2015 Rising Stars Award Winners


Nikki Charlton, Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP

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Nikki Charlton first joined the firm as a summer articling student in 2002, where she was pulled into a high-stakes divorce case. It quickly became apparent that Nikki would be instrumental in developing a distinguished matrimonial law group at Farris. She offers services from either a collaborative or litigation approach, depending on client needs. Her practice primarily focuses on complex property division and support, guardianship and mobility disputes. She’s an exceptional litigator and astute dealmaker, who is effective at keeping high-profile clients’ business out of the news and finding tax-effective solutions to settlements involving complex corporate structures and trusts. Serving on the board of the BC Collaborative Roster Society, she was instrumental in developing a pro bono collaborative project for parties going through separation who cannot afford lawyers.

Conor Chell, Suncor Energy Inc

Conor Chell handles some of Suncor’s most complex safety, environmental and regulatory issues, dealing with virtually all compliance matters and regulatory investigations. He frequently addresses matters of compliance with environmental operating approvals, groundwater and surface water monitoring, reclamation and conservation of land and emissions regulations. He works with Suncor’s regulatory approvals group in developing strategy and drafting applications for some of the largest energy projects in Canada. During a very tragic year for Suncor in 2014, Conor was responsible for leading internal investigations into four fatalities and several serious workplace injuries to determine causes and establish corrective actions. Outside work, he acts as a golf coach for Calgary Special Olympics, organizes an annual Christmas toy drive for Ronald McDonald House and has volunteered as a law lecturer at the University of Calgary.

Jonathan Cullen, Pfizer Canada Inc.

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Jonathan Cullen is Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Pfizer Canada, with litigation responsibilities over more than 25 different products with combined sales and exposure of more than $1 billion. Recent matters have included defending a challenge to the Viagra patent before the Supreme Court of Canada; defending the Celebrex patent at the Federal Court of Appeal; and defending Lipitor against a class action in Canada. His deal-making responsibilities include leading negotiations for exclusive commercialization rights to Monofer in Canada and acting as lead Canadian counsel in the spin-off of Zoetis Canada, a veterinary drug company with global revenues of $4.3 billion in 2012. In honour of his son, Tristan, Jon volunteers at Montreal Children’s Hospital and serves on the board of West Island Association.

Vincent de l'Étoile, Langlois Kronstrom Desjardins LLP

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Vincent de l’Étoile focuses on civil and commercial litigation with expertise in class actions, product liability and consumer law. His recent work includes a leading role in the defence of Desjardins in a series of class actions in five provinces regarding credit-card acceptance fees and alleged Competition Act infringements, with potential impact on payment practices; acting as co-counsel before the Supreme Court of Canada in Marcotte v. Fédération des caisses Desjardins du Québec, a class action involving compliance with the Consumer Protection Act, foreign-exchange conversion fees charged under revolving-credit agreements and a constitutional challenge of Québec legislation; and acting in CNH Canada Ltd. v. Promutuel Lac St-Pierre - Les Forges, which revisited insurers’ subrogatory rights against a manufacturer. Vincent is a member of the subcommittee on the Fonds d’aide aux recours collectifs of the Québec Bar Class Action Committee.

Nancy Diep, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

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Nancy Diep is a tax partner who works with resourcesector clients, advising on third-party transactions, complex internal reorganizations and audits. She has led tax-structuring advice on several high-profile transactions, including Trinidad Drilling Ltd.’s $505-million merger with CanElson Drilling Inc.; the privatization of Platino Energy Corp. by Denham Capital Management LP; Jupiter Resources’ $2-billion acquisition of Encana’s Bighorn properties; Petrobank Energy’s share-for-share merger with Touchstone Exploration Inc.; ExxonMobil Canada’s $3.1-billion acquisition of Celtic Exploration; and Charger Energy Corp.’s amalgamation with Pace Oil & Gas Ltd. and AvenEx Energy Corp. She has counselled major pension plans on the acquisition of oil and gas working interests and advised on major tax-dispute matters. Nancy serves on the board of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, where she focuses on youth outreach programs.