At a critical time for trade relations in Canada, the U.S. and globally, three of the four partners who led the international trade and investment practice at Bennett Jones LLP have left to join Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Toronto, with three associates going with them.
Milos Barutciski, practice group leader, Jesse Goldman and Matthew Kronby moved to BLG late last week and notified Bennett Jones about two weeks ago. Associates Jacob Mantle and Julia Webster will be joining BLG this week, with Josh Scheinert moving over to the firm on June 11.
Darrel Pearson, partner and head of the Bennett Jones International Trade and Investment practice, remains at Bennett Jones. Barutciski was co-head of the practice with Pearson.
A spokesperson from Bennett Jones said the firm wishes Barutciski, Goldman and Kronby well but declined further comment.
“We’re moving what was Canada’s preeminent and full-service trade practice from Bennett Jones to BLG,” Goldman told Legal Feeds. “It was a gut-wrenching decision; it certainly didn’t come easy for any of us. Speaking personally, I left with a heavy heart and great deal of fondness for Bennett Jones and all the people there.”
Goldman is the incoming chairman of the International Trade Committee of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association and Canadian delegate to the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD China Task Force.
The move comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded with new tariffs on certain American goods.
“It’s a time when clients are paying close attention to trade issues in a way they may not always have been. They have to pay attention to those issues now and, therefore, it creates opportunities for the kind of trade practice we have here,” says Kronby, who was the director general of the federal government’s Trade Law Bureau and served as the bureau manager and lead counsel for more than 15 years.
For the past 20 years, Barutciski says trade issues have not been on the radar of the corporate C-suite in Canada like they are today.
“What you have now, for the first time since the late ’80s and early ’90s, is the C-suite paying attention and that’s what’s changed. Now, CEOs want to be briefed. I’ve had three calls since I got here from counsel asking ‘What can I tell my CEO and CFO?’”
In moving to BLG, the three partners saw the ability to grow their practice in specialty areas.
“This is a more expansive approach with international trade and it’s a firm that really embraces specialty practices. We’re thrilled to be here to service our existing clients and broaden our client base and expand the reach not only in Canada but internationally,” says Goldman.
Goldman says the group, which left Bennett Jones on June 1, has been approached by “many large firms” in Toronto in the past, but nothing felt like a good fit until now.
“We weren’t really looking to move from Bennett Jones,” says Goldman. “But there was a coalescence of factors. We were looking to grow and expand our practice. What was really important was the firm’s genuine support in embracing an international trade practice as a core part of its vision going forward.”
Goldman says BLG has a strong arbitration practice that provides scope and reach to grow the practice in areas such as investor-state arbitration as well as to expand the portfolio of clients who are looking for treaty negotiation and advisory work.
Barutciski adds it was BLG’s “vision of the future of law and international trade law in particular” that they saw as an attractive reason to move to BLG.
“This firm understands that the future, to a considerable extent, of law in Canada is servicing not just the corporate finance and litigation needs of clients but also their line business — the speciality areas. Those are the areas that are immune from the attack of U.S. firms,” he says. “The big London and New York firms that generate M&A, they run those deals in Canada these days.”
IP, environmental law, international trade and tax to a certain extent will become “critical components” of a successful full-service firm in the future, says Goldman.
“The platform here was very attractive for that reason and supportive of that vision and shared that vision,” he says.
Editor's note: Updated at 8:55 p.m. to include names of associates going to BLG from Bennett Jones.