A Washington, D.C. law firm has billed Ottawa more than $5 million to defend Canada’s interests in high-stakes international trade disputes, while the private sector attorney responsible for illicit drugs and other Federal crimes billed the Department of Justice more than $3 million last year, according to the Public Accounts of Canada for 2020-21.
Ottawa’s spending on legal services in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021 totaled $502 million, down slightly from $506 million the previous year, according to the latest Public Accounts, which were tabled in Parliament in December 2021.
The Public Accounts reveal that most of Ottawa’s spending on legal services was for services provided in-house by the federal government’s battalion of more than 2,500 lawyers and paralegals from the Department of Justice (DOJ) or seconded to other departments.
However, the federal Director of Public Prosecutions – the government’s largest contractor for outside legal services – has paid 124 law firms across Canada to conduct federal prosecutions – primarily in the areas of illegal drugs, fishing and taxation — spending a total of $38 million in 2020-21 — down more than 20% from $48 million the previous year.
“The reduction in spending over the last fiscal year was largely the result of court closures, procedural delays and reduced travel,” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sabrina Nemis said. , spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
The latest public accounts reveal that 78 law firms billed Ottawa more than $100,000 in 2020-21 for federal lawsuits, but the #1 billing Crown agent was JM Le Dressay and Associates. The Langley, B.C. firm, which was No. 2 the year before, billed the director of public prosecutions $3.1 million — the same as the year before — mostly for drug lawsuits (all figures are rounded).
Only six other private sector federal prosecutors billed more than $1 million in 2020-21: $1.8 million, James E. FarenHoltz Law Corp, Nanaimo, British Columbia; $1.8 million Murchison, Thomson & Clarke, Surrey, BC; $1.1 million Riopelle Group Professional Corporation, Timmins, Ont.; $1.1 million DJ Fraser, Hamilton, Ont.; $1.1 million Antoniani Law Professional Corp., Hamilton, Ont.; $1 million, AK Gosh Professional Corp, Newmarket, Ont.
Crown agent prosecution contracts, which have been awarded on a non-partisan and competitive basis since the late 1990s – after decades of being used as patronage plums by any government in power – offer law firms stable cash flow and valuable court experience, especially for junior litigants.
However, hourly rates remain eternally low: $103 an hour for lawyers in their first five years at the bar; $122 per hour for lawyers in grades six through ten at the bar; $145 per hour for lawyers with more than 10 years at the bar; and $54 per hour for articling students, students and paralegals.
In stark contrast, Ottawa retains prime legal aid billing from major US law firms to defend Canada’s interests in multi-billion dollar trade disputes.
In 2020-21, the No. 1 billing law firm overall was Washington McDermott firm Will & Emery LLP, which was paid $5.4 million by Global Affairs Canada.
Joanne Osendarp, McDermott Will & Emery LLP
A team of lawyers led by international trade lawyer Joanne Osendarp, a uOttawa law graduate and former senior counsel for the federal Departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice, who was Canada’s senior counsel for all institutional matters related to the North American Free Trade Agreement, has for years been lead United States counsel for Canada in our long-running softwood lumber dispute decades with the United States – perhaps the costliest and longest trade battle on the planet.
Among other briefs, Osendarp, co-chair of the firm’s international trade group, represents the federal government in countervailing duty, anti-dumping, and injury cases variously affecting softwood lumber, wind towers, and steel. construction made in Canada.
Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP of New York, NY, another longtime international trade adviser for Canada, received $3.3 million from Global Affairs and the Minister of National Revenue, while Compass Lexecon of Boston received $1.7 million from Global Affairs.
Other legal services firms paid more than $1 million by Ottawa include: Epiq Class Action Services Canada Inc. of Ottawa, which received $1.9 million from the Department of National Defence, and Perley- Robertson Hill & McDougall LLP of Ottawa, which received $1.4 million. by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board.
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