Rumors have swirled for the better part of the last two weeks about the future of the national firm, Heenan Blaikie, and it would seem the rumors have come true. With a late night vote held Wednesday, the partners voted to dissolve the firm, that until recently had employed over 500 lawyers and over 600 support staff, as per their website.
The legal community has watched on as senior Heenan talent has made moves to other firms across the country, including Fasken Martineau, Dentons, and BLG, however, Wednesday marked the biggest single day of movement, with more than two dozen partners leaving to other firms. Norman Bacal, former managing partner, and the lawyer responsible for starting the Toronto office, was quoted in today’s Globe and Mail stating, that departures were, “…a failure in confidence, not a failure in business,” after pointing out the strong financial record of the firm. (Revenue of $225-milllion, with profits of $75-million.)
The strong history of Heenan Blaikie should not, however, be eclipsed by the most recent events. They paved the way for other national law firms, set the groundwork for lawyers to operate national practises, and just recently celebrated their 40th anniversary at their Toronto office. As recently as 2007, Canadian Business, named them, as one of the “50 Best Workplaces in Canada,” and they have continuously ranked as leaders in a wide range of practise areas, from labour relations, to litigation and entertainment law.
The future remain uncertain with mentions in all Canadian national papers, and now confirmation of talks involving members of the Calgary and Toronto offices with U.S. law firm, DLA Piper on a small scale merger. As well as the creation of a new Vancouver based boutique firm, Gall, Legge, Grant & Munroe, made up of 16 former Heenan’s lawyers. The Vancouver Sun, reported that the frims focus will be on litigation and labour, and that Geoff Plant, Donald Munroe, Roy Heenan (A founding named partner, of Heenan Blaikie) and Michal Bastarche (a former Canadian Supreme Court Judge) will serve as counsel at the new firm.
The ramification of the loss of a national firm in the Canadian legal community has never been seen, and at present the future is wrapped in a fog. Heenan Blaikie has made it clear though that they will do all that is possible to ensure a smooth transition, for both its clients and its employees. Once again reminding us all of their mission of professional excellence, and integrity, that has granted them so much success over the years.