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They look like us, they speak our language and have been observing us at close range for many years. They blend well into the fabric of New York City, home to numerous alien life forms. But sometimes, the members of what is casually known as the Bay Street Bar Association are helpless to expose their peculiarities. Know them by these signs: On buses and subway cars, should one of them inadvertently clout you in the kidneys with a briefcase, he will say, “Oh, gosh, so sorry!” They consider it extraordinarily rude to have secretaries announce their telephone calls. They do not litter. They may legally purchase Cuban cigars. Their weekends are largely their own. Small wonder that frazzled junior New York transactional lawyers consider it a stroke of luck to land one of the few jobs available to Yanks in the local offices of Canadian firms — such as the ones clustered in and around Bay Street, Toronto’s generic equivalent of Wall Street. Life at such firms, it is agreed, inevitably reflects the generally more neighbourly culture of Canada. “We’re kinder,” says Daniel M. Miller. “We’re gentler.” For comparative purpose, Miller may be considered an expert witness. Born in Boston 31 years ago to a Canadian mother and father, he grew up in Vancouver, where he was naturalized as a citizen of his parents’ land. Later, he headed south for the University of California at Los Angeles. Then it was off to Ontario for a J.D. earned at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Then back across the border to a hard-charging Manhattan firm for his first five years as a corporate attorney. Miller remains in Manhattan. But he recently left Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison for a spot in the New York office of Toronto-based Torys. At both firms, Miller did cross-border corporate deals. By Miller’s lights, his move was something more than the usual lateral transfer. “People are nicer here, there are fewer screamers,” he said of his current milieu. “When a partner says thank you for something, you actually believe him.” Sitting in his office at Torys last Friday, dressed in blue jeans while clearing up his calendar in order to go get married and honeymoon for several weeks in Bali with his Louisiana bride-to-be, Miller added, “The culture here is certainly more laid-back.” Certainly with a New York managing partner everybody calls “Trip,” a jocular reference to the numeral that goes with his name: Charles E. Dorkey III. “We keep the volume down,” said Dorkey. “And we do say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you.’” There were, of course, more substantial factors involved in Miller’s decision to cross the national divide once again. “Torys has given me the opportunity to be more entrepreneurial, the chance to grow a practice,” he said. “I do things that associates don’t usually get to do.” In his first week on the job, for instance, Miller accompanied two Torys partners on a three-day rainmaking visit to a major Canadian city. The effect, said Miller: “You feel much more a part of a team rather than a cog in a wheel.” The close partner-associate relationship that Miller experienced is not unique to Torys. “Canadian law firms have historically been leveraged quite differently, in part a function of market and profit expectations,” said Robert C. Lando, a partner in the small New York office of Osler Hoskin & Harcourt, the prominent Toronto firm. “At Osler and most other [Canadian] firms, leverage is close to one partner per associate. “That creates a situation where the team working on a particular matter is going to be much more balanced,” said Lando, who was once an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell, where he said the partner-associate ratio could be as wide as one to four. At Canadian firms, he said, “Associates will work much more frequently with partners, and perhaps in a more collegial way.” Steven H. Levin, managing partner of the 20-lawyer New York office of Toronto’s Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, suggested that American-style law firm administration was a tad authoritarian. “You’ve got the senior partner talking to the junior partner who’s talking to the senior associate who’s talking to the junior associate,” said Levin, a U.S. citizen. “Something gets lost in all that.” Another significant difference in the cultures of American and Canadian firms, said Lando, is a most human one: rest. “We work just as hard as American lawyers do, we just don’t do it every day of the year,” he said. “When [a Canadian firm deal] is closed, you take some time to catch up on work that’s less time-sensitive. You essentially recuperate from a difficult period of hard work before the next big deal comes along.” For associates, he said, the American pattern is wearying. Lando described the grind: “As you’re walking into the closing, having just stayed up three or four nights in a row, you get a call from a partner. He hears you’re freed up now.” Levin agreed with that indictment. “We have a more vested interest in the health and happiness of our young attorneys,” said Levin. “In the long run, a lot more of our associates will become partner largely because of the leverage difference. “A large [American] firm is more interested in the work they’re going to get out of an associate today.” Or as V. Carl Walker, a Brooklyn-born associate at Torys said of large New York firms: “If you bill a lot of hours, that’s great. Now you’re on your way to billing a ton of hours.” Whereas ambitious American associates are expected to show about 2,500 billable hours per year, Lando said their Canadian counterparts billing 1,800 hours are considered “very hard workers, well onto the partnership track.” Walker has the perspective of seeing a Canadian culture eclipse its American cousin — while staying in the very same place. Which is to say, Walker was at New York’s Haythe & Curley before the firm was absorbed in October 1999 by Tory Tory DesLauriers & Binnington of Toronto, the merger which begat Torys. “In the old days, I think no one would have thought twice about calling you up on a Saturday morning and getting you into the office,” said Walker, 34, a graduate of Rutgers University School of Law. “It happens now, but there has to be a very significant need. “That said, Haythe & Curley was no sweatshop,” he added. “But I think this much is true of any place that’s not New York: Enjoying life is prized to a greater extent than pursuing the dollar.” Along with any other associate working for the Manhattan office of a Canadian firm, Walker is assured of receiving a salary comparable to those at New York firms. That and certain more dubious standards. In New York, the honeymooning Miller noted, “You have to get used to apartment living — and the cost of living. I miss having a backyard.” And while the Canadian law firm culture may sound like Valhalla, the cross-border path is pretty much one-way south. Only a handful of big Canadian firms see the need of maintaining New York offices, let alone branches in other U.S. cities. And outside of transactional work and certain litigation, there are enough differences between the American and Canadian systems to have produced a less than welcoming attitude when it comes to American lawyers looking northward. “If you have a Harvard Law School degree and want to work in Canada, the first thing the Law Society [of Upper Canada] would say is, What do you know about constitutional law, or [Canadian] criminal law?” said Lando. “The problem is the regulatory aspect. “We couldn’t hire [American lawyers] until they were qualified to practice Ontario law,” he said. “Which may depend on their taking a semester or two of courses, or a transfer exam, or on negotiations with the Law Society’s Joint Committee on Foreign Accreditation.” This would be on top of a substantial cut in pay, said Lando. According to a survey soon to be published in Canadian Lawyer magazine, salaries for midlevel associates in Toronto firms range from about (US) $55,000 to $100,000. There is also the dread Canadian practice of articling, an often humbling form of apprenticeship, Lando said. David Sack, a litigation associate who lateraled two years ago to Torys from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, said simply crossing the Canadian border presents difficulties to an American lawyer such as himself. “They try to keep U.S. lawyers out of Canadian business more than vice versa,” said Sack, 31, a Columbia Law School graduate. On one business trip, he said, “I had a customs officer tell me, ‘Just so long as you interview them [clients] and don’t give legal advice because otherwise you’d need a permit.’ “Well, I could give advice by phone from New York, right? Besides, I thought we had NAFTA and free trade and all that.” Notwithstanding his high regard for the relatively more relaxed Canadian lifestyle, Walker said he is not about to leave home. “This is New York,” said Walker. “This is where everything happens.”

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