; and Osler; followed by Norton Rose. In the next circle are Blakes; BLG; Dentons Canada LLP; Lavery, de Billy, L.L.P. then Gowlings WLG.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Vancouver

Blakes is Vancouver’s leading corporate law firm this year with McCarthy Tétrault; Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP; and Lawson Lundell LLP following closely. Next are BLG; Stikeman Elliott; Dentons; Norton Rose; Fasken Martineau; Cassels Brock; and McMillan LLP.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Calgary

Calgary is Canada’s energy capital and home to the second-largest number of major head offices in the country. Leading its corporate practices this year is Bennett Jones; followed by Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP; Blakes; Osler; Norton Rose. Then come Stikeman Elliott; Dentons; Torys; McCarthy Tétrault; and BLG.

Corporate Lawyers Who’s Who: Regina

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

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 is first this year, with Stewart McKelvey a close second, followed by Cox & Palmer third. Wickwire Holm and BOYNECLARKE LLP complete the rankings.