The Top 25 Most Influential

  • Subtitle: Cover Story
Written by  Posted Date: August 6, 2012
The Top 25 Most InfluentialThe popular Canadian Lawyer Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession in Canada is back for the third year. The Top 25 was one of our most-read, and most commented-on, features in both 2010 and 2011. As expected, not everyone agrees with our choices, but it is always worthwhile to get our readers into a debate on such matters. This year, we used the same format as in 2011 asking for nominations from legal groups and associations representing a variety of memberships and locations; winners on last year’s Top 25 list; our general readership; and our internal panel of writers and editors. We received about 75 nominations, which the internal panel then whittled down to just over 50 candidates. We then posted the list online and once again asked our readers to participate, with just under 700 people voting in the poll. The final list is based on that poll with input and the last word from the internal panel.

The Top 25 Most Influential is not just about bright stars, big deals, or number of media mentions — although those may play a part. We have endeavoured to select lawyers who have been influential within the profession as well as Canadian society over the last 18 months. Closing a high-worth deal, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact beyond that particular business or industry. The Top 25 is about a level of respect, the ability to influence public opinion, and help shape the laws of this country; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; and social and political influence and involvement. It can include politicians and regulators who are lawyers.

Once again, we split the list up into five areas of influence, changing them slightly from last year, and have chosen the top five in each of: corporate-commercial law; changemakers; criminal and human rights law; government, associations, and non-profits including public inquiries and officers of Parliament; and outliers, a catch-all category for anyone who’s a lawyer and has been influential over the past 18 months but doesn’t fit into the other categories. Nominees were put in the category in which the individual exercised their influence in the time period.

Some of last year’s winners are back, such as law professor Alan Young, criminal lawyer Joseph Arvay, the University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist, Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, as well as Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and outgoing Competition Commissioner Melanie Aitken. This year’s list also sees new movers and shakers including Alberta Premier Alison Redford, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, and a group of highly respected changemakers. We were also pleased this year to get a number of nominations from the aboriginal community with Rama, Ont., lawyer Dianne Corbiere making the list for her work in advocating for the cause of First Nations.

So without further ado, here are the 2012 Top 25 Most Influential. They are listed with the top vote getter in each category first, followed by the others in alphabetical order.

Disagree with the choices? Did we miss someone obvious? Leave your comments below or e-mail it to We’ll be doing it all again next year.

Corporate-Commercial Law

Photo: Sandra Strangemore
Photo: Sandra Strangemore
Chief Justice Warren Winkler
Chief Justice, Ontario Court of Appeal, Toronto

The straight-talking Ontario chief justice is now handling a massive Nortel Networks Corp. mediation, once again setting the bar in areas of corporate-commercial law. Winkler was appointed chief justice of Ontario in 2007, following 11 years with the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division) and three years as regional senior judge for Toronto region. Winkler has spent much of his career on the bench pushing for improved access to fair, timely, and affordable civil litigation in the justice system and he continues to fight that battle. As he kicked off the mediation over the distribution of Nortel’s almost $9 billion in assets in April, he reminded a room full of bankruptcy lawyers that their aim should be on getting as much of that to creditors, including the company’s pensioners, rather than frittering it all away on long-term litigation. And as Winkler heads toward retirement, plans are already underway to continue his legacy by establishing the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution and the Winkler Chair in Dispute Resolution at Osgoode Hall Law School.

What voters had to say: “Simply the most impressive judge in the country.”

The Top 25 Most InfluentialChristopher Du Vernet
Du Vernet Stewart, Mississauga, Ont.

Christopher Du Vernet led the charge to create the new tort of intrusion upon seclusion as counsel to plaintiff Sandra Jones in Jones v. Tsige. The Court of Appeal described the new tort as: “One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the invasion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.” This decision will have far-reaching effects in many areas of Canadian law including privacy, labour and employment, and even family law. While it is unclear how the courts will interpret this new tort, it also creates a huge potential for class actions because economic loss or harm are not required to be proven.

What the panel had to say: “Du Vernet led the case to appeal despite an earlier loss in the Superior Court. It was a case that had been making waves in legal circles for some time and will affect many lawyers’ files.”

The Top 25 Most InfluentialYves Fortier
International arbitrator, Montreal

In one of the biggest moves in the corporate-commercial law world in the past year, Yves Fortier, a Rhodes Scholar, decided after about 50 years of service to leave his longtime firm Ogilvy Renault LLP (now Norton Rose Canada LLP) to strike out on his own. He is one of a growing number of international arbitrators who are going it alone in order to avoid the conflicts inherent in being part of a major law firm. In May, the former ambassador to the United Nations was named chairman of the World Bank’s sanctions board, an appeal tribunal for contested cases involving corruption. He was also instrumental in the launch of Arbitration Place in Toronto, the first centre for international arbitration in the city.

What voters had to say: “What a remarkable career Yves has had!”

The Top 25 Most InfluentialDimitri Lascaris
Partner, Siskinds LLP, London, Ont.

Lascaris is one of Canada’s most prominent plaintiff class action lawyers. He is the leader of Siskinds’ securities class actions team which, in 2010, recovered more settlement money for plaintiffs in securities class actions than any other law firm in Canada. His input and opinion is sought after by news outlets across the country and he was recently on The Lang & O’Leary Exchange to talk about the recent lawsuit against SNC-Lavalin. He is a member of the OSC Continuous Disclosure Advisory Committee and is on the board of directors for the Unity Project for the Relief of Homelessness in London.

What voters had to say: “Dimitri’s practice has significantly impacted the way that boards and companies make decisions about how they govern their affairs. He has filled a significant void in enforcement of securities legislation in Canada, and for that reason he stands head and shoulders above these other nominees.”

Justice Paul Perell
Judge, Ontario Superior Court, Toronto

The Top 25 Most InfluentialJustice Paul Perell manages many of the most prominent class action files in
the country and is shaping the field through his judgments, including a
number of controversial decisions such as his recent order that a defendant must file a defence before the certification of a class action. His decisions have caused significant controversy among the class action bar but they are setting out guidelines that will affect the future of practice in this area in Canada for years to come and thus will also have a huge impact on the Canadian public and its ability to get relief through the Class Proceedings Act.

What the panel had to say: “Whether you agree with his decisions or not, and many don’t, Justice Perell is making big waves in the area of class action litigation.”

Next: Top 5 Changemakers
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 Next > End >>
(Page 1 of 5)

Add comment


0 # StudentSiva 2012-11-03 19:59
Where is Clayton Ruby or Barbara Jackman
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # StudentRavi 2012-08-20 11:03
Geist's name in the list represents a credible recognition to public voice and open debate. His insights and objective comments on important IP and IT policy issues made his Blog an enlightening place to revisit. Many Congratulations!
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+4 # RE: The Top 25 Most InfluentialGraeme Mitchell 2012-08-08 16:11
Curious that four of these individual currently hold judicial office. By virtue of being judges these individuals are no longer lawyers and should not be included in this roster. It is also disappointing that no lawyers from Manitoba, Saskatchewan or the Maritime Provinces are included. There are many lawyers doing important advocacy in those jurisdictions. A more representative list should be compiled in future.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # LawyerMelinda Munro 2012-08-07 17:50
So there are no influential lawyers east of Montreal? There are no francophone influential lawyers and there are no influential lawyers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan?
The contest is obviously Toronto-centric so why not call it that or don't have winners in a year where you don't get a reasonable distribution of nominations?
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+3 # Social WorkerBarb Dorrington 2012-08-08 09:52
They live where they live. I do not think it is an issue of where people reside at all. Perhaps next year you can recommend some nominees. Lots of selected lawyers were from one could call the contest Ottawa-centric, if one expands on your thinking. Really, these people all did great things and should be in the spotlight. Well deserved nominees and make Canada a better place to be! Hopefully next year, we will find other equally strong candidates and they will get their turn to be recognized.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
Gail J. Cohen

One of Canada’s most experienced and respected legal journalists, Gail J. Cohen is the former editor in chief of Canadian Lawyer and Law Times, who was responsible for the editorial direction of all the publications in the group, which also includes Candian Lawyer InHouse, Canadian Lawyer 4Students, and the daily Legal Feeds blog. Gail has covered the legal profession in Canada as a reporter and editor since 1997, which had put her in a prime position to access and engage thought leaders in the regulatory, legal, and business realms. Canadian Lawyer and its editorial team have been the recipients of many journalism awards and their publications are highly respected throughout the legal profession in Canada and abroad.

Latest Videos

More Canadian Lawyer TV...

Digital Editions