Mark Adkins
Mark Adkins ()

McCarthy Tétrault, one of the largest law firms in Canada, is making a move to Manhattan.

The 570-lawyer firm, which is based in Toronto, announced Wednesday its plans to open an office in New York in an effort to capitalize on U.S. clients looking to do business in Canada. The new outpost will be led by its newest addition, Mark Adkins, who joins McCarthy Tétrault from Canadian rival Blake, Cassels & Graydon’s New York office.

“McCarthy has a great depth in U.S. clients already [and] we already have a lot of outreach and a lot of relationships,” Adkins said. “The real benefit of having this office is to put boots on the ground. It’s to have an anchor for U.S. clients and their firms to know us and to be top of mind and be available.”

A Winnipeg native, Adkins moved from Canada to New York in 2003 while working as an associate at another top Canadian firm, Torys, which had expanded into the U.S. four years before in what would be a tumultuous merger with New York’s Haythe & Curley. (The combined firm, Torys Haythe, soon became just Torys after name partner Thomas Haythe was accused of sexually harassing several lawyers.)

Since then other large Canadian firms—such as Stikeman Elliott and Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt—have also established offices in New York, primarily targeting work related to cross-border transactions involving the U.S. and its northern neighbor.

Adkins said that McCarthy Tétrault will follow a similar track, working with clients and their U.S. legal advisers on capital markets, private equity and international M&A deals. But McCarthy Tétrault’s new office, which will be located on 46th Street in midtown Manhattan, will strictly practice Canadian law.

“[We’ll] be assisting Canadian clients with Canadian law questions that they may have or [making] introductions when they are going out of country,” said McCarthy Tétrault CEO David Leonard (pictured right). “We have a great relationship with a number of law firms in New York and the U.S. We have a great referral network from them and we’re going to capitalize on that even more.”

McCarthy Tétrault plans on keeping its operations minimal in New York given its specific objective, outfitting its new office with one associate in addition to Adkins, Leonard said. However, the Toronto-based firm hopes to eventually expand to four or five lawyers within the next few months.

“It’s all about serving Canadian clients that are actually looking to do work in the U.S. and outside our borders and connecting them with law firms or resources they need to do those transactions,” Leonard said. “And equally coming the other way—to develop relationships for clients outside of our borders who are looking to do work in Canada.”

At Blake Cassels, Adkins served as co-leader of the firm’s private equity group, advising U.S. and foreign buyers on the acquisition of Canadian businesses. Adkins said that the U.S. referral relationships he developed—which he declined to name—during his time at the firm will follow him to McCarthy Tétrault, which already shares some of those same connections.

Several large international firms like Dentons, DLA Piper and Norton Rose Fulbright have made inroads into the Canadian legal services market by absorbing firms up north, while Ottawa-based Gowling Lafleur Henderson made headlines in 2015 for combining with British firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. But McCarthy Tétrault has resisted a merger, choosing instead to focus on strengthening its core operations in Canada and investing in different innovations.

The American Lawyer reported in January on a first-of-its-kind deal that saw McCarthy Tétrault acquire Toronto-based electronic discovery firm Wortzmans in an effort to streamline costs and operations for its clients.

“We’re always looking to follow our clients and remain relevant to them,” Leonard said. “Where it goes from there, we’ll see, but it’ll depend on where our clients take us and where we can follow them.”

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