Legal Feeds Blog
A group of New Brunswick lawyers have launched legal action to prevent at least two court closures in the province.
St. Andrews lawyer David Bartlett filed a motion Oct. 7 on behalf of the Charlotte County Barristers’ Society, seeking that a budget decision to close certain courthouses announced in March be quashed or suspended. Bartlett says he will be filing another motion seeking a temporary injunction in the next two weeks to stop the closures, pending the hearing of his Oct. 7 motion.
Courts in Sussex and Grand Falls were put on the chopping block and have already ceased operations, Bartlett explained, while the two he is trying to save in Grand Manan and St. Stephen’s are winding down with no caseload scheduled after Oct. 23.
“It’s baffling,” Bartlett says.
The court in St. Stephen’s “is a full-blown court” and central for the very rural county. It contains offices for the judges, youth court services, a law library, probation and victim services and the department of mental health. Bartlett said those services won’t be as accessible if court services are consolidated at a new courthouse in St. John, a one-and-a-half to four-hour drive for most of its population. Added to the travel issue is that the county covers three islands, including Grand Manan, that can only be accessed by additional lengthy ocean ferry rides.
“Charlotte County is a very rural area, it’s also a poor area and a lot of people simply don’t have cars. It’s an hour-and-a half to four hours minimum for over half our population in St. Stephen’s to drive to the new court house in St. John and on top of all of this there is no public transit,” Bartlett says. “The RCMP here will be the highest paid taxi drivers in the world.”
Bartlett explained in 2007 the provincial government of the day closed some smaller satellite courts and was looking to establish if more courts could be closed. He says a task force was formed at the time and two Law Society representatives were chosen as members, “but that task force never met.”
Bartlett said the society was ensured by the provincial powers that before any court closure there would be advance consultation, and if a court was deemed fit for closure, there was to be a year delay before implementation.
He said this past March when the Ministry of Finance announced the closures it came as a surprise.
“There was no advance notice whatsoever,” he says, adding part of his process now is finding out exactly who made the decision to close the courts and on what grounds. He says there is a request for disclosure seeking that information.
“We don’t know where that decision [to close the courts] was made and that’s part of our application, seeking disclosure. It’s like trying to scale a glass wall with no finger holds.”
Family wins back rights to Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, The Telegraph
Has the turnaround finally begun for energy M&A this year?
Deal lawyers in the oil and gas sector have bemoaned the dearth of activity this year, as the late 2014 oil crash led to a prolonged episode of doldrums.
From January to August 2014, energy lawyers in this country feasted on 70 significant energy deals worth a combined $30.1 billion (see graphic). This year, by comparison, we’ve seen a measly 30 deals valued at $19 billion. Slim pickings by all accounts.
News this week, however, may have given mergers and acquisitions advisers a glimmer of hope. On Monday, as OPEC hinted at softer competition with oil sands producers, U.S. Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen declined to raise interest rates, putting the greenback under pressure and giving oil prices a lift.
Monday saw a 5-per-cent jump in petroleum prices — which are up 20 per cent from their August lows — and those gains seem to be solid.
To put a capper on it, again on Monday, Suncor Energy — frustrated by rebuffed overtures — broke the Canadian deal slump with its $4.3-billion hostile takeover for Canadian Oil Sands.
Shares of COS spiked 50 per cent on news of the bid. COS, attempting to extract a higher price or find a white night, responded yesterday by announcing a 120-day shareholder rights plan (aka, a poison pill).
So, do all these factors amount to a sign of life in the energy M&A market? Craig Hoskins, a Calgary deals lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, says there’s reason to be “cautiously optimistic,” as the saying goes.
“My first reaction was, ‘Yeah, that’s great, you know. We’ll have a nice big data point, and it’ll be really helpful to maybe jog some other deals out of the tree,” he says. “But I wouldn’t be overestimating how significant it might be at the end of the day.”
After all, says Hoskins, the Suncor bid for COS may be an exception, given that the companies are already partners in the Syncrude oil sands project.
And even if oil prices are rising, they aren’t the only factor inhibiting M&A in the energy sector, says Hoskins. There’s also the election of the NDP government in Alberta, and its looming royalty review process; and then there’s the issue of getting the crude to points of sale, as provinces and First Nations line up against pipeline proposals.
Hoskins, however, does allow that softening competition from Saudi Arabia and OPEC nations could at least put a floor on the price of oil, which would provide greater deal certainty for transactional partners.
While investors in the oil and gas sector are desperate for a rebound, M&A lawyers would like to see some of that desperation preserved.
“If prices are rising, then the sellers are not as compelled,” he says. “There can be a stabilization, but if these financially distressed companies don’t see a solution in the short to medium term because prices aren’t going up, they’re going to be forced to take the reckoning and do the deal.”
Gaffes: When a candidate accidentally tells the truth, The Globe and Mail
A group of articling students at DLA Piper Canada’s Toronto office are the latest in the legal profession to embark on a mission to sponsor a Syrian refugee family in their quest to come to here.
|DLA Piper Canada LLP articling students Hayley Gaucher, Simon Hurdon, Kristine Gorman, Christopher Kreutzner, and Nick Sharratt are raising money for a Syrian refugee family.|
A day after launching the campaign, the students have raised more than $2,700 towards their $15,000 goal. Hurdon says that’s the bare minimum they’re hoping to raise for the mother and child, who have family in Canada to assist them as well.
“We wanted to use our articling term in this Bay Street office, where people kind of have a lot — to do something meaningful that would be a bit more tangible than the usual fundraisers that you see,” Hurdon says.
“We thought this would be quite meaningful and tangible but also topical with everything in the news right now that is incredibly heartbreaking,” he adds.
Although the students hope to get donations from within the firm, the fundraising is not done through DLP Piper and the group will seek contributions from their private circles as well.
Hurdon says the response within the firm “has been tremendous” so far. “I think the response we get from here will be great; we’ve already received very kind donations from several lawyers yesterday, but obviously we’re hoping for much more.”
Anba Abraam's Coptic Charity, a Mississauga-based organization, will hold the funds in trust for the family, who is now taking refuge in Lebanon, and dispense it to them upon their arrival in Canada, Hurdon explains. The charity would be the official sponsor on immigration papers, but the students would be the donors.
Meanwhile, the University of Ottawa Refugee Hub, has, together with the Canadian Bar Association and other groups, launched a refugee sponsorship support program. Lawyers, law students, and sponsorship experts will be giving pro bono consultations to Canadians seeking to sponsor Syrian refugees.
About 450 lawyers across Canada, nearly 100 of them CBA members, are participating in the program, says Stéphane Duval, chair of the CBA’s immigration law section.
“We did the same when there was the Philippines storm and we did the same also when there was the earthquake in Haiti,” Duval says. But while volunteers for the Philippines and Haiti initiative were between 10 and 25 in number, Duval says an unprecedented number of lawyers have made themselves available this time.
Those seeking sponsorship help from within or outside of Canada will be told about their options, if options are available to them, Duval says, adding lawyers will also help out in filling out forms and submitting applications.
As the Supreme Court of Canada prepares for its fall session, its newest judge, Justice Russell Brown, was officially welcomed in a ceremony held at the court in Ottawa this morning.
Brown was appointed in late July by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to replace retiring justice Marshall Rothstein, who left the bench on Aug. 31.
Brown was appointed to the Alberta Court of Appeal in Edmonton last year after just 13 months on the Court of Queen’s Bench. He also served as a judge of the Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories and a judge of the Court of Appeal of Nunavut.
Before being appointed to the bench, Brown served as an associate professor and associate dean at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. He was also associate counsel with Miller Thomson LLP in Edmonton and practised at Carfra & Lawton LLP and Davis & Co. (now DLA Piper LLP) in Vancouver.
Law firms love to launch new offices but are loathe to admit defeat. But analysts are viewing last week’s news that Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP is shuttering its Paris office and restructuring its London location not as a warning sign about the firm but evidence it is behaving “like a grown up business.”
|Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP is shuttering its Paris office and restructuring its London location.|
In a statement the firm’s managing partner Peter Feldberg said: “We are strongly committed to the continued success of our international clients. This refocusing is consistent with that commitment.”
“As a result, the law firm is undertaking consultations concerning up to 70 positions that may be affected by the restructuring,” Feldberg added.
Many firms see the two European locations as gateways to business in the Middle East and Africa for international mining practices.
Faskens — which has more than 770 lawyers spread across offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, London, and Johannesburg — opened the Paris office in 2009 through a merger with Gravel Leclerc & Partners, including seven partners. A merger with London-based firm Stringer Saul LLP took place in 2007.
“I think firms are taking a more strategic look at some of their offices around the world and are behaving more like grown up businesses and are prepared to close where they are not performing in the way they want,” says Tony Williams, of London-based Jomati Consultants LLP.
“I wouldn’t see that as a failure or wrong, I would see it as good business.”
The fact a few firms in the last year or so have started closing underperforming locations is a sign of maturity in the market rather than weakness, he notes.
“I think in the past firms have been very reluctant to do that. They love opening offices but find it difficult to close one,” says Williams. “Being prepared to say, ‘It’s not working the way we wanted so let’s cut our losses,’ is a mature thing to do.”
The change in leadership at Faskens in the last year also allowed fresh eyes to look at whether the two offices were working. Last October, Feldberg, an energy lawyer from the firm’s Calgary office, replaced David Corbett, who had served as firm managing partner since 2006.
The weakness of the Canadian dollar in the last year probably hasn’t helped either — any losses experienced in the Euro or pound are bigger numbers in Canadian dollars.
“It may well be because of the slowdown in the commodities market generally, perhaps there is a perception there will be less cross-border activity involving Canadian clients so now might be the time to make that sort of decision,” says Williams.
He says the Faskens scenario reflects a larger issue confronting law firms around the world: getting profitable revenue growth is tough. Therefore if it is investing in Paris and London, it can’t invest in other areas of growth that might be more important.
“Each year you have a limited investment pot so if you’re investing in existing offices that’s one thing, or lateral hires or IT, but the brutal fact is when it’s gone it’s gone — it’s a finite pool,” he says.
The firm has been growing its Ottawa office and recently won a large bid-rigging jury trial. While Calgary is fairly stagnant, offices in Vancouver and Montreal are said to be performing well.
As consolidation among international law firms continues, with most of that being inbound to Canada rather than outbound, some observers say Faskens’ action is likely to be duplicated by others.
“This kind of restructuring by one of Canada’s most respected law firms will reverberate to any similar outbound expansion plans by other major Canadian firms, and you may see more embraces to major international law firms than office expansion by Canadian firms into foreign markets,” says Barry Fisher, former general counsel at SAP Canada and adviser to Avokka Law LLP.
“This may be symptomatic of the sort of structural change that some of us believe is coming to the delivery of legal services by large law firms, but I surmise that this Fasken decision is not that tipping point.”
Ontario fee fight reveals doctors’ sense of entitlement, The Globe and Mail
The details have yet to emerge, but Canada has scored a significant deal in reaching an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, says an international trade lawyer.
|'We’ll still have supply management, but imports will play a bigger role,' says Milos Barutciski.|
He admits he had been a skeptic of the likelihood of a deal until recently due to the political challenges to the deal in the United States.
Today, Canada announced that members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership had concluded a free-trade agreement covering a $28.5-trillion market. Besides Canada, the 12 countries in the trading block are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.
The deal provides for lower tariffs and covers a range of areas. They include: textiles and apparel; financial services; telecommunications; government procurement; labour; and competition policy.
While the government has released a summary of the deal that, for example, refers to an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and provides for protection from expropriation without adequate compensation, Barutciski says the fine details have yet to emerge.
“Trade agreements historically follow a boilerplate,” he says.
For Canada, of course, supply management in the dairy sector was a key sticking point in the negotiations, especially given the political sensitivities around agriculture. The federal government has maintained it has protected supply management, and Barutciski, who notes he’s not a fan of the system, says that likely means it will continue as is but with a higher quota for imports.
“We’ll still have supply management, but imports will play a bigger role,” he says, suggesting the change would largely benefit the United States, New Zealand, and Australia.
The government did, in fact, release some details on the plans for the agricultural sector today. Under the agreement, Canada will open up access to imports through quotas phased in over five years: 3.25 per cent of Canada’s milk production for 2016; 2.3 per cent for eggs; 2.1 per cent for chicken; two per cent for turkey; and 1.5 per cent for broiler hatching eggs.
In return, the government will provide the supply-managed sector with $4.3 billion in support, including an income guarantee program to “keep producers whole” with 100-per-cent income protection to producers for 10 years from the day the trade deal comes into force. The funding will continue on a “tapered basis” for a further five years, the government announced today.
Graham Lloyd, general counsel with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, emphasizes his organization is pleased with the agreement "in the circumstances" given reports that those lobbying on the supply-management issue in the United States had been seeking access to 15 per cent of the market.
"You can't ever say when you're losing market share that you're happy," he says. "But in the circumstances of what was at risk, we are relieved that it wasn't as serious as it could have been."
Lloyd also notes the organization is happy with a plan to cancel a duty-deferral program that allowed imports to Canada for processing with a window of up to four years to re-export the product. "That program was not well audited," he says.
"We know that as much as one per cent of our market was being taken," he adds.
In addition, Lloyd gave kudos for new funding for development and innovation in the sector.
"We are in need of investment for new plants . . . and this will go a long way towards that," he says, noting he's not yet ready to pronounce on the government's broader compensation program for the sector given the need to assess the impact of the quota changes.
"I'll say at this point, it's difficult to assess," he says.
Trade deals are, of course, always controversial, and the Conservative government has faced some criticism for moving on the issue during an election campaign with the NDP in particular expressing cynicism about the deal.
Barutciski, however, says the negotiations couldn’t stop for a Canadian election, particularly given U.S. President Barack Obama’s drive to complete a deal as one of his last major achievements in office. And he suggests the deal will open up significant opportunities for Canadian companies to join “broader Pacific supply chains.”
But the biggest imperative for Canada, he says, was avoiding a repeat of the situation with South Korea where the United States got ahead of Canada when negotiations with this country stalled over the auto sector.
“We were pretty much wiped out when we stalled over the auto issue,” says Barutciski.
He notes Canada’s beef and pork industries suffered significantly despite reaching a subsequent free-trade deal with South Korea.
“American beef and pork suppliers basically took over our market,” he adds, suggesting Canada faced a similar loss of market access if it stayed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
While politicians such as Harper are touting the economic benefits of the deal, Barutciski says the partnership was in many ways about the U.S. “geopolitical objective” of countering China’s growing influence in the region. The deal took years to conclude, something he attributes to the complications of bringing in additional countries such as Canada late in the game.
“That made the negotiations more complicated,” says Barutciski, who nevertheless suggests that having countries such as Canada, Japan, and Mexico involved “makes this a very serious trading bloc.”
Update 4:25 pm: Quotes added from Graham Lloyd.
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