• Feb 4, 2013
    Prairie heat

    Prairie heat

    Canadian Lawyer returns to the Prairies for our latest regional firm ranking, and it seems we aren’t the only ones eyeing the area. “We’re continuing to see a flood of resumes from younger lawyers who either trained here, or have past history in the province,” says Glen Peters, managing partner of Winnipeg-based Fillmore Riley LLP. “They’re people who are well trained, and have worked in big shops in the east or west, but who have made a decision that they want to return. It’s a unique opportunity for firms here, and we’ve certainly taken advantage of it in the last few years.”

    The chief driver of the Prairie homecoming is a booming economy, according to Gary Young, a senior partner at Saskatoon’s Robertson Stromberg LLP, which moved up our list this year. Historically, he says young lawyers viewed Saskatchewan firms as a stepping-stone to higher-profile work in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, or Edmonton. Now that trend is reversing: one of his most recent hires was a returnee from Alberta. “That was primarily a function of what’s available here at the moment. Things are so hot in Saskatchewan that this is where some of the best deals are right now. It’s a good time to be here,” says Young. “As long as that kind of transactional work is available, we’re going to have no trouble recruiting.”

  • Oct 1, 2012
    Embracing regionalism

    Embracing regionalism

    In years gone by, some regional law firms were busy preening themselves in the hope of a date with an attractive large national partner. These days in western and northern Canada, they’re single and proud. There’s never been a better time to embrace regionalism, says Field Law managing partner James Casey — in-house counsel are more willing than ever to take a chance on a smaller firm, as long as it can do the job, and cut a deal price-wise. “Regional firms have a lot of momentum in the marketplace right now. They’re being recognized and embraced by clients,” he says.

    The key, says Casey, is picking and choosing your areas of expertise. “You can’t compete with national and international firms in every area. We have identified certain areas where we are focusing our efforts, and where we can provide services that are as good, or better, than at larger firms, but offer them at a better price point. That’s the sweet spot regional firms seek.”

  • May 7, 2012
    The home field advantage

    The home field advantage

    Regional law firms in Quebec are hoping to prove the home field advantage is just as much a factor in legal services as it is in sports.

    Canadian Lawyer returns to Quebec this year for our latest regional firm survey, to find the province’s full-service outfits jockeying with local and national rivals alike for a position on Plan Nord, the multibillion-dollar project for the development of Quebec’s north. “In Quebec, everybody talks about Plan Nord, which I think is simply applying what you already do in a new conjuncture. There’s a lot of opportunity there,” says Chantal Chatelain, managing partner of the Montreal office at Langlois Kronström Desjardins LLP. “The fact of being a regional firm I think is a great advantage because we’re already spread out across the province, we already have the business relationships with entrepreneurs in the construction industry in the north, and we have experience in dealings with government regulations and authority.”

  • Oct 3, 2011
    Prairie gold

    Prairie gold

    It’s not easy being a full-service regional firm in Saskatchewan and Manitoba these days. When not turning clients away because you’re just too busy, you’ve got to field calls from national firms looking to link up and establish a presence in some of Canada’s most lively economic zones. And the firms featured in Canadian Lawyer’s list of top 10 Prairie law firms are sure to be on the top of anyone’s list of targets, whether for legal services or a law firm merger. So you can just imagine how swamped they are.

    “The only way we’ve had to adapt is by stepping up the pace,” says Gordon Kuski, chairman of McDougall Gauley LLP, which has offices in Saskatoon and Regina. “We certainly have had significant demands put on our ability to handle what’s been demanded of us.”

  • May 2, 2011
    Global reach, regional focus

    Global reach, regional focus

    Opportunities have certainly opened up for Ontario’s full-service regional firms in recent years. Since Canadian Lawyer last ranked them along with their Quebec peers in 2006, two of the top three have moved on or out. The top firm, McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP, has rebranded itself as McMillan LLP and combined forces with Lang Michener LLP to join the national crowd. And who could forget the March 2007 dissolution of the once-formidable Goodman and Carr LLP, which placed third in the 2006 rankings? “I think that’s to our benefit,” Torkin Manes LLP managing partner Jeffrey Cohen says of these departures from the mid-market. He says the hollowing out has made it easier to identify the clients his firm is chasing, and better tailor its services and marketing efforts to them. “We’ve stayed the course. We know who we are; we understand where our limitations are, and we don’t worry about what we can’t do. We focus on what we can do.”

    At a time when plenty of noise is being made by global law firms eager to shake up the Canadian legal services marketplace, WeirFoulds LLP managing partner Lisa Borsook suggests firms should consider their bread-and-butter specialties when deciding which format to adopt. “I certainly don’t need a national platform to do litigation in the Superior Court or the Court of Appeal, or for that matter the Supreme Court of Canada — they’re all located in Ontario,” she points out. “The same is of course true for the government-related and property development work that we do.”

  • Oct 4, 2010

    In the limelight

    Economic growth and development have led to an optimistic outlook among Atlantic Canada’s top 10 full-service law firms. Increased investment and development in the region mean more opportunities for all firms on this year’s list — large and small, say managing partners. The firms made this year’s list through Canadian Lawyer’s annual survey based on the votes of lawyers across Canada. To qualify, these firms needed to offer a wide range of legal services and have offices only in Atlantic Canada — New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

    When the results came in, Canadian Lawyer analyzed the data several ways and arrived at the conclusion that the top three firms on the list were not only ahead of the pack in terms of size and votes, but the results among them were too close to call. So the top three firms, Stewart McKelvey, McInnes Cooper, and Cox & Palmer share this year’s top spot. 

  • Jul 5, 2010
    The crème de la crème

    The crème de la crème

    Canadian Lawyer’s latest top firm survey takes us to Quebec, where regional, full-service firms have established a confident foothold.

    One of those firms is BCF LLP, and its managing partner, Mario Charpentier, says any regional firm in Quebec hoping to survive must keep a close eye on its clients’ interests. He believes strong rapport with entrepreneurs and CEOs of mid-market companies is the key to his firm’s survival in the face of heavy competition from large firms. “We can attract those clients, and we win our battles on this ground,” he says.

  • Apr 5, 2010
    Best in the West

    Best in the West

    It wasn’t long ago that a wave of mergers formed a cluster of large, national law firms and prompted legal industry pundits to declare the death of the regional firm. There is no way they can stand up to the boundless resources of big law, the experts cried. Fast-forward a decade or so, and it’s safe to declare that doomsday scenario, shall we say, a tad premature. “As Mark Twain said, rumours of our demise are greatly exaggerated,” says Edmonton-based Field LLP managing partner James Casey.

    Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang LLP managing partner David Garner says his Vancouver firm gets a share of clients who view larger firms as a poor fit. “Certainly there’s a place for national firms and international firms that have the multiple offices, but I think there’s also a place for the regional firm that knows this area, or knows an industry,” says Garner. He suggests many clients have taken a few deep breaths and returned to regional firms after the initial enthusiasm that followed the first round of national mergers.

    Casey suggests that lawyers also continue to see the advantage of practising in the regional firm context. “Our partners have always said that they value their autonomy and their independence above all else in the practice of law, and we’ve found that we can maintain that through a regional firm structure, doing very challenging and interesting work, making good incomes, and delivering good value to our clients,” he says.

    One advantage the regional firm managing partners say they exploit versus the bigger kids on the block are long-standing connections with businesses in the region. “When a national firm enters our market, they cannot match the historical, deep relationships we already have with our clients,” says Casey. “If we can keep our relationships strong, deliver excellent legal services, and provide those services at a lower cost than the national firms, our experience has been that we are growing our market share, rather than losing it.”

    Certainly, all of the firms listed in Canadian Lawyer’s ranking of the top regional firms in British Columbia, Alberta, and the North are a testament to the continued viability of the regional platform. The rankings only include full-service firms with offices in those areas of the country. Each has a distinct formula for success, but all face similar challenges when it comes to standing above the crowd.

    Retention of top legal talent is one key factor. The economic downturn has put a halt to fierce competition for top legal minds that just a few years ago had firms paying signing bonuses as high as $50,000. That doesn’t mean firms no longer face a battle when it comes to wooing top-notch lawyers. There are simply more good firms around that offer lawyers great resources to ply their trade, notes Bull Housser & Tupper LLP managing partner Herb Isherwood. When he started out in law about 25 years ago, there were four large, independent firms in Vancouver. Now there are 15 firms in the city with a multi-office or national presence. “The competition has changed, the marketplace has changed,” he says.

  • Feb 3, 2009

    Making connections

    When the binoculars on the CN Tower in Toronto turn south and west, they look towards a region that gets its strength from diversification, both within and between its cities.

    Whether riding out the depression of the 1930s or the current economic downturn, many of the cities of southwestern Ontario hold their own because they are not dependent on one industry, a fact not lost on local law firms. A rash of mergers and moves in the last decade has now settled down and firms are well-positioned to service the remarkable growth which is still continuing.

  • Nov 6, 2006

    Turf wars

    The Atlantic Canada market continues to consolidate, as firms fight to keep deals down home and ride an economic boom thanks to high commodity prices, expanding oil and gas revenues, and unique legislation that allows unlimited liability companies.

    As Atlantic Canada’s economy matures and prospers, many local businesses have achieved a national and even global reach in recent years, and their regional law firm advisers have grown up right alongside them.