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Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s employment group sits ‘right at the top of the field’, with its ability to provide ‘the focus and expertise of a specialized boutique, with the reach and complementary resources of a national, full-service firm’. Other notable plus points include its ‘quick turnaround and response times’, ‘results-oriented approach’ and ‘client-focused pricing model’. Drawing upon 60 lawyers across Canada, the national labour and employment group spans the full spread of employment, labour relations, human rights, occupational health and safety, and privacy-related matters. The group fields a ‘rock star team in Montreal’, which includes Robert Bonhomme — widely regarded as the foremost authority in employment and labour law in Quebec — and Danny Kaufer, who is admired for his negotiation and arbitration expertise. Matthew Certosimo is a sought-after employment litigator in Toronto. Other key contacts include national lead AndrĂ© Royer, who has a ‘great legal mind and strong strategic problem-solving skills’, and the ‘exceptionally client-oriented’ Katherine Poirier — both are in Montreal.

FASKEN’s 100-lawyer strong national practice maintains four distinct sub-groups dedicated to federal, provincial, continental and international work and, within those areas, the team excels in all the key pillars of employment and labour law. The team’s litigation prowess particularly impresses and it secured a string of Supreme Court appearances over the past year; most notably, Montreal-based Louis Bernier Ad E represented the Quebec Attorney General in appealing a judgment invalidating certain provisions of the Quebec Pay Equity Act. Toronto-based senior partners Brian Burkett and Douglas Gilbert remain key figures in the practice and, alongside Toronto-based Karen Sargeant, provide ongoing advice to Air Canada on various strategic matters, including collective agreement arbitrations and labour relations board proceedings. The firm also provides ongoing labour advice to Canada Post — Burkett and Toronto-based John Craig lead that work. Other recommended names include StĂ©phane Fillion and Robert Dupont in Montreal, Ian Campbell and Brian Smeenk in Toronto, and Vancouver-based Kevin O’Neill QC.

Satisfied clients of Norton Rose Fulbright assert it is ‘simply the best for employment law’, with the group’s ‘great 24/7 availability’, ‘exceptional knowledge’ and ‘collaborative rather than a one-size-fits-all approach’ standing out as distinguishing factors. The comprehensive national team, which comprises over 80 lawyers, is routinely engaged across the full spread of collective bargaining, compliance, health and safety, and contentious matters, for both private and public sector employers. Toronto-based global employment head Richard J. Charney is ’extremely knowledgeable and simply the best at what he does’; he successfully represented a client in a judicial review application. Among its Montreal highlights, François CĂŽté represented a client in a grievance arbitration concerning a subcontracting issue and Michel G. Carle advised a client in a judicial review application seeking to quash a tribunal decision holding that its first-level managers could unionize. Luc Beaulieu is also senior name in Montreal, and Herb Isherwood and Timothy D. Mitchell are key contacts in Vancouver and Calgary respectively.

Ontario employment boutique Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP has well-staffed platforms in Toronto, London and Hamilton and, as the single Canadian member of L&E Global (an alliance of employers’ counsel worldwide), it also garners a significant volume of multi-jurisdictional employment and labour matters. The firm continued to invest in its team over the past year and made three notable hires: Sarah Crossley and Ashley Brown joined the Toronto office from Littler Mendelson, P.C. and Sherrard Kuzz LLP respectively, while Rusty McLay, who was formerly in-house at Conestoga College, joined in London. James Knight, who splits his time between Toronto and Hamilton, is highly regarded for his deep experience in collective bargaining negotiations and complex litigation. Toronto-based senior partner Roy Filion QC is a ‘doyen of the employment bar’.

Vancouver-headquartered Harris & Company ranks ‘among the best employment practices in British Columbia’, according to many. The sizeable boutique’s focus on Western Canada pays dividends and it is a popular choice for SMEs through to large corporations across the region — it also undertakes a significant volume of work for public sector clients. In addition, the firm’s partnership with Ontario’s Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP awards it a broader national presence. Among the names to note, Eric Harris QC ‘remains at the top of his game’ and is highly regarded for complex disputes, while managing partner Colin Gibson is widely respected for his niche expertise in the education sector. Geoffrey Litherland, associate counsel Gavin Hume QC and senior litigator Nazeer Mitha are also recommended.

Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP has over 120 lawyers dedicated to human resources across its five Ontario bases and is considered by some to be ‘the most prominent employment boutique in the country’. The department’s expertise encompasses the full scope of labour and employment matters, including consultancy issues, labour relations and litigation — it also provides supplementary offerings in human rights, occupational health, pay equity and data security issues. Toronto-based managing partner Stephen Shamie (‘few understand the nuances of employment law like him’) recently teamed up with Toronto-based counsel Sean Sells — and Geoffrey Litherland from affiliate firm Harris & Company — to represent the Canadian Football League in a high-profile case, which upheld a lower court decision concluding it did not have jurisdiction to hear claims brought against the Canadian Football League relating to concussions alleged to have occurred to a former professional football player.

Roper Greyell LLP, which acts for some of the largest private and public sector employers in British Columbia, sits squarely among Canada’s leading employment boutiques. From its Vancouver base, the firm handles a broad scope of contentious and non-contentious employment, labour and human rights matters, with employment litigation the mainstay of the practice. The key contacts are: Thomas Roper QC, who is recognized as one of the most experienced employment experts in the country; Delayne Sartison QC, who brings to bear a strong track record in health sector labour relations; and seasoned litigator Gregory Heywood. Jennifer Devins is highlighted for her growing reputation in the human rights area.

Baker McKenzie’s employment team earns rave reviews for its ‘unmatched client service’, ‘strong knowledge in the area of union drives’ and ‘ability to really understand the client’s business’. Group chair George Avraam, who provides ’knowledgeable legal advice tailored to the client’s culture’, successfully represented Olympus Canada in a complex case stemming from a wrongful dismissal claim. Managing partner Kevin Coon (‘particularly proactive’), litigator William Watson (‘expert in handling unionization campaigns for employers’) and Christopher Burkett are also key names.

Bennett Jones LLP’s group, which is ‘highly business-oriented’ and ‘always quick to respond’ handles a mix of consultancy, corporate support and contentious work. Calgary-based John Gilmore jointly heads the practice and is advising ATCO Electric on all employment aspects of the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line project. In Toronto, the ‘very professional and knowledgeable’ Carl Cunningham advised Gateway Casinos & Entertainment on the employment aspects of its C$200m acquisition of two bundles of casinos from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and related financing matters.

‘Consistently outstanding’, DLA Piper (Canada) LLP distinguishes itself through its ‘excellent precision’ and ability to ‘practically apply its strong legal knowledge’. Led jointly by Vancouver-based Allen Soltan (‘instils confidence through tailored guidance and new insights’) and Toronto-based Richard Nixon, the group also includes Calgary-based senior specialist Michael Ford QC, who is ‘pragmatic, with a great depth of experience and comprehensive knowledge’. The firm was recently instructed by Imperial Oil to defend it in an application made by an engineer before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal — Nixon led that work.

Lawson Lundell LLP’s labour, employment and human rights practice is well known for its coverage of the mining, construction, education, forestry and hospitality sectors. Group head Robert Sider handles both employment and labour law, with strong expertise in transactional, contentious and consultancy matters. Senior counsel Patricia Gallivan QC is also a key contact. Recent work includes Sider and Deborah Cushing advising Sweden-based Dometic on the Canadian employment aspects of its $875m acquisition of SeaStar Solutions.

National employment boutique Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark LLP, which is the sole Canadian member of global HR law firm network Ius Laboris, benefits from six platforms spread across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia. In Toronto, managing partner Mark Conti is widely acknowledged as a leading light for labour relations and is highly sought after for collective bargaining and grievance arbitration. Other key contacts include Keith Murray, who splits his time between Calgary and Vancouver, and Toronto-based Richard Baldwin.

McCarthy TĂ©trault handles a wide spectrum of transactional matters, day-to-day employment and labour issues, and litigation. Toronto’s Tim Lawson heads the national group and is advising new Crown corporation Canadian Infrastructure Bank on all employment issues related to its establishment, including policy and hiring matters. Up-and-coming partner Trevor Lawson, also based in Toronto, advises Ontario Lottery and Gaming on its labour and employment work, including acting as its chief spokesperson on the negotiation of collective agreements affecting more than 1,500 employees. Toronto group lead Sunil Kapur and Montreal-based AndrĂ© Baril are also noted. Paul Boniferro was recently appointed deputy attorney general of Ontario.

Employment and labour are key pillars of McLennan Ross LLP’s practice and the Western Canadian firm benefits from specialist expertise in all three of its offices. In Calgary, Damon Bailey QC is ‘very strong’, particularly on the labour relations side, and advises on collective bargaining, disciplinary matters, grievances and labour arbitration. In Edmonton, Hugh McPhail QC is a prominent name, while Tom Ross is another key contact in Calgary. Clients are largely drawn from the energy and natural resources, forestry, construction and public sectors, and representative names include the Government of Alberta and Canadian Natural Resources.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s group acted on a steady stream of transactions over the past year — it also advises on compliance matters and litigation. Among its highlights, Toronto-based group chair Jason Hanson acted with Brian Thiessen, who splits his time between Calgary and Vancouver, to advise Intercontinental Exchange on proposals for a Canadian capital markets securities regulator, including outsourcing and integration matters, executive compensation issues, and employment contracts. Sven Poysa, who assisted Sears Canada with the labour and employment aspects of its restructuring, is also highly regarded — he is based between Toronto and Montreal. Michel Benoit recently retired.

The ‘client-focused and responsive’ group at Stikeman Elliott LLP demonstrates ‘deep knowledge of Canadian regulation and its impact on  clients' businesses’. In particular, Montreal group lead HĂ©lĂšne BussiĂšres is ‘able to adapt to any situation and propose realistic solutions’. BussiĂšres, together with Toronto-based Nancy Ramalho, provides ongoing advice to Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services on its human resources operations, including hiring, compliance and litigation. Gary Clarke and Lorna Cuthbert, who lead the Western Canadian and Toronto employment groups respectively, are also recommended.

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s national group, which is a popular choice for large transactional support issues, is led from Toronto by privacy expert Andrea York. The group also benefits from experienced practitioners in its Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver offices. Among its highlights, York acted as Canadian counsel to Netherlands-headquartered IMCD Group on the employment aspects of its acquisition of LV Lomas. On the contentious side, Vancouver-based Michael Howcroft represented Imperial Parking Canada in bringing a claim against a former senior executive.

Dentons’ national group, which is well represented in Calgary, Montreal and Toronto, scores highly for providing ‘practical and common-sense advice framed by strong business understanding’. In Calgary, Barbara B Johnston QC is routinely called upon by major energy companies to advise on strategic contentious and non-contentious labour, employment and human rights matters. Andy Pushalik, who leads the Toronto employment practice, is singled out as a ‘star performer and a delight to work with’.

Spread between four provinces, Gowling WLG’s labour and employment practice provides a ‘world-class service’ and impresses with its ability to ‘synthesize technical legal advice with practical business concerns and exigencies’. Maxwell Brunette, who operates from Vancouver and Calgary, has an increasingly prominent profile and provides ongoing employment advice to Agrium and Emerson Canada. Other key names include Bettina Burgess, who demonstrates ‘superior intellectual ability, coupled with an unrivalled aptitude for the law’ and litigator Christopher Andree — both are based in Kitchener.

Miller Thomson’s ‘strong national practice’ comprises offices in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec. The group handles the full spectrum of labour and employment matters, from recruitment through to terminations and litigation. Recent highlights include Toronto’s Michelle MacGillivray advising Marshall Excelsior on the labour and employment aspects of its acquisition of BASE Engineering. Toronto’s Hugh Dyer is a respected name.

The ‘strategic, practical and expert’ group at Torys LLP comprises ‘truly excellent litigators’, say sources. Names to note in the largely Toronto-based team include Lisa Talbot, regarded as a safe pair of hands for the ‘most complex and significant employment litigation’. Talbot is leading the department’s advice to various Canadian hockey leagues and their respective teams in class actions concerning the status of major junior hockey players with regards to minimum wage laws. Mitch Frazer chairs the practice.

Lorenzo Lisi’s workplace law group at Aird & Berlis LLP keeps busy across a mix of employment, labour, and occupational health and safety matters, with a strong record in corporate support issues. In a recent example, Michael Horvat advised the controlling shareholder of Bullfrog Power on the employment aspects of the company’s acquisition by Spark Power.

In a landmark case, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP successfully represented CTS of Canada before the Ontario Court of Appeal in a case restoring the distinction between common law reasonable notice and the minimum notice provisions of the Employment Standards Act — Kristin Taylor worked alongside the commercial litigation team on that file. Laurie Jessome is also a key contact.

Lenczner Slaght LLP’s focus on contentious work translates to a steady stream of  high-stakes labour and employment disputes — it also provides guidance on strategy and policy with a view to reduce litigation risk. Among Matthew Sammon’s recent files, he advised on a complex confidential information case.

Toronto-based labour and employment boutique Sherrard Kuzz LLP has a comprehensive practice, which is best known for its expertise in labour relations. Michael Sherrard brings to bear an enviable record in collective bargaining and grievance arbitration. Erin Kuzz is also a key name.

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