Phil Tunley has been legal counsel in complex civil and public law litigation for more than 30 years.
Phil Tunley offers strategic advice and representation to clients. He also offers ADR services, primarily as a mediator, directly to the legal profession.
Scope of Practice
Throughout his career, Phil has represented clients at all levels of courts in the Ontario and Federal Court systems, and in the Supreme Court of Canada. He appears frequently in administrative appeals and judicial reviews, and in hearings before a variety of administrative tribunals. He is an experienced trial and appellate counsel in civil disputes, provincial offences, and a wide range of regulatory and administrative law matters.
Phil’s practice today covers a wide range of substantive civil and public law areas, including corporate and commercial law, energy law, high technology matters, professional and business regulation, civil, Charter and human rights, Aboriginal rights, constitutional and administrative law, and media and defamation law.
His corporate and commercial clients regularly include referrals from other leading Canadian law firms, including the two national law firms with which he has been associated, as well as direct retainers. He has acted in shareholder disputes, and other matters involving expert business valuation evidence, up to the Ontario Court of Appeal, as well as in disputes involving contract and fiduciary claims, energy, securities, insolvency, banking, mining, tax, and other matters.
Recently, Phil’s administrative and regulatory practice has focused on energy regulation, regulatory compliance proceedings, and professional regulation – including engineers, accountants, lawyers, and health care providers. He acts both for regulators, and for regulated entities and individuals in these areas. He is experienced both as a prosecutor in regulatory matters, and as defence counsel. He also acts as independent legal counsel to administrative tribunals. He is regularly involved in judicial reviews and administrative appeals before the Ontario and Federal courts, and he has current knowledge of the techniques of statutory interpretation and the standards of judicial review of administrative decisions, which arise frequently in this context.
Phil’s media and defamation practice centres on the defence of major media in defamation matters, as well as access to information requests, publication bans, and other proceedings that support the work of journalists in gathering and reporting the news. His experience includes matters involving defamation in social media, and on the internet, including cross-border claims. He has published and litigated on issues relating to defamation in an employment context, and he has experience with defamation issues that can arise in the context of allegations and claims relating to sexual assault.
Phil also frequently acts for clients in relation to civil rights and Charter or human rights claims when an infringement of protected rights and freedoms is alleged. He has experience both asserting and defending such claims. He has broad experience in seeking damages and other compensatory relief for such infringements, as well as remedies relating to the validity or invalidity of enacted laws, regulations, and policies, and of the actions of government officials and others who exercise statutory powers. This experience includes civil claims for sexual assault, and claims involving national security and the investigation of alleged terrorist affiliations.
Phil also has long experience and involvement with the rights of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, including in land claims and other disputes, negotiations, and regulatory proceedings that directly impact those rights. He has represented Aboriginal groups, regulators, industry, and governments in such matters.
Phil practices litigation as a specialty.
His experience centres on complex matters, including conflicts of laws issues that engage two or more legal systems.
In that context, he uses the latest digital tools to master the high volumes of documentary productions exchanged, and to conduct litigation of all kinds remotely where possible. He has special expertise in the presentation and assessment of expert evidence, in electronic evidence, and in automated litigation support for complex trials.
He is always keen to work as co-counsel, both with lawyers from other jurisdictions, and with specialist lawyers in areas he does not regularly practice, such as municipal, environmental, and copyright law.
Much of the litigation within Phil’s broad scope of practice requires a strong grounding in the decided Canadian and international case law, as well as a willingness to find and advance new policy arguments that push the frontiers of the decided cases.
Phil’s commitment to litigation as a specialty is underlined by his frequent involvement in teaching advocacy as a skill set. He volunteered as adjunct faculty for the University of Toronto Law School’s third year trial advocacy course from 1996-2019. He still teaches at the annual Osgoode Intensive Trial Advocacy workshop, and as an instructor at various CLE programs.
Phil places a high value on his independence as legal counsel to clients, on helping to provide access to justice, and on diversity and inclusion. He is committed to cost-effective representation of clients of all kinds in our increasingly complex, overburdened, and under-funded court and tribunal systems.
Career, Experience and Recognition
Phil started his career as a barrister in 1984, practicing corporate and commercial litigation, energy law and professional and business regulation for 5 years with the national law firm now known as McMillan.
He then spent 4 years with the Ontario Attorney General, Constitutional Law section, as counsel in cases involving Charter rights, particularly in the context of provincial prosecutions, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and the division of powers between Canada’s federal and provincial governments.
He spent the next 13 years as a partner with McCarthy’s national litigation team, and another 10 years as a partner at Stockwoods Barristers, a leading litigation boutique. In 2017, he left Stockwoods and joined Alexi Wood at St. Lawrence Barristers LLP, where Phil practiced as a founding partner until 2022.
Phil has appeared as counsel in the Supreme Court of Canada, and in other appellate and trial courts, in leading cases that remain the foundations of our law in many areas of his practice.
Phil has written, spoken, and published regularly on issues related to his practice.
He has been recognized by professional rating agencies, such as L’Expert and Best Lawyers in Canada, for his work in Administrative and Public Law, Appellate Practice, Corporate and Commercial Litigation, and Defamation and Media Law. In 2019, he was awarded the “Energy Bear” by the Canadian Energy Law Forum, which is the premier professional forum for counsel practicing in the energy field in Canada.
Phil is a committed mentor of young lawyers who share his practice interests.
He also extends those practice interests as an active member of The Advocates’ Society, the Canadian Media Lawyers Association, the Energy Law Forum, and as the elected President of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.