Monday, 03 March 2014 08:00 Written by Gail J. Cohen
There’s never been a legal story in Canada that’s had the impact of the death of Heenan Blaikie. In a world of social media, constant connection, and instant messaging, we all watched the breakdown unfold almost in real time. It was the biggest law firm collapse in Canadian history and almost everyone I know is either personally affected or knows people personally affected by it.
|Illustration: Sara Tyson|
It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. 2013 was most definitely one of the weirdest times, for law firms in Canada anyway. While I’m not drawing from any formal studies or reports, conversations with law firm leaders over the past couple of months yielded a wide variety of responses to the question, “How was your year?” The answers ranged from “our best year ever” to, as you can imagine, the exact opposite. And it’s not just Big Law showing that wide range of experience but boutiques and mid-sized firms as well. It’s across practice areas and geographic locations. All that is to say, I think law firm management is obviously starting to play a much greater role in ongoing success than it ever has before.
I am dismayed by being included in your October issue’s cover story by Bruce Livesey, entitled, “Hoodwinked!” about dishonest private investigators who mislead Canadian lawyers. Your reporter cited the courtroom remarks of the well-known criminal defence lawyer Edward Greenspan as he defended Conrad Black in a widely-publicized criminal case of fraud and other charges. The reported part of the case was the 2007 hearing in Chicago about Black’s potential interim return to Canada before sentencing. In this hearing, the prosecution apparently cited evidence that we had previously provided to the law firm of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, which had acted for Hollinger Inc. in a related civil case against Conrad Black.
In early December, Warren Winkler retired as the chief justice of Ontario. The man and his career were feted in a variety of ways including an Advocates’ Society 1,000-plus person farewell dinner that included dignitaries such as fellow Pincher Creek, Alta., denizen Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. In advance of this splashy send-off, the society held a day-long symposium on the future of advocacy. While it didn’t address the future, so much, it was inspirational and a fitting tribute to “Wink,” who is well known for his skills of negotiation and conciliation.
|Illustration: Sara Tyson|
As this issue was about to go to press, the Supreme Court of Canada announced it would hear on Jan. 15 the reference filed by the federal government regarding the Supreme Court Act and the appointment of a Federal Court judge as one of the mandatory three members from Quebec. Just days after Justice Marc Nadon’s appointment was announced and he was sworn in as the newest member of the Supreme Court, Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati, later joined by the Quebec government, filed a challenge to this appointment.