Toronto’s Bay Adelaide Centre, home of Heenan Blaikie ()
UPDATE: 2/13/14, 9:12 a.m. EST. Dentons has confirmed its hire of 22 new partners and counsel from Heenan Blaikie in Montreal and Toronto.
The collapse of Heenan Blaikie has more lawyers from the storied national Canadian firm finding new homes.
On Wednesday, Baker & McKenzie announced its hire of a 13-lawyer corporate, tax and banking and finance team in Toronto, while Am Law 100 and Swiss verein rival Dentons is reportedly in negotiations about taking on an additional 23 lawyers from Heenan Blaikie in Montreal and Toronto, according to The Globe and Mail.
The Am Law Daily reported earlier this week on the impasse in talks between DLA Piper and a group of up to 70 Heenan Blaikie lawyers in Calgary and Toronto. After those negotiations broke down, Dentons announced its hire of Heenan Blaikie counsel and former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in Ottawa.
In reporting this week on the 2013 financial performance of Dentons’ U.S. LLP, The Am Law Daily noted the firm’s interest in picking up more lawyers from faltering 500-lawyer Heenan Blaikie. The Montreal-based firm saw real estate partners Chantal Sylvestre and Joel Cabelli leave its headquarters for Dentons’ local base last week, while corporate partner Michael Ledgett joined Dentons in Toronto.
A Dentons spokeswoman in the United States declined to comment Wednesday on whether any other Heenan Blaikie hires were in the works, while a Canadian spokeswoman for Dentons did not immediately return a request for comment on the matter.
The 13-lawyer team headed to Baker & McKenzie’s Toronto office is led by corporate and securities partners Kevin Rooney and Sonia Yung, both of whom joined Heenan Blaikie in 2004 from Aird & Berlis. The latter firm, which had held merger talks twice with Heenan Blaikie over the past decade, was retained by DLA last week to advise on its ultimately unsuccessful effort to establish a base in Canada by acquiring select remnants of Heenan Blaikie.
For its part, Baker & McKenzie has had an office in Toronto—Canada’s financial capital—since 1962. Last month the firm hired tax partner Alex Pankratz in Toronto from leading local firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt. Baker & McKenzie said in a press release its Toronto office will now have 75 lawyers after its Heenan Blaikie hires.
Oslers is one of a handful of top Canadian firms benefiting from the exodus of Heenan Blaikie lawyers. Adam Kardash, the former head of Heenan Blaikie’s national privacy and information management group and a member of the firm’s national executive committee, joined Oslers this week in Toronto along with lawyer and consultant Pamela Snively and four associates.
McCarthy Tétrault, another top Canadian firm, announced its hire Wednesday of Brazilian national and Heenan Blaikie mining partner Frederico Marques in Toronto. Leading Quebec firm BCF also announced plans this week to bring on a 30-lawyer Heenan Blaikie team in Montreal and Quebec City led by partner Marcel Aubut, a well-known corporate lawyer north of the border who serves as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. (Aubut is currently in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Games.)
Gowling Lafleur Henderson also confirmed this week its hire of eight more Heenan Blaikie lawyers—including four partners—in Ottawa. Heenan Blaikie litigation partner Mark Power has also announced plans to form his constitutional law boutique in Canada’s capital city.
“The issue isn’t that Heenan [Blaikie] was not profitable; the issue seems to be that it was not profitable enough for some,” Power told The Globe and Mail this week for a story about the firm’s demise. “And that’s crazy.”
The fall of Heenan Blaikie has sent shockwaves through Canada’s legal industry, where the national firm model is relatively new. A commodities boom and the resilience of Canada’s banking sector to the global financial crisis had helped the country’s largest firms remain temporarily insulated from the legal industry forces affecting their peers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, although increased competition from some of those global legal giants and low-cost legal services shops are cutting into big-firm bottom lines north of the border, as noted last week by The Am Law Daily.
At least four top Canadian firms got a bit of a boost on Wednesday, as The Am Law Daily reported on their roles advising on Mexican baking giant Grupo Bimbo’s $1.7 billion acquisition of Canada Bread from Maple Leaf Foods.