Legal market overview in Canada

From the Editor

In the Canadian legal market, the ‘Seven Sisters’, leading Bay Street Toronto, Ontario corporate firms, continue to dominate the marketplace. They are Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Goodmans LLP, McCarthy Tétrault, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Stikeman Elliott LLP and Torys. The firms generally possess offices across the nation and abroad in such cities as London and New York, with the sole exception being Goodmans LLP, which is exclusively based in Toronto.

The Seven Sisters continue to face challenges from a wide range of competitors, including large domestic firms Borden Ladner Gervais LLP – a leader in Labour and Employment and Transport: Shipping; and Fasken, a top-tier firm in such areas as Energy and Natural Resources – Mining and Indigenous Law; and domestic multidisciplinary firms Bennett Jones LLP, which leads in such areas as Cannabis and Transport: Aviation, and Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, which remains a force in Mining.

In addition, other major international firms such as Dentons and DLA Piper (Canada) LLP remain key market players, as well as expanded domestic firm Gowling WLG, which boasts a strong global network, and such practice area specialists as construction experts Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP; Vancouver-based Nathanson, Schachter & Thompson, which brings strength to dispute resolution matters; immigration firm Green and Spiegel LLP; and labour and employment leaders Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark LLP in Toronto.

With a recent drop in headline inflation, the Canadian economy, the 10th largest in the world (according to the International Monetary Fund) has experienced a slowing of growth. Despite global stresses and rising interest rates, the nation’s financial system, and some areas, such as the housing market, remain robust. However, the overall economic impact can be observed across many key practice areas.

In the Corporate and M&A space, firms reported M&A has slowed, while equity markets remain stable. Respondent firms described an uptick in matters involving debt restructuring. Teams predicted an even slower march into 2024. The Seven Sisters remain at the top of the market in the practice area, followed by Bennett Jones LLP, Fasken and Norton Rose Fulbright.

In Capital Markets, the market was strong in the first half of 2022, with a decline in the second half, with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP and Stikeman Elliott LLP displaying particular strength in the practice area. McCarthy Tétrault remains a key player in the debt and underwriter-side space.

In Construction, respondent firms reported a rise in government claims, a stark contrast to a contracting private sector, with the result being increased competition with regards to government infrastructure contracts. Firms also highlighted an increase in construction arbitration matters. Firms interviewed discussed a drop in office space construction matters – fallout from the pandemic and the rise of WFH policies. Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP remain market leaders in the practice space.

The Energy and Natural Resources Mining area remains strong, with an M&A market driven by the need for lithium, cobalt and nickel to power the EV industry. Teams indicated continued activity in related capital markets transactions. Between the aforementioned need for minerals by the auto industry and a depleting copper supply, respondent firms predict that governmental bodies will have to reevaluate the stringency of their permitting policies. Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and Fasken remain the leaders in the Mining space, as well as in the new International Mining rankings.

While external factors did not result in major firm movements, a notable development was the expansion of Boston-based firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo into the Canadian market, with the firm opening a new Toronto office in March 2023, having hired partners from Dentons and Torys.

Mike De Luca

Editor, The Legal 500 Canada

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