Big law firms pick off lawyers from Heenan Blaikie's ranks

Fri Feb 7, 2014 4:48pm EST
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By Casey Sullivan and Euan Rocha

(Reuters) - Two of the world's largest law firms are picking off lawyers from Canada's Heenan Blaikie, which moved to wind down operations on Wednesday in the biggest collapse of a law firm in the country's history.

DLA Piper, the world's largest law firm, is in talks to recruit a group of 55 to 70 lawyers from the firm's Toronto and Calgary offices, while Dentons, which ranks as the world's seventh largest firm, has hired five real estate lawyers and three corporate lawyers in Toronto and Montreal.

Other Canadian law firms have also been scouting for talent and hiring from Heenan's ranks. One source familiar with the situation said McCarthy Tétrault LLP will announce more hires in the coming week, while another source said Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP may also recruit a few more lawyers from Heenan's roster shortly.

Heenan Blaikie, a top-tier Canadian law firm well known for its labor and employment practice, said late on Wednesday its partners had voted to dissolve the firm in the face of financial pressures.

The Montreal-based firm, which traces its roots back to the 1970s, said the move came after an in-depth analysis of its restructuring options.

Heenan Blaikie, which at different points was home to former Canadian Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau, said the wind-up process will take a few months.

Along with many of its Canadian rivals, the firm has been hurt by sharp revenue declines as many corporate clients, keen to keep costs in check, demanded steep discounts of 25 or 30 percent, sources in the legal industry said.

The collapse of Heenan is the largest failure of a Canadian law firm since the demise in 2007 of Goodman and Carr LLP, which at its peak employed more than 140 lawyers.   Continued...

The law firm Heenan Blaikie LLP's sign is seen at the entrance to the Bay Adelaide Centre in Toronto February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Helgren