After decades of enjoying a position of dominance in the Saskatchewan market, McPherson Leslie & Tyerman made its bid for the Manitoba stakes in early 2017, when it combined with Aikins Macaulay & Thorvaldson to form the combined entity presently known as MLT/Aikins. Established in 1879, Aikins was the oldest law firm in Manitoba. "Aikins is most likely the firm you’ve already heard about before," opines a peer. The firm offers clients a diverse spectrum of legal services, but it is in litigation that the firm perhaps sees its greatest strength and depth; over a third of its lawyers attend to litigation, with 36 practitioners fulfilling this capacity. A competitor confirms, "Aikins tends to attract the biggest commercial work." Additionally, the firm is noted for its work for the Canadian Medical Protective Association.
Senior counsel Thor Hansell is a frequent recipient of praise. Hansell has extensive experience defending physicians and other professionals and regularly is involved in actions for and against brokers and brokerage firms, securities-related litigation, and commercial and tax litigation. He is rated by peers as "one of the best in town. He doesn’t have that disease of ‘folding the file up’ when it gets shakey." Jonathan Kroft is cheered by a client, who testifies, "Jonathan is working with us on a matter, and from what I’ve witnessed he’s got external and internal experience, he’s practical and responsive. He’s quite well known in general litigation." Kroft is lead counsel for Manitoba Telecom Services in seeking approval of a plan of arrangement facilitating a sale to BCE. Civil and commercial litigator Ted Bock, currently the president of the Law Society of Manitoba, is also respected by peers, one of whom states, "I think very highly of him and refer work to him periodically if my firm is in conflicts, which is always a pretty good testament. He is a gentleman and one of the best speakers I’ve heard." Another raves, "I recently finished an 11-day trial where Ted Bock was on the other side. He was absolutely excellent! [He is] also very civil and a treat to work with and against, and I would put him right up there with the best litigator in the [MLT/Aikins] firm."
While far from qualifying for “boutique” status, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg houses one of the smaller litigation benches in Toronto. Its stature, however, is anything but small. The firm boasts a vocal and dedicated roster of clients, several of whom offer unwavering support. “The firm is excellent,” insists one. “They are always fully prepared. We are not the main defendants in the actions, yet Davies is always the best prepared firm among the counsel involved.”
Litigation figurehead Kent Thomson is a noted maverick trial lawyer that is “zealously dedicated to his craft.” An all-purpose litigator, Thomson has of late been particularly active servicing clients in the mining industry. In one matter, he acted for Vale Canada Limited and its affiliates in defending contractual claims involving royalty arrangements before the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in an amount of almost C$500 million that were asserted by the plaintiff under an Option Agreement pertaining to the Voisey’s Bay Nickel Project. The case was settled in September 2018. Thomson is also acting for Barrick Gold and certain of its former and existing officers and directors in defense of eight multibillion-dollar securities class actions across four Canadian jurisdictions concerning mining projects on the border of Chile and Argentina. Thomson is assisted in both matters by members of the firm’s younger generation: Derek Ricci in the former and Luis Sarabia in the latter. Sarabia in particular has been identified as playing a key role, as the case called into service his Spanish-speaking fluency. “Luis Sarabia has a very robust Latin American practice and holds his own,” testifies a peer. “If you have any Spanish litigation needs, particularly in the mining space, he’s your guy. He’s great to work with as well, efficient, easy to get along with. He seems poised to be the next in line to succeed Kent, who is still the formative leader over there.” Matthew Milne-Smith, is another peer favorite. “He is smart, works hard, and is aggressive but fair,” notes one competitor. “If I had a file with him, I would not necessarily be ‘worried,’ but I would say, ‘OK, we really need to mind our Ps and Qs, we need to do a great job.’”