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Mark Tonkovich

December 19, 2022


Growing up in a family with few connections to the legal profession, Mark Tonkovich formed his early impressions of the law the same way most people do: television shows and movies.

“I was very attracted to litigation, but I knew enough to appreciate that the Hollywood version was not reality, so I wanted to learn about real-life advocacy work,” he says.

At law school, Tonkovich also found himself drawn to taxation law, unintimidated by its reputation for mind-boggling complexity among his law student peers.

“I liked the idea of rising to that challenge, and it turned out to be an eye-opening experience for me because I found tax law fascinating,” he says. “It also quickly became apparent that I had an aptitude for it. I was hooked.”

In the years since, Tonkovich has found a way to combine his two legal passions, making a name for himself in Canada’s tight-knit tax litigation bar and rising to lead the Tax Controversy & Litigation group at Bay Street giant Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.

Throughout his career, Tonkovich says he has always appreciated the rewarding flipside to the complicated nature of his chosen area of practice.

“There is a steep learning curve, but it also means that, once you get into it and you’re able to gain a wider appreciation of a particular tax issue, it comes with a real sense of achievement,” he explains.

In addition to articling at another large full-service firm – a term that included a secondment, leading on to a subsequent counsel position in tax litigation at Justice Canada – Tonkovich broadened his litigation horizons with a clerkship at the Federal Court of Appeal. He then built experience in private practice as a member of the tax group at a prominent international law firm.

Soon after, Tonkovich began seeking further education opportunities in tax law, thirsty for a deeper appreciation of tax principles and wary of the potential for blind spots in a client-driven practice area like his.

“In tax disputes, your client comes to you with a problem to be resolved, and you get to know that issue front-to-back, including all the case law and policy that comes along with it,” he says. “Even with a varied practice, there are bound to be areas of tax law you don’t know about. I wanted to make sure I was supplementing my existing and growing technical knowledge.”

OsgoodePD’s Professional LLM in Taxation Law quickly emerged as the obvious choice, not only because of the school’s outstanding reputation and formidable tax law faculty, but also because of the program’s flexibility.

“The program was quite well established, and there was a fair bit of choice in terms of which courses I could take in particular terms,” Tonkovich says. “When the time came to write my papers, I was also able to focus on legal issues that were very active, or which I thought would be gaining a lot of future attention, in the tax disputes community. This meant that a big chunk of my research and writing could be tailored in a way that suited my practice especially well.”

Classroom discussions were another highlight for Tonkovich, thanks to the quality and diversity of the tax sector experience among his classmates, who included private practice lawyers, in-house counsel, public servants and accountants.

“When you take that group of students and those kinds of professors, it’s hard not to have really great conversations about tax law topics,” he adds.

Four years after his 2014 graduation, Tonkovich took up his current role at Blakes, where he handles sensitive and substantial tax disputes on behalf of clients seeking resolutions with the Canada Revenue Agency and other government bodies.

In addition to his practice, Mark Tonkovich has taken an active role in his corner of the legal community, serving as chair of each of the Tax Court Bench and Bar Committee and the Ontario Bar Association’s Tax Law Section.

“It’s a close-knit community and we collaborate a lot together,” he says.

For those interested in joining the next generation of tax litigators, Tonkovich would not hesitate to recommend they follow in his footsteps and enroll in Osgoode’s Professional LLM in Taxation Law.

“It’s a significant commitment, but if you’re prepared to put in the time and effort to really get the most out of your studies, it’s an excellent program that will provide a great foundation or advanced knowledge in this complex area of practice,” he says.

Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Taxation Law? Sign up for an Information Session!