Three Quebec lawyers were honored at the awards ceremony 2022 Canadian Benchmark Litigation Awardsheld on May 5 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.
Me Sophie Melchers, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, received the award for litigator of the year in Quebec. Me Marie-Helene Jette, a partner at Langlois, won the award for litigator of the year in labor and employment law in Canada. As for Me Sylvie Rodrigue of Torys, she won Canada’s Litigator of the Year Award in the Product Liability category.
In her category, the lawyer stood out among a list of prestigious lawyers, such as Audrey Boctor (IMK), Claude Marseille (Blake Cassels & Graydon), Éric Mongeau (Stikeman Elliott), Mathieu Piché-Messier (Borden Ladner Gervais) , and Patrick Ouellet (Woods).
Sophie Melchers also makes it to the list of Canada’s Top 50 Litigators and to the Benchmark’s Top 50 Women in Litigation.
The lawyer pleads in cases of disputes on commercial matters, companies or securities. She accompanies corporations, officers or directors in the context of investigations carried out by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF).
“I think I stand out through the expertise acquired over my 27 years of practice in this fairly niche field, through strategic and practical advice adapted to each person’s situation and finally, through my reputation as a reasonable, trustworthy person. , well-prepared and tenacious,” she says.
La Barreau 1994 has built his entire career in the same firm. She graduated in law from the University of Montreal in 1993.
Among the most significant mandates of her career, she cites in particular the two disputes between Hydro-Québec and Churchill Falls related to the 1969 energy contract and the case between the Autorité des marchés financiers and David Baazov in 2016/2017.
The lawyer also represented Transat against the real estate group Mach before the Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal in 2019, when the latter wanted to buy a block of Transat shares and was suspected of wanting to frustrate the agreement (then under discussion) between the airline and Air Canada. She also represented Resolute Forest Products in disputes surrounding the takeover of Fibrek.
Is the fact of being a woman an issue in order to achieve such recognition by peers? “I would like to believe that the answer is no, but I know that our profession still faces major challenges in terms of the retention, progression and recognition of women,” concedes the lawyer.
She assures that many other Quebec lawyers would have deserved their place in the Top 50 of the best litigants in the country and is eager “to see parity there”.
For two years in a row, Me Jetté’s career has been recognized by the firm Benchmark Litigation and she received the award for litigator of the year in labor and employment law in Canada.
“I was surprised,” she says. It’s a bit like the Stanley Cup, it’s difficult to have it twice in a row.
This year, she faced Randy Kaardal (Hunter Litigation Chambers), Eleni Kassaris (Dentons), Michael Korbin (Farris Vaughan Wills and Murphy), and André Royer (Borden Ladner Gervais) in her category.
What sets her apart in her practice is her ability to “position herself as a business partner for her clients,” she says.
Marie-Hélène Jetté discovered labor and employment law during her bachelor’s degree in industrial relations at the Université de Montréal, when she was thinking of going into human resources.
“It’s a very human right, we don’t just juggle with figures and transactions,” she underlines.
She made the jump to law, was admitted to the Bar in 1995 and began her career at Norton Rose Fulbright, where she practiced for 23 years.
In 2018, she joined the firm Langlois Avocats, where she represents and advises employers in cases of psychological harassment, discrimination, health and safety at work or labor standards. She also handles cases related to corporate reorganizations or sales.
Among its main clients are Costco, Hershey’s, the pharmaceutical companies Merck and GSK, but also the Kruger company, which it accompanied in its reorganization in the face of changes in the paper market.
In more than 25 years of career, the lawyer has seen her practice evolve. She remembers, in the 1990s, labor and employment lawyers who mostly wrote grievances. Today, they must also specialize in human rights and freedoms, occupational health and safety law, criminal law, and draft contracts with very specific clauses, she explains.
In the coming years, Marie-Hélène Jetté believes that it will be essential for external lawyers to “bring real added value to their clients, and not just recite the law”.
“We have to connect with our clients, and show that we are with them on the front line,” adds Me Jetté.
This is the second time that the lawyer has received the award for product liability litigator of the year in Canada. The firm Benchmark had already highlighted its practice in 2020 in the same category.
This year, she faced Teresa Dufort (McMillan), Gordon McKee (Blake Cassels & Graydon), Peter Pliszka (Fasken), Emmanuelle Poupart (McCarthy Tetrault) and Michael Parrish (Fasken).
“It’s really a team award,” said the lawyer. No lawyer can be successful without being surrounded by a solid team”.
In addition to relying on a multidisciplinary team, made up of lawyers with scientific training, the lawyer identifies two factors that distinguish her firm. First, the national aspect of the practice. “There are very few lawyers who travel every week and practice in all the common law provinces. In our firm, it is the same team that represents the client throughout the country”.
Another distinctive feature of the firm: the ability of the team to be very specialized and to cover a wide range of products, whether for pharmaceutical companies, automotive companies, or manufacturers of household products.
While Sylvie Rodrigue is recognized for her expertise in product liability, she also stands out for her solid experience in class actions across the country.
La Barreau 1993 began his career at Norton Rose Fulbright. At the time, there were few collective actions. By the end of the 1990s, class action laws were being developed in all provinces. Sylvie Rodrigue has little experience but “sees the train coming” and guesses that the field of practice is booming. She then decided to specialize in this field.
She joined Torys in 2013 and heads the Montreal office. In 2014, she received the “Ad. E.” distinction (Advocatus Emeritus) of the Barreau du Québec in recognition of the excellence of his legal career.
The file that marked his career the most? His probono representation of the Canadian Olympic Committee and athlete Mandy Bujold against the International Olympic Committee in 2021, before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
“This key case for the right of women athletes around the world not to be discriminated against because of pregnancy has had a powerful and concrete impact on several sports federations and is a defining moment in my career. . Not only was Mandy able to participate in her second Olympic Games in Tokyo because of this victory, but the fundamental rights of women were officially confirmed as being firmly anchored in the Olympic Charter, as well as in international law. It is a battle that I would do again tomorrow morning despite the intensity of this legal procedure, ”says the lawyer.