Criminal Law

High Prison Legislation Boutiques | Canadian Lawyer

Giving shoppers full entry to justice

Wanting on the record of high legal defence boutiques in 2022, one would discover how comparatively small the companies are in comparison with different sorts of regulation practices. Solely 4 of the 20 successful companies this yr have lawyer counts within the double digits. The most important of them, Heinen Hutchison LLP, which has 18 attorneys, additionally works in non‑legal litigation. 

There are good explanation why legal regulation companies are usually small, says Laura Metcalfe of Toronto-based Addario Legislation Group, which has eight attorneys. She provides that many attorneys who specialise in legal regulation work solo. 

“I’m actually torn concerning the good and dangerous of the know-how that we depend on now because of the pandemic.”

Kristin Macrae, Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter 


“I feel it comes down to some issues,” she says, “and first is that you simply actually shouldn’t be dipping your toes into legal regulation until you are inclined to specialise in it. Not solely can legal regulation be complicated, however change comes often. You must hold as much as the velocity of these adjustments and have the arrogance to guard your shoppers.” 

The opposite actuality is that the shoppers of legal defence attorneys are usually “marginalized and racialized,” Metcalfe says. They typically depend on authorized help as a result of they have an inclination to not have some huge cash to pay authorized payments. The speed is $122 per hour for her name yr in Ontario, she says. “You possibly can’t afford to have the type of assist workers that different sorts of regulation companies do.”


How the pandemic disrupted the system 

Kristin Macrae, a lawyer at Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter in Ottawa, recollects that her agency went by way of a “large transition” in March 2020 when a world pandemic was declared and a lot of the establishments that folks take with no consideration, together with the court docket system, went into lockdown.

Prison trials with juries have been now not one thing that an individual charged with an offence might count on, she says, and workarounds needed to be developed to maintain the authorized system going. The constructive aspect of all that is that the court docket system was compelled to adapt a lot sooner to Twenty first-century know-how, and digital paperwork and digital hearings turned the lifeline of the legal justice system. 

“I’m actually torn concerning the good and dangerous of the know-how that we depend on now because of the pandemic,” says Macrae, who can be vice chairman of the Defence Counsel Affiliation of Ottawa. Responsible pleas, remands, and different issues that would tie up attorneys for hours in court docket can now be performed just about. Many even have psychological well being points, which add to the complexity of digital hearings, says Macrae. 

For defendants being held in jail, getting a digital trial “may be subsequent to inconceivable” on account of a scarcity of assets. And even when circumstances do come to trial, there’s a blended bag of emotions concerning witness testimony. McCrae says some attorneys and judges like the power to see a witness up shut on a pc display screen, versus listening to and watching them by way of a masks behind plexiglass. Others suppose one thing is lacking when a standard in-court look is just not performed. 

“I went into legal regulation as a result of I like individuals, and I didn’t need to sit at a pc all day,” Macrae says. She provides that youthful legal attorneys simply beginning may need a more difficult time, and don’t have the identical potential to be taught from watching their extra skilled friends at work.

“Our courts are stuffed to the brim with unrepresented litigants who can’t afford counsel and might now not entry state-funded attorneys.”

Daniel Brown, Daniel Brown Legislation LLP 


Justice for the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’

Whereas COVID-19 has proven that know-how can be utilized to hurry up and enhance the court docket system, Daniel Brown of Daniel Brown Legislation LLP worries that it might result in a two-tier system of justice.  

“One of many huge discussions in legal regulation proper now throughout Canada is what a post-COVID justice system will appear like,” he says. The justice system of 2019 bears little resemblance to the current one which includes digital appearances, cloud-based proof and disclosure, and Zoom trials. 

“Whether or not these advances stay and what comes subsequent are all essential discussions. Will the way forward for legal justice embrace bodily areas and courtrooms? And who’s being left behind on this digital realm are essential discussions,” Brown says. As a result of not everybody has entry to the extent of know-how wanted to take part in a contemporary system, two populations of “haves” and “have nots” are created.  

One other concern, says Brown, is the continual underfunding of authorized help throughout Canada. “Our courts are stuffed to the brim with unrepresented litigants who can’t afford counsel and might now not entry state-funded attorneys.” 

Brown says the justice system is in disaster. Vital cuts to authorized help packages throughout the nation over the previous few years have brought on backlogs and led to severe circumstances being put aside. He provides it might additionally result in wrongful convictions “that will take a long time to unearth” — one thing that has occurred in Canada up to now. 


One of many standards for getting authorized help typically is whether or not the individual charged runs the chance of going to jail. The issue with that, says Brown, is {that a} legal report with out jail time can nonetheless stop a person from securing employment or travelling outdoors Canada. If the individual is just not a Canadian citizen, they might even face the chance of deportation.

“It’s turning into more durable and more durable to be a protection counsel — we’ve seen violence in opposition to protection counsel, we’ve even seen the lack of life.”

Michael Spratt, Abergel Goldstein & Companions LLP


A rise in assault circumstances

Julianna Greenspan of Greenspan Companions LLP in Toronto says one development in legal regulation she has seen is the marked enhance within the variety of home assault and sexual assault expenses, resulting in prosecutions by trial.  

“A good portion includes historic allegations, that are inherently troublesome to defend,” she says. As well as, there was a corresponding enhance in litigation on the admissibility of defence-led proof that “seeks to place the fees into context, by reference to the character of the connection.” Nonetheless, Greenspan notes that though the crown has continued to object to defence-led proof, the court docket system can be seeing extra purposes introduced by the Crown to introduce the identical sort of “relationship” proof as a part of its prosecution in opposition to an accused. That is “troubling in our present political local weather,” she says. The regulation governing these points is complicated and evolving, she provides, and two circumstances are on reserve on the Supreme Court docket of Canada. 

Sal Caramanna of Caramanna Friedberg Barristers & Solicitors LLP has additionally seen the development the place extra shoppers accused of sexual offences search for skilled attorneys to deal with what can generally be complicated circumstances. Matthew Friedberg, a accomplice on the similar regulation agency, says that one other layer added to the defence in a legal trial involving sexual offences is contending with a complete new regime underneath s. 278 of the Prison Code. 

The provisions impose an obligation on the a part of an accused individual to tell each the Crown and the Crown’s witness about data the defence has in its possession. Particularly, Caramanna says, if the defence has in its possession any report by which the complainant (the alleged sufferer) has an affordable expectation of privateness, then the defence should convey an utility forward of time to hunt permission from the court docket to make use of that proof at trial. He provides that the worth of the proof to the trial’s truth-finding perform have to be balanced in opposition to the hazard of prejudice to the administration of justice. 

Figuring this all out includes substantial litigation, says Friedberg, “so it’s common for me to spend extra time determining a litigation technique after which litigating than really coping with the case on its deserves.”

Michael Spratt of Abergel Goldstein & Companions LLP in Ottawa has additionally seen a rise within the variety of sexual assault trials over the previous few years, having labored on about 40 such circumstances. “These may be troublesome circumstances, for the Crown, the complainant, the witnesses, the judges and the attorneys,” he says.  

He provides that the panorama has turn out to be far more troublesome for attorneys who defend these charged with sexual assault, particularly high-profile personalities. He factors to the latest expertise of lawyer Marie Henein, who efficiently defended former Canadian Broadcasting Company host Jian Ghomeshi in opposition to sexual assault expenses. 

In relation to this case, the Toronto District Faculty Board (TDSB) informed the organizer of a e-book membership for adolescent women that it could not host an occasion scheduled with Henein late final yr to advertise her new e-book, Nothing However the Fact: A Memoir. The e-book membership, which is primarily attended by teenage women from low-income households, had deliberate an occasion the place the ladies would focus on the e-book and have a digital dialog with the writer. 

Henein’s e-book was later “accredited” by the TDSB, which claimed that the preliminary announcement resulted in a misunderstanding. Nonetheless, in a Globe and Mail article, the e-book membership organizer mentioned she was informed a “straight out ‘no’ as a result of [Henein] defended Jian Ghomeshi and the way do you clarify that to little women.”  

In keeping with Spratt, the way in which to elucidate such a state of affairs is that defence attorneys have an obligation and obligation to carry the justice system to the “past affordable doubt” normal of proof and make sure that no harmless individual is convicted. 

“Typically this leads to acquittals that the general public don’t like or simply don’t perceive,” Spratt says. “It’s turning into more durable and more durable to be a protection counsel — we’ve seen violence in opposition to protection counsel, we’ve even seen the lack of life.”

High Prison Legislation Boutiques | Canadian Lawyer


The rise of digital proof   

One other rising development is the exponential enhance of data and knowledge to be assessed as potential proof by attorneys for the Crown, the defence, and the judges. 

Jonathan Shime of Cooper, Sandler, Shime & Bergman LLP says a lot of this info and knowledge comes from smartphones, which have turn out to be integral in many individuals’s lives. Textual content messages, movies, photographs, social media — all created and saved on smartphones — have come to play an enormous position in legal regulation.  

“I can inform you that about 90 per cent of the time a consumer involves me, one of many first issues I say is ‘Present me the textual content messages’ or ‘Present me the social media postings and movies.’” That is very true about potential crimes associated to home issues as a result of loads of legal regulation revolves round household relationships, which are sometimes on the report within the type of textual content messages, emails or different knowledge. 

Because of this, the massive quantity of accessible info have to be sifted by way of to find out what’s most related to the fees and the privateness points concerned. Legal professionals on the successful companies acknowledge the complexity of scrutinizing the information and presenting it in a way that makes it usable as proof in court docket. 

Brock Martland of Martland Saulnier in Vancouver says cell units have moved to the forefront of legal regulation. “These days, everybody has a pc, video digital camera, picture album, vault of messages, and database, which they carry with them in every single place they go.” 


He provides that courts grapple with the admissibility and the right use of this proof. “It may be powerfully incriminating, and generally it will probably assist an alibi or clear an harmless individual of a cost. We’re seeing huge adjustments within the regulation, and within the day-to-day work for legal regulation practitioners, coming from tech, social media data, and the ever-present nature of digital proof.” 

Tony Paisana of Peck and Firm in Vancouver agrees, saying: “Technological advances have remodeled the scope of disclosure that we now get in legal circumstances — it’s arduous to conduct any severe legal case with out some type of technological proof being a part of the trial.” He says that this proof — whether or not telephone or textual content data, CCTV footage or GPS pings — has turn out to be a daily characteristic of legal attorneys’ day-to-day observe. 

He notes that the dedication of how any such proof might set up consent in sexual assault circumstances may be difficult. “You must parse by way of the messages, for instance, to find out whether or not they’re even correctly admissible or introduce civil into the trial,” he says. This provides extra time and complexity to resolving circumstances. 

Carefully associated to know-how is particular person privateness, Martland says. The courts have continued to broaden the doctrine of privateness in opposition to the state, which is all of the extra essential when a cell phone is a real-time monitoring gadget, a storehouse of textual content messages and emails, to not point out private photographs.   

“However due to how the Constitution operates — defending people in opposition to the state, however not in opposition to firms — and since the Large Tech firms are American, there are some very severe dangers to privateness that stay unaddressed.”

Police-reported crime severity indexes, 2000-2020


Managing complicated trials 

Because the proof in legal regulation turns into extra voluminous, complicated and complicated, legal counsel face quite a few challenges. Joe Saulnier of Vancouver-based Martland & Saulnier says: “The Supreme Court docket’s Jordan timelines for trials have led to police investigations that also take a very long time, however then as soon as launched, and expenses are dropped at court docket, transfer at a speedy tempo.  

“This dynamic can push defence counsel right into a difficult place, being requested to make essential choices and set trial dates after having had disclosure for only a few weeks, despite the fact that the Crown has had it for a yr or extra.”  

Saulnier additionally says complicated points emerge from the interaction of legal, regulatory, and civil proceedings: Who goes first? What use may be manufactured from the proof rising? What strategic angles come up from this?


  • Addario Legislation Group LLP
  • Cooper, Sandler, Shime & Bergman LLP
  • Daniel Brown Legislation LLP
  • Fenton Legislation Barristers
  • Greenspan Humphrey Weinstein LLP
  • Greenspan Companions LLP
  • Henein Hutchison LLP
  • Lockyer, Posner, Craig


High 5 Prison Legislation Boutiques in Ottawa and Montreal 

  • Battista Turcot Israel s.e.n.c.
  • Les avocats Poupart, Touma


High 5 Prison Legislation Boutiques in Western Canada

  • Martland & Saulnier
  • O’Brien Devlin MacLeod
  • Peck and Firm
  • Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey 
  • Wolson, Roitenberg, Robinson, Wolson, Minuk 

From October 4 to 29, 2021, the Canadian Lawyer group requested attorneys, in-house counsel, and shoppers from throughout the nation to pick the legal regulation companies that characterize the very best within the occupation. Survey respondents have been requested to rank the highest companies from a protracted record offered and have been additionally given an opportunity so as to add a agency that was not included within the record. The rankings have been based mostly on regional service protection, consumer base, notable mandates, service excellence and authorized experience. To be a candidate, companies have been required to derive a majority of their work from legal regulation and have a couple of lawyer on this observe space. 

Voters selected between 5 and 10 of the legal regulation companies they thought-about the very best, and a degree system was additionally used to find out the winners. The quantitative outcomes have been mixed with suggestions from revered senior members of the bar when relevant. 

This yr, Canadian Lawyer determined to call the highest companies in three areas: 10 from the Better Toronto space, 5 from the Ottawa and Montreal areas, and one other 5 from Western Canada (provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia). A number of well-known legal attorneys are absent from the winners’ record as a result of the attorneys are sole practitioners or practise at a regulation agency that doesn’t specialise in solely legal regulation. 

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