The pros & cons of ...

Written by  Posted Date: August 27, 2012
Practising in Edmonton, mining law, in Saskatchewan, mergers & acquisitions

Practising in Edmonton

Peter Inglis, Bennett Jones LLP
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PROS:
• Alberta’s economy — and that of Edmonton and northern Alberta in particular — is a dynamic powerhouse and hotbed of national and international growth.
• Very integrated with other major national and international centres.
• Incredible sporting and cultural traditions and resources, including highest area of parkland per capita of any Canadian city. River Valley “Ribbon of Green” is the largest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America (22 times the size of NYC’s Central Park!).
• With just under 40 lawyers, our Edmonton office offers the best of both worlds. As a smaller office, it provides you with the entrepreneurial and creative experience of a boutique while still providing access to the work and resources of a major national firm. You will have the opportunity to work with startups of pretty much every variety all the way up to national and international businesses and institutions doing business and moving capital in and out of Alberta.
• Upper end of compensation scale and yet housing will be comparatively affordable compared to Vancouver, Toronto, or Calgary.

CONS:
• Since it’s a Canadian city you can’t avoid talking weather. The stereotype is cold winters but the reality is that it generally won’t get as cold as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or Quebec; it generally won’t snow as much as it does in Quebec, Ontario, or the Maritimes; and it is always one of the sunniest cities in Canada. Pair the extra-long summer days with a very high concentration of golf courses and it can be hard to beat for a certain type of lawyer!
• It is taking longer than Oilers fans would like to win Stanley Cup No. 6.

Magdalene Baczynski, Duncan & Craig LLP
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PROS:
• Close-knit, collegial bar.
• Exposure to a wide variety of practice areas.
• Billable hour targets and expected work hours are likely less than other major cities such as Calgary or Toronto.
• Strong Alberta economy means there is always work to go around, especially in the oil and gas sector.
• Vibrant community with lots of festivals to enjoy year-round.

CONS:
• Public transportation is improving, but unless you live near the downtown core, owning a vehicle is essential to get around the sprawling cityscape.
• The long, cold winters can be hard to handle.
• Income is lower than our neighbour to the south (Calgary).
• Limited opportunities to practise in some commercial areas such as M&A or securities compared to Calgary or Toronto.

Practising mining law

Paul Stein, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, Toronto
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PROS:
• An opportunity to work in an industry where Canada is a world leader.
• Mining transactions often involve working on projects situated outside of Canada. Your work will often involve travel, sometimes to very remote and exotic locations.
• Provides you with opportunities to work with counsel and management teams situated in other parts of the world. You learn and experience working with local laws, cultures, and customs. Provides you with an opportunity to show off your foreign language skills.
• Mining law is multi-faceted and involves many different areas of expertise such as environmental, real estate, construction, tax, corporate finance, project finance, and mergers and acquisitions. Lots of quality legal work.
• People involved in the mining industry are great to work with.
• Mining companies are constantly engaged and concerned with social and environmental issues. You will become involved in assisting mining clients in the funding and development of local schools, hospitals, and social services for communities surrounding mine and development sites.

CONS:
• Working with people and projects located throughout the world often results in conference calls very late in the evening and very early in the morning.
• Exploration companies have no revenues, cannot borrow funds, and must rely on the capital markets for funding to carry on operations. At times, you must be patient in collecting outstanding accounts.
• True mining lawyers are referred to as “dirt lawyers.”
• Although clients are usually very appreciative, they rarely send gold bars or diamonds as tokens of their appreciation.

Adrienne Mercer, McInnes Cooper, St. John’s
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PROS:
• Work is interesting and varied. The Newfoundland and Labrador mining industry ranges from established mining operations to resurrection of abandoned sites to junior startups. Local counsel is relied upon to give advice in many different areas that impact the industry: not only pure mining, but financing transactions, environmental issues, aboriginal matters, and more!
• Most companies do not have head offices in Newfoundland and Labrador and so there is lots of opportunity to work with in-house and external counsel, both in Canada and internationally

CONS:
• There are not that many mining operations in Newfoundland and Labrador and so it is difficult to focus only on mining law.
• Timelines are often short so extra hours are often required.

Practising in Saskatoon

Sheila Caston, McKercher LLP
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PROS:
• Saskatchewan is experiencing a boom in its economy and, as a result, there is a growing market for legal services.
• A relatively small and collegial bar where you are likely to know the lawyer on the other side both personally and professionally.
• Saskatoon is a beautiful and active city with a variety of cultural and recreational events and there is easy access to outdoor sport and recreation outside of Saskatoon.
• Billable-hour expectations tend to be less than in larger centres, meaning a better work-life balance can be achieved.
• Commuting times and house prices, although increasing, are still significantly less than in larger Canadian cities.
• Where even the big firms are small, comparatively speaking, firms generally have close-knit and friendly work environments.

CONS:
• Winter.
• Salaries may be considered lower than in larger cities (but cost of living is as well).
• Limited opportunities to practise maritime law.
• Fewer corporate head offices, meaning less opportunity for in-house work.

Sean Sinclair, Robertson Stromberg LLP
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PROS:
• The Saskatoon/Saskatchewan economy is strong right now and there is plenty of interesting and challenging work.
• There is a tight-knit and friendly legal community.
• Students and junior lawyers tend to get involved with clients and major transactions at an early stage of their development.
• The city is still quite a manageable size allowing for reasonable commutes to work (10-20 minutes on average).
• Work hours and expectations may be less than in some other major centres.

CONS:
• Saskatoon has grown quickly over the past few years, which has increased the cost of housing.
• Billing rates and lawyer compensation do not likely match some major centres.

Practising mergers & acquisitions

Daniel Allen, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Vancouver
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PROS:
• Exciting and dynamic work.
• Work involving different jurisdictions, practice areas, and industries.
• Great variety of interesting legal issues.
• Working in highly skilled teams.
• Sense of satisfaction and recognition when deals are completed.
• Constantly being challenged and learning to be creative.
• Lots of interaction with clients and other professionals.
• Workflow in good times and bad times.

CONS:
• Unpredictable and long hours.
• Short deadlines that can sometimes create high-pressure situations.

Nathalie Proulx, Spiegel Sohmer, Montreal
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POUR:
• Chaque dossier est unique et présente son lot departicularités (de par l’industrie impliquée, les termes de la transaction, les intervenants, etc.).
• Les négociations dans ces dossiers fontappel à plusieurs aptitudes — il faut bien comprendre la situation et les objectifs de son client et de l’autre partie, savoir comment présenter la position de son client, etc.
• Ces dossiers progressent souvent à un rythme rapide et un règlement procure toujours une certaine dose d’adrénaline!

CONTRE:
• Les délais peuvent être serrés et le travail à faire peut être considérable. Il faut s’organiser en conséquence.
• C’est un domaine particulièrement sensible aux conditions économiques. Certaines périodes sont donc extrêmement occupées, mais il y a aussi des périodes plus calmes.

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Heather Gardiner

Heather Gardiner is the assistant editor of Canadia Lawyer 4Students.

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