THE LAWYERS WEEKLY
May 13, 2011 | 21
Merger mania: more to come?
Ogilvy Renualt LLP has blazed a trail as the
first Canadian law firm to join an international
juggernaut, but if the hunches of legal experts
are correct, it won’t be long until others have
followed in its footsteps.
The Montreal-based firm will officially
merge with Norton Rose Group out of the U.K.
on June 1, creating one of the top 10 biggest
law firms in the world.
The ground-breaking move was driven by
increasingly internationally-focused clients,
says Jean Bertrand, senior partner and managing partner of Ogilvy Renault’s Montreal
office. He says the Canadian market for legal
services is fairly flat and while there is some
potential for growth out West because of the
energy and resource sectors, there’s nothing to
indicate any booms in business are pending in
major centres such as Toronto and Montreal.
“Our clients are looking outside of Canada
to grow. Although we have very loyal clients,
the reality is the kind of business we do represents an ever-smaller portion of their legal
spend. Because they’re looking to growing
markets to expand their sales, to the extent we
want to follow them, we have to have a credible
platform internationally to support their
growth,” Bertrand says.
Ogilvy Renault has about 450 lawyers,
including former prime minister, Brian Mul-roney, in offices in Montreal, Toronto, Quebec
City, Ottawa and Calgary. The new Norton
Rose will have more than 2,500 lawyers at 38
offices around the globe and generate about $1
billion annually in revenue.
Bertrand says both firms believe that their
marriage will enable them to compete much
more efficiently around the globe and to secure
new mandates, which would not have been
possible for either one on a stand-alone basis.
“When we combine our list of experience
and expertise, our offering is a lot more cred-
ible and can rival any player on the global
scene,” he says.
Bertrand says he has been “pleasantly sur-
prised” by the response from the firm’s clients
after they were informed of the merger.
“We thought it would be interesting for
them but we underestimated to what extent
it would be appealing to them. We’ve been
overwhelmed by the reception. Clients are
coming to us and saying, ‘we want to meet
your new partners and we want to do business with them,’ ” he says.
(Energy) is a lawyer-
involve very complex
contracts... It’s not
like opening another
Adam Smith Esq.., LLC
PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTON ROSE GROUP
Norton Rose Group’s London office. Canada’s Ogilvy Reanult LLP will merger with Norton Rose in June.
Bertrand says he was happy to see a significant number of Ogilvy Renault’s international clients were willing to reconsider
relationships with law firms in other countries or at least add another legal supplier to
their list for new projects.
“What is becoming clear is that although
these clients are looking for a key player when
they go abroad, they’re not necessarily being
given the top priority treatment when they go
to a big U.K. or American law firm that they’re
receiving in Canada. They may not represent
as important a player as they do in Canada (to
those firms). Hence, they’re interested in working with us,” he says.
Norton Rose is far from the only international firm sniffing around Canada for
potential merger partners, according to Warren Smith, managing director of The Counsel
Network, a Vancouver-based national legal
“I’ve talked to partners (in Canada) about
being part of a beachhead merge or growing
out a presence for U.S. and U.K. firms. Those
are definitely on deck,” he says.
The prospect of being part of a global behemoth that can step into more sophisticated
deals and work with even larger multi-national
corporations would be very attractive to a
number of Canadian firms, Smith says.
There’s no question there will be further
mergers, according to Ian Holloway, who is
slated to become dean the University of Cal-
gary’s faculty of law in July, but only time — and
results — will tell if it becomes an epidemic.
We thought it would
be interesting for
[our clients] but we
what extent it
would be appealing
to them. We’ve been
Ogilvy Renault LLP
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