Canadian Lawyer

May 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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18 www.canadianlawyermag.com BUSINESS STRATEGY TOP 10 ONTARIO BOUTIQUES SPECIAL REPORT IF THERE WAS ever a time to test a law firm and its ability to prepare for the unknowns of the future while coping with today's problems, it was 2020. COVID-19 challenged lawyers to figure out how to best keep best their practices going while finding the mental resources to deal with the added stress of a pandemic that kept them and their families at home. But winners of Canadian Lawyer's top Ontario boutique law firms for this year all say that, while last year will go down as one of the toughest ever, they managed to stay focused. In the process, they embraced the technology that has allowed the legal system to function, even if that means doing things differently. "They certainly didn't teach us how to deal with this stuff in law school," says Wayne Egan, managing partner at Ontario more effectively in the legal system. "We've learned in this past year that not only can we survive, but we can [also] do better than that," says Samantha Prasad, who sits on the executive committee of Minden Gross LLP. What the firm's growth during COVID-19 has demonstrated "is that we need to continue to create the support for that growth, and so we have to continue our investment in technology." Jeffrey Cohen, managing partner at Torkin Manes LLP, which took top spot this year, says: "Once the initial shock was done, the profession actually really stepped up. And I think the justice system and the court system embraced the technology." John Russo, managing partner at Pallett regional top 10 firm winner WeirFoulds LLP. "Nobody was really ready for any of this, but we all learned to adapt pretty fast." Adds Michael Slan, managing partner at winning firm Fogler, Rubinoff LLP: "For us and a lot of other firms, it was learning as we went along, and adopting technology at a much faster pace than we had thought of before — because we had to. I see a lot of solutions that will make things happen faster, and cheaper," he says. "It is all about being nimble." As Beard Winter LLP managing partner Victoria Winter says, "It is now more important than ever to have the relevant technology to allow lawyers and staff to work efficiently and effectively from home." The good news, winning firms say, is that a silver lining emerges from the chaos of COVID-19 in the form of using technology TOP 10 ONTARIO BOUTIQUES: Embracing change and pushing through the pandemic "For us and a lot of other firms, it was learning as we went along, and adopting technology at a much faster pace than we had thought of before." Michael Slan, Fogler Rubinoff LLP COVID-19 AND THE ONTARIO SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE • In-person hearings. All non-jury matters should proceed virtually unless an in-person hearing is necessary. Courtrooms will be subject to a 10-person limit. • Remote hearings. All case conferences will be held by telephone conference unless otherwise specified. Matters that may be heard remotely include unopposed motions and applications, opposed short or long motions and applications, and class action case management conferences. • Jury. All jury trials are suspended for now. • Filings. The court will accept filings via email. The court has also relaxed procedures related to commissioning affidavits. • Commercial list. The court cannot hear any matters of more than four hours' duration. All contested matters will be heard by teleconference using Zoom or other video tool.

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