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  1. Restructuring and insolvency
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Top of the market for over 15 years’, Goodmans’ practice impresses clients and peers with its ability to stand constant as ‘the benchmark for restructuring law in Canada’. The sizeable group, which fields ten partners dedicated to insolvency and restructuring work, earns rave reviews for its ‘unmatched bench strength and practice scope’, ‘great respect in the industry’ and ‘responsive and practical approach’ — put simply, ‘no other firm comes close’. In addition, sources commend its strength across the full spread of restructuring, recapitalization and insolvency matters, including specialist expertise in litigation, cross-border insolvencies and distressed M&A. Group head Jay Carfagnini is a ‘senior professional with excellent judgement who knows how to get things done’ and, alongside Joseph Pasquariello and Chris Armstrong, represented the monitor in the settlement of the Nortel Networks restructuring. Robert Chadwick and Brendan O’Neill, highlighted together as ‘the best two restructuring lawyers practising in Canada today’, advised Concordia on its recapitalization transaction under the CBCA, which involved $4bn of debt. Melaney Wagner (‘super-bright and creative’) acted with Chadwick to advise Fairfax Financial Holdings on its acquisition of the Carillion Canada services business. Another team, led by O'Neill, is representing PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (UK) as the special managers of Carillion plc — the parent company and largest creditor of Carillion Canada. Other names to note include ‘tremendous lawyer’ Gale Rubenstein and Joseph Latham.

The ‘smart and dependable team’ at Bennett Jones LLP impresses with its ‘strong knowledge of business practices’ and ‘great ability to get the right result’. An increasingly prominent firm for debtor-side representations, particularly in the energy space, it is best known for advising creditors, acquirers of distressed assets and court-appointed officials. Among the Toronto office’s highlights, group co-head Kevin Zych is representing the monitor in Stelco’s headline CCAA proceedings. Zych also acted with sector specialist Richard Orzy to advise the noteholders’ committee in  Nortel’s Canadian and US restructuring proceedings. Sean Zweig, who is ‘experienced far beyond his year of call’, is advising the Board of Directors of Sears Canada in its liquidation. Calgary-based Chris Simard, an ‘excellent lawyer’, co-chairs the department.

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s practice, which includes experienced specialists in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, is best known for its representation of financial institutions. The group also advises creditor groups, debtors, court-appointed officials and acquirers of distressed assets. Toronto-based national lead Pamela Huff is ‘extremely capable’ and acted with the pensions and litigation departments to advise Morneau Shepell as plan administrator of the Sears Canada Pension Plan. Huff also, alongside Vancouver group lead Peter Rubin, advised Carillion Canada Group on all aspects of its Canadian restructuring efforts. In an example of its financial services sweet spot, Toronto partners Linc Rogers and Aimee Yee advised JPMorgan Chase, as agent for a syndicate of lenders, on the Canadian aspects of a $2.3bn debtor-in-possession (DIP) loan to Toys “R” Us. Calgary restructuring head Kelly Bourassa is an ‘up-and-coming star’.

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP’s group, which secures a steady stream of cross-border insolvencies, finds favour for its ‘strong responsiveness’, ‘extremely practical approach’ and ‘deep knowledge of the subject matter’. Jay Swartz, noted by clients as ‘simply extraordinary’, stepped down from the partnership in 2018 but remains counsel; he acted as special counsel to the United Steelworkers Union in Stelco’s restructuring. Robin Schwill, who is ‘brilliant, tireless and dedicated to client and craft’, advised Target Corporation on the winding down of Target Canada. Natasha MacParland, who ‘balances practicality with ensuring stakeholders are legally protected’, is an ‘up-and-coming specialist’ and advised the unsecured creditors’ committee in TK Holdings’ cross-border proceedings. Denis Ferland, the key contact in Montreal, is advising Freemark Apparel Brands on its restructuring. Named lawyers are based in Toronto unless otherwise stated.

Over the past year, McCarthy Tétrault’s national team advised a broad range of stakeholders in complex restructuring and insolvency matters, with a strong showing in multi-jurisdictional cases. In Toronto, James Gage is a ‘big name in insolvency law’ and advised Stelco on its successful CCAA restructuring, which involved C$4bn worth of claims. In Western Canada, Sean Collins — who splits his time between Calgary and Vancouver — is an ‘excellent restructuring lawyer’ and represented the court-appointed monitor in OmniArch Capital’s CCAA case. Philippe Bélanger, regarded by many as ‘the best in Montreal’, is advising the court-appointed monitor in the C$200m CCAA proceedings of Quebec general contractor, GTS. Toronto-based national practice lead Barbara Boake, who acted alongside Gage to advise Morneau Shepell as administrator of Nortel’s Canadian registered pension plans, is also recommended.

Head of the chasing pack’, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP is regarded by some as ‘among the top three restructuring practices in the country’, with its increasingly prominent debtor-side practice particularly impressing. Among its key attributes clients highlight its ‘strong combination of legal capabilities and deal sense’, its ‘broad array of industry experience’ and its ‘ability to drive a deal across the line’. Sources also praise Toronto-based group head Marc Wasserman as ‘up there with the best in the country’. Among Wasserman’s recent files, he advised Sears Canada on its headline CCAA proceedings. Tracy Sandler, also a key contact in Toronto, represented Express Fashion Apparel Canada in its CCAA restructuring. In Montreal, Sandra Abitan acted for PwC as court-appointed liquidator of a large condominium project. Michael De Lellis and Jeremy Dacks are also recommended in Toronto.

Stikeman Elliott LLP, noted for its ‘high-quality leading lawyers’ and ‘excellent business acumen’, has robust restructuring expertise in each of its Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver offices. In particular, Toronto-based litigator David R. Byers (‘a widely respected restructuring specialist’) is a strong performer in complex insolvencies; he is advising the monitor in Crystallex International’s CCAA filing. In another high-profile case, Toronto’s Ashley Taylor advised Essar Steel Algoma on its restructuring. Also in Toronto, ‘up-and-coming star’ Elizabeth Pillon — hailed as ‘generation now’ by sources — advised the US Steel and Carnegie Pension Fund in Stelco’s restructuring proceedings. On the distressed M&A front, Montreal-based rising star Guy Martel advised Tacora Resources and MagGlobal on the former’s acquisition of all of the assets of the Scully iron ore mine.

Toronto-based Thornton Grout Finnigan LLP, widely revered as ‘the most successful boutique in the restructuring space’, houses ‘deep and broad insolvency and litigation expertise’. In particular, firm co-founder Robert Thornton is recognized by many as ‘among the top three insolvency specialists in Canada’; he was appointed to represent the monitor in Carillion Group’s high-profile restructuring. Other names to note include the ‘tenacious and results-oriented’ DJ Miller, who is acting as Canadian counsel to SquareTwo Financial and its Canadian and US subsidiaries in Chapter 11 and CCAA recognition proceedings, and Grant Moffat, who one client highlights as ‘the best mid-market lawyer in the country’.

Torys LLP’s practice, which comprises ‘responsive team players’, provides ‘solid and practical advice’. Group head Tony Demarinis has ‘super technical skills’ and has been acting with Scott Bomhof and Adam Slavens to advise Nortel’s US group of companies — as co-counsel alongside US counterpart Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton — in Nortel’s protracted cross-border restructuring. David Bish, who ‘brings creative and practical solutions to complex issues’, advised Home Capital Group in successfully navigating a liquidity crisis, which included the arrangement of an emergency C$2bn loan facility with HOOPP, among other aspects. Bish was also instructed by Cadillac Fairview, one of the largest owners, operators and developers of real estate in North America, on several retail insolvencies over the past year, including Express Fashion, Payless Shoe Source and Toys “R” Us.

Considered ‘top tier in Vancouver’, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s national practice also has considerable firepower in its Calgary, Montreal and Toronto offices. In Montreal, group co-lead Marc Duchesne is an ‘expert in his field, with strong experience in sensitive and complex cases’ and recently represented a major creditor in an insolvency in the construction industry. In Vancouver, Magnus Verbrugge is ‘very knowledgeable, experienced and practical’ and acted for a secured creditor in a significant restructuring case. Toronto-based group co-head Alex MacFarlane and Calgary-based litigator Josef Krüger QC are also recommended.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP’s stock continues to rise under the guidance of ‘very strong’ Toronto-based group head Shayne Kukulowicz, who was recently appointed to represent the monitor in Toys “R” Us (Canada)’s CCAA proceedings. Among the group’s debtor-side mandates, Toronto’s Ryan Jacobs led the firm’s advice to Connacher Oil and Gas in its CCAA proceedings. The team is also routinely engaged by creditors, lenders, investors and acquirers of distressed assets. Other recommended specialists include Vancouver-based Mary Buttery, Toronto-based Jane Dietrich and Toronto-based litigator Larry Ellis.

Dentons, which blends ‘exceptionally good technical, practical and business advice’, is held up by clients as a ‘great choice for complex matters due to its strong and deep team’. Among its key names, John R Sandrelli is widely acclaimed as ‘the best in Vancouver’ and advised PwC as monitor in the CCAA restructuring of the Sunrise Group. In Calgary, national chair David Mann is valued for his ‘smart, solution-oriented and pragmatic approach’ and advised the TD Bank-led lending syndicate on the cross-border restructuring of Poseidon Concepts. Montreal group lead Roger Simard and Toronto group lead Kenneth Kraft are also highly regarded.

FASKEN acts for all manner of stakeholders in restructuring and insolvency proceedings but is best known for its close links to accountants and lenders. Vancouver-based John Grieve QC is a high-profile figure in the market and is advising HSBC, the main operating lender, in Walton International Group’s CCAA restructuring. In a notable distressed M&A highlight, Toronto-based insolvency chair Stuart Brotman — ‘a regular presence on big files’ — acted for Sonar as the successful bidder in the sale solicitation process of Tricon Films and Television. The team also draws upon the experience of Toronto-based insolvency litigator Aubrey Kauffman and Vancouver-based Kibben Jackson.

Gowling WLG’s restructuring practice brings to bear a particularly robust record in highly contentious insolvencies, but the firm acts across the full spread of national and multi-jurisdictional insolvencies for a mix of creditors, debtors, lenders and court-appointed officers. Key highlights saw Toronto-based sector specialist Derrick Tay acting as Canadian counsel to Nortel Networks in the settlement of its headline restructuring. In addition, Tay paired up with Toronto-based national insolvency lead Clifton Prophet to advise the monitor in the CCAA proceedings of Essar Steel Algoma. Colin Brousson and Thomas Cumming are also recommended in Vancouver and Calgary respectively.

Strategic and business-oriented’, Norton Rose Fulbright distinguishes itself through its broad sector experience and strong finance capability. The firm’s expansive national and international network is also a big draw for clients. In Calgary, Howard A. Gorman QC (‘the best in Alberta and among the best in the country’) acted alongside the banking team to advise a major bank client on a recapitalization transaction. In Toronto, Orestes Pasparakis (‘an outstanding litigator’), Evan Cobb (‘strong ability to digest information and focus on the most important issues’) and Virginie Gauthier are advising the monitor in a high-profile bankruptcy. Other senior names are Tony Reyes in Toronto and Montreal-based Sylvain Rigaud.

Aird & Berlis LLP maintains a solid practice, which regularly advises on restructurings, distressed M&A and DIP loans. Lender- and creditor-side representations comprise the bulk of instructions and recent matters include advising Microsoft in the Nortel Networks case — Harry Fogul led the restructuring team’s work on that file. Key contact Steven Graff has a strong profile in the market.

Insolvency law is a key pillar of Chaitons’ practice and the Ontario boutique advises across a wide scope of corporate workout, restructuring and insolvency proceedings. The firm is best known for its expertise in contentious and mid-market matters, where it routinely advises Canadian and foreign lenders, private equity funds, court-appointed officers, real estate developers, and public and private businesses. Name partner Harvey Chaiton, a ‘recognized expert in the area’, is representing Callidus Capital, as a secured creditor, in complex tax-related litigation.

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP’s Canadian restructuring group, which is chaired by Calgary-based Brian Davison QC, acts for a broad roster of financial institutions, creditors, debtors and court-appointed officers. In Toronto, Edmond Lamek and associate counsel Danny Nunes are representing two major landlords — Canadian Tire REIT and RioCanREIT — in Sears Canada’s CCAA proceedings.

A strong choice for contentious mandates, Lenczner Slaght LLP is ‘at the top of the game from a litigation perspective and can hold its own with the best of them’. Peter Griffin, ‘a leader in any area he chooses to practise in’, recently advised on an application to appoint a receiver. Key contact Peter Osborne is ‘bright and creative, while remaining pragmatic and likeable’.

Insolvency is a strong suit at McMillan LLP and the firm fields senior restructuring specialists in its Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver offices. In Toronto, financial services co-chair Andrew Kent is lauded as an ‘insolvency powerhouse’, while Max Mendelsohn is a seasoned specialist in Montreal. The department represents debtors, company boards, lenders, creditors and court-appointed officers.

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