Boutique Firm Rankings

Monday, 05 May 2014 08:00

Facing challenges head on - Part 2

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2014_May_immigration.jpgThis article is a continuation of 'Facing Challenges head on' from the May 2014 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine.

Click here to read part 1.
Monday, 05 May 2014 08:00

Facing challenges head on - Part 1

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2014_May_litigation.jpgLitigation boutiques face increasingly stiff competition from each other as well as from larger firms; those named in Canadian Lawyer’s Top 10 have proven themselves in a field with many high performing players. In a crowded market, top litigation boutiques cannot afford to offer services falling anything short of excellent says Matthew Gottlieb, managing partner at one of this year’s winners, Lax O’Sullivan Scott Lisus LLP. “There’s no doubt litigation is becoming more competitive,” he says. But “large businesses are bringing very significant mandates to the boutiques,” he adds.
Monday, 13 January 2014 08:00

Shifting sands - part 1

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2014_90427567.jpgA slew of government pronouncements on everything from strike laws to arbitration rules are helping to keep Canada’s labour and employment boutiques busy. “Every time governments make changes, that creates work for labour and employment lawyers,” says Kuretzky Vassos Henderson LLP senior partner Barry Kuretzky.

Monday, 13 January 2014 08:00

Shifting sands - part 2

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2014_128049749.jpgThis article is a continuation of 'Shifting Sands' from the January 2014 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine.

Click here to read part 1.
Monday, 08 April 2013 08:00

Hot competition - part 2

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2013_April_thumbs-up_blue.jpgThis article is a continuation of 'Hot competition' from the April 2013 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine.
Click here to read part 1.
Monday, 01 April 2013 11:15

Hot competition - part 1

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2013_April_thumbs-up_blue.jpgLong before they get to court, personal injury boutiques face a foe every bit as tough as the stingiest of insurers: each other. “It’s very competitive, and it’s going to become even more so,” says Alan Farrer, managing partner of Thomson Rogers in Toronto. His firm recently teamed up with fellow boutiques Oatley Vigmond Personal Injury Lawyers LLP and McLeish Orlando LLP to form the Personal Injury Alliance.
Monday, 14 January 2013 08:00

Drilling down - part 2

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2013_January_thumbs-up.jpgThis article is a continuation of "Drilling down" from the January 2013 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine. Click here to read part 1.
Monday, 07 January 2013 08:00

Drilling down - part 1

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2013_January_thumbs-up.jpgIn days gone by, an insurance defence firm may have sounded like a pretty niche outfit. But as boutiques in the area enter a second generation, they’re drilling down to even more precise specializations in order to stand out from the crowd. Most of the firms that made our list this year now have at least two decades of experience behind them, many after breaking away from larger, full-service firms. “It’s a mature market, and it’s not a new area of law, so the gross revenue is not increasing dramatically,” says Eric Dolden, co-founder of Vancouver firm Dolden Wallace Folick LLP. “You’re always going to have your auto cases and house fires, but that’s kind of static. The growth is in new areas where you couldn’t get insurance 10 years ago.”
Monday, 02 April 2012 09:03

Looking to the future — part 1

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Canada’s litigation boutiques are looking to the future. Finding a firm with the right mix of experienced and emerging talent was a recurring theme in this year’s top boutiques search, and some of our winners have been the most successful at striking that balance, proving that succession planning works at firms of all sizes.
“A number of boutiques in Canadian legal history have started with great strength, but have been unable, or simply unwilling, to carry it on. Sometimes people don’t want to and it lasts as long as the careers of founders,” says Tom Curry, a partner at Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP — a firm he says has shown a commitment to outlasting the five name partners who departed McCarthy Tétrault LLP in 1992 to go it alone and start the firm. “From the beginning, people have been attracted here by the reputations of the lawyers, and it remains true, because we’ve been able to duplicate that strength in the younger generations. I’m fascinated by the challenge of maintaining the strength over the long term, and I find one of the things that really adds to my law practice is the opportunity to develop other people and pass along things,” says Curry.
And while litigation boutiques have been able to thrive in the shadows of their full-service counterparts, sweeping up referrals on the largely conflict-free sidelines, they aren’t afraid to go up against Bay Street in the market for the hottest new litigators.
Randy Kaardal, a senior partner at Hunter Litigation Chambers in Vancouver, says his firm has no problem recruiting the top candidates out of law school, including those who’ve had clerkships at the Supreme Court of Canada and other appellate courts across the country. “They get to see our people before those courts and get a sense of the type of files that we are on, which tend to be interesting and exciting to be a part of,” he says.
At the same time, Kaardal says the big-firm history of Hunters’ senior litigators has been crucial, allowing the firm to develop a style that some of their larger corporate clients will recognize. “Clients that are involved in sophisticated litigation expect the work product to look a certain way. We have that capacity, so it’s relatively seamless when we’re referred by one of the large commercial law firms,” he says.
And ex-Big Law partners aren’t confined to the litigation field. Barbara Jo Caruso left Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in 2006 to form Corporate Immigration Law Firm with Gowlings immigration consultant Harry Goslett, although the pair didn’t move physically too far from their old digs. “When we branched out, having a Bay Street address was important, because it provided us with a certain amount of credibility with existing clients that were prepared to deal with us outside of the national law firm. Some were concerned that we didn’t just set up in our basements, and do the work there,” she says.
Caruso says lawyer referrals have helped the firm flourish since its founding. “I think other firms feel comfortable referring to a boutique knowing we’re not going to take their employment or their real estate work, or forget where the file came from,” she says.
Few large law firms place an emphasis on business immigration, which has left plenty of room for boutiques in the marketplace. One of the largest players in the market is Egan LLP, an affiliate of accounting giant Ernst & Young, which also made our list. Another EY affiliate, Couzin Taylor LLP, is on our tax law boutique list, where accounting firm affiliates are a growing player in the market.
But Brent Perry, a partner at Alberta-based tax firm Felesky Flynn LLP, says there will always be a place for boutiques like his, with no professional services firm affiliation, because of the certainty they can offer over solicitor-client privilege, especially in an era of heightened scrutiny from the Canada Revenue Agency. “We’re seeing an increased level of appetite for challenge by CRA, even for transactions that may have been previously blessed by them. That in turn leads to a higher degree of sensitivity of solicitor-client privilege,” he says.
Matthew Williams, a partner at Thorsteinssons LLP in Toronto, says tax law is particularly well suited to a boutique environment because the area’s reputation for being extremely complicated is well earned. He says the concentration of expertise benefits practitioners as well as clients. “We think size matters. It’s a very specialized area and if you’ve got lots of people with decades of experience, you’ll have a lot of it covered. I would be terrified to work in a place with just two or three people doing tax,” he says.
Canadian Lawyer’s editorial team began the process of selecting Canada’s top five tax and business immigration (both areas for the first time) firms and top 10 litigation boutiques by creating a short list of the most notable firms in their respective fields. We ran a short online survey and from there, we drew on the experience of in-house counsel and large-firm lawyers who refer work to these boutiques, conducting a series of confidential interviews to identify the cream of the crop. That input was used to compile the following results, listed in alphabetical order.
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2012_April_thumbs_up_green_3d.jpgCanada’s litigation boutiques are looking to the future. Finding a firm with the right mix of experienced and emerging talent was a recurring theme in this year’s top boutiques search, and some of our winners have been the most successful at striking that balance, proving that succession planning works at firms of all sizes.
Monday, 02 April 2012 08:45

Looking to the future — part 2

Written by
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2012_April_thumbs_up_green_3d.jpgThis article is a continuation of "Looking to the future" from the April 2012 issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine. Click here to read part one.
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