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DLA Piper may expand to Canada, is in ‘deep negotiations’ with group of Heenan Blaikie lawyers

Posted Feb 7, 2014 8:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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DLA Piper has 4,200 lawyers in 30 countries. That doesn't include Canada, but that may soon change.

The mega-firm is talking with 60 to 70 lawyers from the Calgary and Toronto offices of Heenan Blaikie, who are forming their own group following a decision Wednesday night by the partners of the nearly 500-attorney, Montreal-rooted firm to wind up its operations.

“We’re in deep negotiations,” Roger Meltzer, who serves as DLA Piper’s co-chairman for the Americas, told the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.).“We are already referring work to them and have been for a little while. … I think we are well on our way.”

An attorney exodus began from the storied Canadian firm after it announced that partner pay would drop by 10 to 15 percent. The departure of dozens of lawyers made headlines on Wednesday, and more news followed Heenan Blaikie's announcement that evening its partners had voted to dissolve, although a number of offices and practice groups would form their own firms.

"I can tell you about one,” Vancouver partner Geoff Plant, a former attorney general for British Columbia, told the Vancouver Sun at that point. "Sixteen lawyers from the Vancouver office will be announcing tomorrow the creation of a new firm called Gall, Legge, Grant and Munroe.”

Melzer said DLA Piper is talking with a group that includes 25 to 30 partners with expertise in banking, corporate and litigation, among other practice areas.

Ironically, firm leaders said Heenan Blaikie was on solid financial footing despite the drop in partner income. The firm had revenue of $222 million in Canadian dollars last year, a profit of about $75 million and $35 million in December billings, a near-record figure, founding partner Roy Heenan told the Montreal Gazette.

“Financially, we were doing fine. But everyone felt they should do a little better, or it was the fault of this office or that office. It was that type of clash. It is very sad. When you’ve got a national firm and people start blaming the other then you get the fights between the offices. And that’s what eventually leads to the decision, 'Well, perhaps we shouldn’t all stay together.' ”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Storied Canadian firm to begin ‘orderly wind-up’ but some offices and practices will stay in place"

The Gazette: "Law students get unexpected lesson from Heenan Blaikie"

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