Our History

Branch MacMaster LLP was founded in August 1998 by Jim MacMaster and Ward Branch. They both left what is now the national law firm of Faskens to set up a boutique litigation firm that could service clients in a responsive and cost-effective manner.

Jim and Ward realized that a small and specialized litigation firm would benefit their clients. These benefits include lower cost overhead, greater flexibility to address technological change, greater practice opportunities, and fewer conflicts of interest. Jim and Ward thus built their own national firm but on a smaller scale with a focus on the insurance, health law, and class action practice areas. Jim and Ward often said the firm practiced “big firm law in a small firm context”.

Our insurance work has consisted primarily of insurance coverage and liability defence for a relatively small number of leading Canadian insurers. The goal has always been to serve existing clients well. In this way, client and firm growth occurs naturally from existing relationships.

We have been involved in many of the leading insurance cases of the times. On the coverage side, this includes our role as primary coverage counsel for a Canadian insurer in the context of the multitude of leaky condo cases in British Columbia, including representing the insurer before the Supreme Court of Canada. We also provide coverage advice on environmental insurance issues and in relation to major liability claims on both a national and international basis. Lawyers from our firm have appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada several times on important Canadian coverage cases.

At the outset, our insurance practice was led by Jim although Ward soon took a leading role in relation to the leaky condo coverage issues. Since then, Chris Rhone assumed conduct of our insurance practice and is now its leader.

Our health law practice also was initially led by Jim MacMaster. Today, Don Lebans, Nevin Fishman and Susan Precious are the leaders. Our health law practice has and continues to consists of regulatory work for health colleges and hospital privileges work for medical doctors. Since the arrival of Nevin Fishman in our firm in November 2015, our representation of medical doctors now includes liability defence and regulatory matters.

Our class action practice was led by Ward Branch until his appointment as a judge of the B.C. Supreme Court in June 2017. Our class action practice is unique in Canada. Not only have we been involved in a very large number of class actions, those class actions are often conducted across the country. We also act for both plaintiffs and defendants.

Ward Branch developed a national reputation as a leading class action lawyer and academic. His textbook, Class Actions in Canada, has been a leading text on the topic for many years. Luciana Brasil worked closely with Ward in building the class action practice, and is now the leader of our class action practice.

Our firm has grown slowly but steadily over the past 20 years. Don Lebans is the longest serving partner, having joined us in October 1998. Chris Rhone came from Faskens in 2002. Both Don and Chris became partners in 2009. Luciana Brasil joined the firm from Davis & Company in 2002, becoming a partner in 2013.

Nevin Fishman joined us as a partner in 2015. he brings nearly 30 years of experience as a seasoned litigator, notably in the health law field where he advises physicians in medical malpractice lawsuits and professional regulation matters.

Susan Precious became a partner in 2016.

We have been located at 777 Hornby Street in Vancouver since our inception.

We experienced two major changes in 2017. In June 2017, Ward was appointed as a justice of the B.C. Supreme Court. In October 2017 Jim retired. Although the cofounders are gone, the firm continues to be a strong presence in the Canadian legal landscape. We have five partners and a total of 17 lawyers each of whom continues to practice “big firm law in a small firm context”. Our practice areas continue to be specifically focused on insurance, health law, and class actions, while the scope of many of our retainers remain national.

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