Legal innovation in Canada has gained pace in recent years, with a push for law firms to diversify and enhance the services they deliver to clients and the careers they offer their people, writes Lucy Pearson, RSG Consulting.

These seven legal leaders highlighted in the FT Innovative Lawyers North America report 2018 are driving change within their organisations, redefining the firms’ purpose and strategy in the light of emerging economic and political challenges in the region.

WINNER: Dale Ponder

National co-chair
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt

Dale Ponder (CNW Group/Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP)

Dale Ponder is a leading corporate and mergers and acquisitions lawyer.

The greatest career change she made, she says, was forgoing an active public M&A practice to become full-time chief executive in 2009. In that capacity, she has pushed for modernisation at the firm, involving the launch of tech initiatives such as Osler Works.

She takes particular pride in the leadership of Osler Women’s Lawyers Network, including overseeing a rise in the proportion of newly admitted female partners.

Marc Barbeau

Stikeman Elliott

Marc Barbeau, Chair, Stikeman Elliott

Marc Barbeau is recognised for his expertise in mergers and acquisitions, and for using his experience to advise successive Québécois ministers of finance on the overhaul of company law. His advice has led to various changes, including the Quebec 2009 Business Corporations Act.

He has lectured at McGill University’s Faculty of Law in Montreal since 1996 and was appointed adjunct professor in 2013.

Brock Gibson


Brock Gibson, Chair, Blakes

A corporate lawyer with 35 years of experience, Brock Gibson has advised on some of the largest commercial transactions in Canada.

He has shifted the firm’s focus to innovation and overseen the development of initiatives such as inSource, a cost-effective alternative delivery model and Nitro, a suite of legal services supporting emerging technology companies in the seed and growth stages of development.

Dale Lastman


Dale Lastman, Chair, Goodmans

Dale Lastman has long endeavoured to share his extensive legal knowledge beyond Goodmans.

He is a lecturer in securities law at Osgoode Hall Law School, which recognised him with an alumni award for professional achievement and contribution to the legal community.

He has also been publicly recognised for supporting Canada’s growing sports industry, involvement in health initiatives and support of the LGBTQ community.

Dave Leonard

Chief executive and partner
McCarthy Tétrault

Dave Leonard, Chief Executive Officer & Partner, McCarthy Tétrault

Dave Leonard joined the firm in 1994, holding a variety of leadership positions before becoming chief executive in 2016.

Aware of the encroachment by service providers from other sectors, Mr Leonard is pushing to offer better and cheaper services to clients through greater and more sophisticated use of technology.

He led the acquisition of Wortzmans, now MT>3, an ediscovery and information governance firm, and the opening of a New York office last year.

Shawn McReynolds

Managing partner
Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg

D. Shawn McReynolds, Managing Partner, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg

Shawn McReynolds has spent most of his career as a leading capital markets and mergers and acquisitions lawyer.

He joined the firm’s management committee in 2007, on the eve of a period of change created by the 2008 financial crisis. As managing partner, he has emphasised empowerment and clarity of purpose at all levels of the firm.

Mr McReynolds is also a former securities regulation lecturer at McGill University and Osgoode Hall Law School.

Les Viner

Managing partner

Les Viner, Managing Partner, Torys

Les Viner joined the firm as a corporate associate in 1987 and has been managing partner for 20 years.

Extensive leadership experience, allied with his varied background — he first practised in accountancy — has helped Mr Viner maintain the firm’s collegiate culture, while also aiming to improve the client experience. An emphasis on communication and consultation in staff development includes the implementation of 360-degree feedback for all partners.

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