Civil Litigation

Legal legend Campion has done it all during five decades in law

By Staff

Toronto civil litigator John Campion calls himself the Forrest Gump of 1968.

That was the year before he enrolled in the University of Toronto’s law school, and Campion made sure it was an eventful one spent travelling. He was in Rome when anti-war riots brought the city to a standstill, then in Athens for protests against the military junta that had driven Greek King Constantine into exile ahead of his ultimate abdication, he was thrown out of Spain by General Franco’s regime, before arriving in Czechoslovakia, just in time to witness tanks rolling in as part of the Soviet invasion.

“It was a remarkable year,” Campion, partner with Gardiner Roberts LLP, tells

And you could make an even more compelling case for Campion as the Forrest Gump of the Canadian legal profession, with a career unfolding in blockbuster fashion — touching on many of the most significant cases at the intersection of business and law in this country over the last five decades.

Among his landmark cases were the $9-billion Bre-X Minerals matter, the Gomery Commission into the federal sponsorship scandal, the investigation into the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food program, the deregulation of the natural gas industry, and many more.

“In effect, on big cases, you’re exercising power on behalf of your clients,” Campion says. “It requires one to be deeply connected with them and the individuals involved at a highly professional and business level, but also on a personal level.

“I treat it as a very multifaceted relationship,” he adds.

Having developed his own practice under the guidance of some legendary figures in the Canadian legal scene, including Doug Laidlaw, John Sopinka and Walter Williston, Campion takes mentorship very seriously. Among his own juniors, he counts two Court of Appeal judges and several leaders in both the legal and business worlds.

He has also broadened his audience over the years with teaching gigs at both his alma mater, the University of Toronto, and Osgoode Hall Law School. Most recently, Campion teamed up with the Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA) to create the Advanced Skill Certificate for Young & Mid-Career Civil Litigators: Analysis, process and strategy.

“It gives you a good sense of what I do when I look at a problem,” says Campion, who adds that any civil litigation matter can be broken down into those three concepts: analysis, process and strategy.

Still, he says young lawyers will likely need to adapt in order to thrive in the changing legal environment as the practice of law has changed beyond recognition since his own first steps into the profession.

“We used to be like high priests, where clients would bring us their problems and leave us to it until we came back with an answer. We didn’t need too much direction, and they respected our judgment,” he explains. “Now it’s a different world, where cost is a big factor, and major law firms are billion-dollar businesses.”

Over the last five decades, two prime ministers and a number of provincial premiers have had the benefit of Campion’s counsel, and he has also appeared in every trial and appeal court in the country, except for those in the Yukon and Saskatchewan.

Campion also serves as an emeritus bencher of the Law Society of Ontario, after serving four elected terms with the profession’s regulatory body, and was also president of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, among many other roles. In addition, he squeezed in a term as chair of Bay Street giant Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, where he spent 45 years of his career before joining Gardiner Roberts.

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