2011 Precedent Setter Award Winner: Brendan Van Niejenhuis

Introducing Brendan Van Niejenhuis, a lawyer who stands out
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Brendan Van Niejenhuis
The Litigator

  • Partner, Stockwoods LLP
  • Called to the bar in 2002
  • Adjunct professor, administrative law, Osgoode Hall Law School
  • Pro bono work representing Parkdale residents in their case for rent reductions against the City of Toronto
  • Rocks guitar, mandolin and vocals in his band, Sport of the Future
  • Clerked for Justice Iacobucci, Supreme Court of Canada

van niejenhuis

Things were not looking good for Brendan Van Niejenhuis and his team on the morning of March 25th. Van Niejenhuis was in court representing his client, the Ontario Racing Commission, and the judges were slamming his arguments.

But when he stepped outside for lunch, he was confident: “I think we’ll get them on our side, in the end.” And he was right — they won the application.

Unbeatable confidence is what separates van Niejenhuis, 36, from the pack. “It’s not an accident that Brendan’s already had so much courtroom experience. He’s really very good at what he does,” says Luisa Ritacca, a fellow litigator at Stockwoods.

Van Niejenhuis has amassed over 40 reported decisions as lead or co-lead counsel in just nine years. “I like arguing cases a lot, more than I ever thought I would,” he says. “I like mastering a subject area, and then going and fighting it out with words.” He was assigned challenging cases out of the gate, including the much-publicized Chippewas of Rama v. Ontario trial. He says taking a job with a small firm allowed him to hone his competitive courtroom skills.

Those skills shine through elsewhere, like in van Niejenhuis’s love of board games (Risk and Settlers of Catan are his favourites). “I’m fairly viciously competitive, though not in an aggressive way.” His courtroom reputation could have something to do with his board game tactics: “These games hinge on keeping relations good in order to influence other people’s decision-making.”