Alan N. Young In The News

‘Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential in the justice


FEATURED: Canadian Lawyer Magazine| WRITTEN BY: Gail J. Cohen

Canadian Lawyer Magazine 2014Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession is now in its fifth year. The Top 25 is always one of the magazine’s most-read, and most commented-on features. Of course our choices likely won’t meet with universal approval but a little healthy debate among readers is always welcome. Again this year, we used the tried-and-true formula of asking for nominations from legal groups and associations representing a variety of memberships and locations; last year’s Top 25 honourees; our readership; and an internal panel of writers and editors.

We received almost 120 nominations, which the internal panel whittled down to the 100 candidates who met our criteria. We then posted the list of 100 online and asked our readers to give us their opinions, which they did in spades. An astounding 6,112 people voted and commented on those who they thought were the most influential in the profession over the past 18 months.
Nominations and votes were up almost 25 per cent over last year, which is a testament to the great work lawyers are doing in society at home and abroad. The final list of 25 presented here is based on that poll with input and the last word from the internal editorial panel.

The Top 25 Most Influential is not just about bright stars, big deals, or number of media mentions — although those may play a part. We have endeavoured to select lawyers who have been influential within the profession as well as society in the last year and a half. This year, we also looked at the role of Canadian lawyers in the international community. Closing a big deal, for instance, may not have a substantial impact beyond that particular business or industry. Inclusion in the Top 25 talks to a level of respect, the ability to influence public opinion, and to help shape the laws of this country and others; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services as well as access to justice; and social and political influence and involvement.

The Top 25 is split into five areas of influence, with one change from last year. The top five in each of the following categories have made the final list: corporate-commercial law; changemakers; criminal and human rights law; government, associations, and non-profits including public inquiries and officers of Parliament; and the all-new world stage. Nominees were put in the category in which the individual exercised their influence during the time period.

A number of previous winners are back this year: Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin; Vancouver criminal and human rights lawyer Joseph Arvay; Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young; and Ontario Ombudsman André Marin. This year’s list also sees a strong cohort of new movers and shakers including Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati, who challenged the federal government’s appointment of Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada; Mark Morris and Lena Koke, who shook up the profession with the launch of their Wal-Mart store-based law firm; and federal government whistleblower Edgar Schmidt. There are also Canadians who’ve made their mark internationally in quite different ways such as Murray Klippenstein, who is representing Guatemalean villagers in a suit against HudBay Minerals Inc., and Moya Greene, the first non-Briton to head the Royal Mail.

Worth remarking on is the huge number of votes that came in for McLachlin — at least triple the number of the person with the second-highest number of votes. The chief justice was lauded over and over again for her integrity, grace, and professionalism in responding to veiled accusations from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that she behaved inappropriately by pointing out to the PMO an issue may arise with the appointment of a federal court judge to fill a spot on the SCC bench (which it did!). “Truly admirable!” one voter said about McLachlin’s measured response. While the situation was not the major spat between the chief and the PM that some media made it out to be, the legal profession’s response was indicative of the respect in which McLachlin is held.

Also worth a mention is Bob Kuhn, the president of Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C, and one of the most controversial nominees. He had led the university’s initiative to open a law school, which has been given the green light but still faces strong opposition from the profession and certain law societies due to its controversial student covenant. Led by Kuhn, TWU is fighting back, launching lawsuits in Ontario and N.S. that will likely end up in the Supreme Court of Canada pitting the Charter right of freedom of religion against others. While he didn’t make the final 25, Kuhn had strong voter support, particularly from the TWU community. One voter noted: “Bob Kuhn is the definition of a distinguished and honourable lawyer; his convictions are not swayed by what passes in a moment, but are guided by ethical judgement and deeply held beliefs.”

So without further ado, here are the 2014 Top 25 Most Influential. They are listed with the top vote getter in each category first, followed by the others in alphabetical order.

Photo By: Liam Sharp

Photo By: Liam Sharp

Alan Young
Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto

One of Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential for many years, in 2013 Young was finally victorious at the Supreme Court of Canada in a case taking on the legality of the country’s prostitution laws. While the government has proposed a new bill to reflect the SCC’s decision in Bedford v. Canada, Young and many others are extremely critical of it. He has urged the feds to send the new bill directly to the SCC for a constitutional opinion, thereby sparing sex workers the cost, risk, and uncertainty of having to litigate protections for their health and safety all over again. In the past, Young has brought constitutional challenges to Canada’s gambling, obscenity, and drug laws, and is known for providing free legal services for people whose alternative lifestyles bring them into conflict with the law. His legal challenges led the federal government to create a regulatory program for the use of medical marijuana. Young is also the director of the Innocence Project at Osgoode Hall, which teaches students how to investigate cases of wrongful conviction.

What voters had to say:

“Young took a courageous stance in assisting his clients to challenge Canada’s harmful and antiquated anti-sex work laws, and shone light on the dangers of criminalizing any aspect of sex work with carefully presented evidence and skilful arguments.”

“Alan’s victory will influence Canada and impact Canadians to a degree rarely equalled by members of our profession.”