Business of Law

Major Canada firm makes staff layoffs, plans restructuring amidst attorney defections

A major Canadian law firm is planning to restructure and may be considering a return to its original roots as a Montreal regional practice after the departure of several of its best-known lawyers in an attorney exodus from its Montreal and Ottawa offices.

Meanwhile, Heenan Blaikie laid off employees and support staff at its Montreal office this week, the Financial Post’s Legal Post

A partner vote is expected to take place Wednesday evening on a restructuring plan, the Globe and Mail reports , relying on unidentified sources. Founding partner Norman Bacal declined to comment, but told the newspaper the firm would do so no later than Thursday morning.

Among those who have most recently left the nearly 500-attorney firm are a seven-practitioner group focusing on real estate that joined Dentons Canada and a 12-lawyer contingent that leapt to Lavery de Billy this week. All were from the Montreal office. Fasken Martineau DuMoulin has brought in another four attorneys from the Ottawa office of Heenan Blaikie.

As of last week, 30 partners had left the Heenan firm since 2012. At that point, one of the most noteworthy exits was the departure of executive committee member Tim Lawson from the Toronto office for McCarthy Tétrault, according to another Globe and Mail article.

In business since 1973, the firm has acknowledged that it is facing challenging financial times because of to the corporate deal slowdown of recent years, but national co-managing partner Kip Daechsel said earlier this month that it is financially sound, simply “right-sizing.” He also noted that the firm has hired some 20 lawyers recently, including seven partners.

After a retreat in Montreal over the past weekend, the firm announced that “Discussions centered on restructuring and the future of regional offices across Canada. Partners across the country decided on the need to proceed with a major restructuring in the near future,” the Globe and Mail reported.

Heenan Blaikie has nine offices in Canada and one in Paris, according to the firm’s website.

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