Our History

Branch MacMaster LLP was founded in August 1998 by Jim MacMaster and Ward Branch. They left what is now the national law firm of Faskens to set up their own litigation firm. Their goal: to assist clients in a responsive and cost-effective manner and to achieve the best possible outcomes. This goal continues.

Jim and Ward understood that a small and specialized litigation firm would benefit their clients. Benefits include lower cost overhead, greater flexibility to address technological change, greater practice opportunities, and fewer conflicts of interest. They focused on high-end insurance, health law, and class actions. Jim and Ward often said the firm practiced “big firm law in a small firm context”.

Since inception, our insurance practice has focused on insurance coverage and liability defence for a relatively small number of leading Canadian insurers. Our 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 leading insurance cases including appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada. 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 provided coverage advice on environmental insurance and other major liability claims on both a national and international basis.

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

Our health law practice was initially led by Jim MacMaster. Today, Don Lebans and Nevin Fishman are the leaders. Our health law practice continues to include regulatory matters for health colleges and hospital privileges and medical malpractice cases for physicians and surgeons.

Our class action practice was led by Ward Branch until his June 2017 appointment to the B.C. Supreme Court. We continue to handle numerous class actions across the country acting for both plaintiffs and defendants.

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

Our firm has grown slowly but steadily over the past 20+ years. Don Lebans is our longest serving partner, having joined us in October 1998. Chris Rhone came from Faskens in 2002. Both Don and Chris joined the partnership 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.

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

In June 2017, Ward was appointed as a justice of the B.C. Supreme Court. In October 2017 Jim retired. Although the co-founders no longer practice with us, our firm continues its strong presence in the Canadian legal landscape. We have 18 lawyers each of whom continues to practice “big firm law in a small firm context”. We remain focused on insurance, health law, and class actions, and many of our retainers remain national.

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