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Turf wars

Cover story: Atlantic Canada law firm rankings
|Written By Beth Mariln

The Atlantic Canada market continues to consolidate, as firms fight to keep deals down home and ride an economic boom thanks to high commodity prices, expanding oil and gas revenues, and unique legislation that allows unlimited liability companies.

As Atlantic Canada’s economy matures and prospers, many local businesses have achieved a national and even global reach in recent years, and their regional law firm advisers have grown up right alongside them.

No longer are regional law firms willing to cede the top-drawer transactional work to the national law firms based in Toronto or Calgary, as many have done in years past, says Michael Harrington, chairman of Stewart McKelvey Stirling Scales’ partnership board, interviewed as part of Canadian Lawyer’s second annual peer ranking of Atlantic Canada’s leading law firms.

Harrington, who is based in St. John’s, Nfld., cites driving forces that are allowing law firms to gain enough specialized transactional experience to maintain a legal platform that fully services all their clients needs. They include: industry growth and consolidation; an international commodities boom that has fueled three massive offshore oil and gas development projects in Newfoundland and Labrador; and the Nova Scotia Companies Act, unique legislation that has pushed a wave of cross-border work setting up tax-efficient, unlimited liability companies.

“One of the greatest strengths is our growing areas of specialization and our ability to handle larger, more complex matters for our expanding clients, particularly on corporate/commercial matters. We’ve done income trust work for some of the largest clients, without them finding the need to go to Toronto-based firms for that work,” says Harrington, who notes the drive toward a standardized national securities regime has also helped regional law firms conduct complex transactional work without the assistance of Toronto- or Calgary-based lawyers.

“We’ve also been involved with some junior capital companies and capital pool companies. In the past, you needed regulatory approvals from the Alberta Securities Exchange or (TSX) Venture Exchange. We’re able to do that work for clients now from the province. We have some very large transactions; they are now ones we can do ourselves and that’s enhanced our practice.”

Peter Wright, Moncton, N.B.-based chairman of Patterson Palmer, agrees that regional firms are now keeping more of the sophisticated legal work that might have been ceded to national firms in years past. “There’s lots of opportunity there and it’s really for the top firms to manage that process. It’s theirs to gain. And if it’s not managed properly, there’ll be more ground to lose,” he says.

But it takes a critical mass and a well-developed law firm infrastructure to support the lawyers working on the biggest deals, the experts say. For instance, Stewart McKelvey has just launched a secure extranet that allows clients and lawyers to access and manage legal documents online, a feature offered by the biggest national firms.

In fact, the drive to specialize and to achieve the critical mass needed to become eligible for the country’s biggest deals may have largely fueled the merger wave that has overtaken the region’s largest law firms over the past 18 months. The 2005 merger of McInnes Cooper with the 53-lawyer Halifax office of Patterson Palmer “has given us a depth, particularly on the corporate finance and corporate law and business transaction side generally, explains Bernie Miller, McInnes Cooper’s new Moncton-based CEO and managing partner.

Meanwhile, the merger of Cox Hanson O’Reilly Matheson with Patterson Palmer’s New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador offices, announced in March and slated for August, has been delayed by client conflicts. However, it is hoped that the new 173-lawyer Cox & Palmer will be in business before the end of the year, distilling Atlantic Canada’s four fully regional firms into three, each hovering around the 200-lawyer mark: Stewart McKelvey (221); McInnes Cooper (180) and Cox & Palmer (173). No one expects another fully regional law firm to emerge in Atlantic Canada anytime soon, saying the mergers have helped the firms achieve economies of scale that up-and-comers would find hard to achieve.

“It gives us a critical mass to make investments in our infrastructure that we think are important,” Danny Gallivan, CEO and managing partner of the Halifax office of Cox Hanson, says of the pending merger. “The more lawyers you have, the more you can afford to invest in your service platform. We’ve gone out and invested in ways such as hiring a director of professional development.”

However, the smaller and mid-sized firms are not much troubled by the consolidation of the fully regional firms from four into three. Wayne Myles, managing partner St. John’s, Nfld.-based Benson•Myles, sees it as “an exceptional opportunity” to pick up new work referrals. “When you get that kind of concentration and consolidation of local players within the region, there just inherently have to be greater client and file or transactional conflicts,” Myles explains.

In fact, the 23 lawyers from Patterson Palmer’s Truro and Halifax offices, who have opted out of the merger and have set up shop as Patterson Law, have already received referrals from their former partners, says co-managing partner Dennis James.

Anyway, with the recent easing of mobility restrictions in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, even single-office firms like Halifax-based Wickwire Holms and Blois Nickerson & Bryson can enjoy a fully regional practice. “We’ve had a whack of things going on in P.E.I. out of a particular receivership,” says senior partner Carl Holm, adding that about 30 per cent of Wickwire Holm’s litigation billings over the past year have been related to matters in New Brunswick or P.E.I. “There was a large insolvency matter, a receivership in Newfoundland — the Hickman matter — it’s about a $100- to 200-million Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, which changed into a receivership, in which everybody in Newfoundland was engaged and I ended up acting as a conflict counsel for the trustee. It was a very nice file.”

Still, Atlantic Canada’s lawyers are not immune from the same challenges facing the legal profession right across Canada. “The biggest challenge is to maintain the highest standards in the delivery of law when many of the institutional clients are themselves bottom-line oriented,” says John Barry, managing partner of Saint John, N.B.-based Barry Spalding. “There are more requests for proposals, there are clients becoming much more demanding, very much so. And they want the same results for a lot less cost. It’s a real problem.” Other lawyers observe the same phenomenon, mainly from insurance companies, which they say are simply implementing national sourcing reporting and pricing policies and procedures across the country, as are other regional companies that have expanded nationally.

Bruce Clarke, one of three managing partners at Halifax-based Burchell Hayman Parish, says Atlantic Canada, like other areas of Canada, is becoming more centralized in the largest urban centres, to the benefit of the law firms located there. “One of the things you see here is a fabulous economy, the Halifax regional municipality has almost like a reverse donut economy — powerful in Halifax, but not as strong in other areas. So more and more legal work is coming to Halifax as more and more businesses and industry are coming to Halifax, but I wonder whether that’s a good thing for the longer-term — pulling jobs and the economy away from smaller centres.”

Still, most lawyers at the leading law firms say the region’s economic growth and prosperity have created more opportunities than challenges.

As John Young, managing partner of Dartmouth, N.S.-based Boyne Clarke, says:
”It would be very difficult for law firms here to do badly. It would be possible, but they’d have to try hard.”


1.  Stewart McKelvey Stirling Scales
Total Lawyers: 221

Offices: 6
Provinces: Nova Scotia; Newfoundland and Labrador; New Brunswick; Prince Edward Island
Lawyers by Office: Halifax: 95; St. John’s: 37; Saint John: 33; Moncton: 16; Charlottetown: 25; Fredericton: 15

Core Practice Areas:
Corporate/commercial; energy and natural resources; insurance; labour and employment; litigation; marine and environmental; property and real estate development; securities and corporate finance; tax; technology; and intellectual property.

Key Clients:
Four of the region’s largest entrepreneurial families: Bragg, Irving, Jodrey, and Sobey; Bank of Nova Scotia; Royal Bank of Canada; Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP; Stikeman Elliott LLP; McCarthy Tétrault LLP; Blakes Cassels & Graydon LLP; Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP; the Hibernia,Terra Nova, and proposed Hebron offshore oil production projects and crude transporter Newfoundland Transshipment; offshore gas production projects Sable and the proposed Deep Panuke; Emera Inc.; New Brunswick Power; Aviva Canada Inc.; TD Meloche Monnex Inc.; Allstate Insurance Company; ING Insurance; Zurich; The Co-operators; Royal & SunAlliance; Encon Group Inc.; AIG; Lombard Canada; Economical Insurance Group; and the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel to Prince Edward Island in its constitutional challenge of the federal Fisheries Act; Canaport LNG Limited Partnership in onshore and offshore EPC contracts for the construction of the Canaport LNG Terminal; New Brunswick Power in international contract litigation for the supply of orimulsion fuel; Cooke Aquaculture in the consolidation of the east coast industry; New Brunswick in the TransCanada highway between the Quebec border and Fredericton and Route 95; John Deere Limited and John Deere Credit Inc. in a $20-million claim in receivership of a major equipment dealer; Archean Resources Ltd. on its sale to International Royalty Corp.; ING Insurance in Marche v. Halifax Insurance Co. before the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue of material change to risk; Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust in the trust creation, its acquisition of $800 million in real estate, $195 million in financing, and its $205-million initial public unit offering; and Group Danone, who through its affiliates, Compagnie Gervais Danone S.A., Société des Eaux de Volvic and S.A. des Eaux Minérales d’Evian, sold 100 per cent of the shares of Danone Waters of Canada Inc.

Star Alumni:
Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache; Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Chief Justice Michael MacDonald; Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice John Murphy; Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court of Appeal Justice Keith Mercer; Prince Edward Island Supreme Court justices John McQuaid, Gordon Campbell and David Jenkins; New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Stephen McNally; Karin McCaskill, senior vice-president, general counsel, and secretary, Sobey Inc.; Ross Langley, vice-president and general counsel, J.D. Irving, Limited; Claire Milton, corporate counsel, secretary and treasurer, High Liner Foods Inc.; Sean Casey, president, Padinox Inc.; Glen Dexter, president, Canadian International Capital Inc.; Robert Dexter, chair, Empire Limited and Maritime Travel Inc.; Ronald Keefe, president and CEO, Diagnostic Chemicals Limited; and Mark MacDonald, president and CEO, Bay Ferries Limited/Northumberland Ferries Limited.

Affiliations:
None.

The Firm:
Now one of Canada’s 20 largest law firms, Stewart McKelvey became Atlantic Canada’s first fully regional law firm in 1990 with the consolidation of four prominent firms, some dating as far back as Confederation. With 221 lawyers and 300 staff in six offices throughout Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, the firm’s enviable client list includes Atlantic Canada’s largest companies and most significant offshore oil and gas development projects.

In 2006, the firm launched a formal, public client service initiative — Service First.  Michael Harrington, the St. John’s-based chair of the partnership board, stated that their clients expect and have the right to receive full value for the fee charged and Service First defines the standards of client service at Stewart McKelvey. To accommodate its clients’ increasingly complex national and international transactions, the firm has launched a cutting-edge extranet that allows clients secure access to their legal documents, a service offered by Canada’s leading national firms. Stewart McKelvey, whose alumni occupy in-house counsel positions at regional powerhouses such as Sobeys, J.D. Irving, and Highliner Foods, has also ramped up its client development strategy further with the launch of an alumni extranet, including a directory, to help former lawyers with the firm stay in contact with their former colleagues.

Another current challenge is to ensure corporate clients understand the firm’s lawyers have many sub-specializations enabling them to handle more esoteric legal issues, such as intellectual property, IT, environmental law, and class action litigation, says Harrington.

“We don’t want them to think that when something (unique) comes up, their regular law firm can’t handle it for them and take it to another firm,” Harrington says. With a 33-per-cent increase in revenue over the past few years, the firm’s business model of growing alongside their regional clients is clearly paying off. “A lot of our clients are expanding. Sobeys has become a national organization; it’s big in central Canada and strong in western Canada,” he says. Recognized as having one of the country’s leading energy practices, Stewart McKelvey is also prospering from servicing a thriving oil and gas industry that shows no signs of abating, despite the recent stalemate that has shelved Newfoundland’s Chevron-Hebron project. Says Harrington: “We’ve still got three projects producing offshore oil, producing a combined 8.5 million barrels a month. That is a very significant part of Canada’s daily commercial oil output.”

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2. McInnes Cooper[/span]

Lawyers: 180

Offices: 7

Provinces: Nova Scotia; Newfoundland and Labrador; New Brunswick; Prince Edward Island
Lawyers by Office: Halifax (Summit Place): 64; Halifax (George Street): 48; St. John’s: 22; Moncton: 17; Fredericton: 14; Charlottetown: 8; Saint John: 7

Core Practice Areas:
Corporate finance and securities; corporate law and business transactions; energy and natural resources; taxation and personal services; technology and intellectual property; labour and employment; construction; dispute resolution; insurance; and real estate and planning.

Key Clients:
Golden Gate Capital; Trident Resources Corp; and Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel to underwriters of Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust’s $204-million initial public offering; represented Golden Gate Capital in Nova Scotia in its US$1-billion acquisition of all common shares of Geac Computer Corporation Limited; and counsel to Trident Resources Corp. in $500 million in financings.

Star Alumni:
Former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Frank McKenna; Court of Queen’s Bench judge Richard Bell; and associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Deborah Smith.

Affiliations:
Lex Mundi.

The Firm:
The region’s second-largest law firm at 190 lawyers, McInnes Cooper significantly boosted its business law bench strength with its August 2005 merger with the 53-lawyer Halifax office of Patterson Palmer, giving the firm the strongest presence in the Maritimes’ financial hub. By early 2007, the firm hopes to combine its two Halifax offices — one at Summit Place, the other at the Royal Bank tower — into a single location. “(The merger) has gone very well. It’s given us a depth, particularly on the corporate finance and corporate law and business transaction side generally,” says Bernie Miller, who succeeded Wylie Spicer as CEO and managing partner in July.

This year, the partnership also adopted a new corporate governance model, passing the reigns of management to a younger 35-50 cohort, while the more senior partners continue to sit on the partnership board, chaired by George Cooper. As one of the senior partners put it, Miller recounts, “Shift happens.” The firm has also invested significantly in its intranet and knowledge-management communications platform over the past year, while courting prospective new clients such as RIM, which recently set up operations in Halifax. “We try to keep our ear close to the ground for opportunities. For regional clients that are going national, our goal is to stay with them and not have them feel they need to go national,” says Miller. With offices in all four Atlantic provinces, the firm’s key clients include McCain Foods Ltd., Clearwater Seafood Ltd., Bank of Nova Scotia and Secunda Marine Services, and the substantial Halifax-based clientele brought over by the defecting Patterson Palmer lawyers, including Erdene Gold Inc., Nova Gold Resources, Etruscan Resources, Bank of Montreal, Charlie Keating’s Ultramax Group of Companies, TrentonWorks, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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3. Cox Hanson O’Reilly Matheson[/span]

Total Lawyers: 100 

Offices: 4

Provinces: Nova Scotia; Newfoundland and Labrador; New Brunswick; Prince Edward Island

Lawyers by Office: Halifax: 50; Fredericton: 22; St. John’s: 21; Charlottetown: 7

Core Practice Areas:
Corporate and commercial; insurance; litigation; labour and employment; estates and trusts; municipal and planning; real estate and leasing; technology and intellectual property; tax; and immigration.

Key Clients:
Bell Aliant; Aviva Canada Inc.; Canada Post; CIBC; CMPA; Emera Inc.; ING Insurance; Loblaw/Weston Companies; Lombard Canada Inc.; government of P.E.I. and affiliated agencies; McCain Group; Royal Bank of Canada; Air Canada; NB Power Group; and Zurich Insurance.

Notable Mandates:
General counsel to energy and telecommunication entities including governance, organizational, regulatory, environmental, and merger and acquisition matters; defence of professional negligence claims brought against medical, engineering, and design personnel; industrial contractors and design firms in design liability and construction claims; environmental class actions; counsel to offshore energy projects in obtaining project, regulatory, and environmental approvals.

Star Alumni:
Several regional supreme court judges; Newfoundland Chief Justice and former premier Clyde Wells; former Canadian Bar Association president, A. William Cox.

Affiliations:
Meritas; Risk Management Counsel of Canada.

The Firm:

The firm announced its intention to merge with Patterson Palmer in the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The effective date of the merger will be dependant upon the resolution of client conflicts, which is anticipated to occur shortly. In the meantime, it’s business as usual at the firm’s Halifax, St. John’s, Fredericton, and Charlottetown offices, with Danny Gallivan CEO and managing partner of the Halifax office. “Everybody’s enthusiastic and very committed. There is a lot of activity behind the scenes. This is a fairly complex transaction as there are 10 offices in four provinces,” he says. “Management of the conflicts in some cases is outside of our control. For example, if there’s a matter before the courts, it’s a question of letting the process run its course.” Once completed, the merger will give the firm the depth and resources to provide the complex legal services required by its clients as well as giving the firm the critical mass needed to invest in its infrastructure, says Gallivan. “The more lawyers you have, the more you can afford to invest in your service platform. We’ve gone out and invested in ways such as hiring a director of professional development. That allows us to create the in-house capacity to provide the kind of infrastructure that people want in order to be able to practise law at their maximum capacity.” Stay tuned for more news on the merger and the resulting shakeout on client conflicts.


4. Patterson Palmer
Total Lawyers: 78

Offices: 6

Provinces: New Brunswick; Prince Edward Island; Newfoundland and Labrador

Lawyers by Office: Moncton: 11; Fredericton: 6; Saint John: 22; Charlottetown: 10; Summerside: 5; St. John’s: 24

Core Practice Areas:
Insurance; corporate finance; business and corporate commercial; civil litigation; tax; labour and employment; banking; bankruptcy and insolvency; real property; and natural resources and energy.    

Key Clients:
Not available.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel in obtaining financing for a Newfoundland and Labrador pulp and paper mill; court-appointed receiver for one of Atlantic Canada’s largest seafood processors; financing for oil refinery in Newfoundland and Labrador; large fish consortium on legality of provincial scheme for redistribution of crab stocks; advised government on royalty structure for oil and gas industry; and restructuring of pulp and paper mill in New Brunswick.

Star Alumni:
Former federal cabinet ministers John Crosbie and Doug Young are still counsel to the firm; Ed Roberts, lieutenant governor of Newfoundland and Labrador; and Martin Lockyer, general counsel to CHC Helicopter Corporation.

Affiliations:
World Services Group.

The Firm:
Patterson Palmer is the result of the 1995 merger between four major firms in each Atlantic province, and the 2001 merger with Daley Black & Moreira in Halifax. In 2005, the Halifax office left the firm to merge with another Atlantic law firm, McInnes Cooper, and on September 18, 2006, the Truro office began operating as a separate entity. With current representation in major cities in Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, Patterson Palmer is one of the region’s outstanding law firms with over 70 lawyers.

Once the merger with Cox Hanson goes through, likely early in 2007, the newly created 173-lawyer Cox & Palmer will take up position as Atlantic Canada’s third most powerful regional firm, with strong offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In the meantime, it’s business as usual for Patterson Palmer, whose client list prior to the Nova Scotia defection included the who’s who of Atlantic Canada, including banks, publicly traded companies, oil and gas companies, professional service firms, hospitals, insurers, resources companies, shipping firms, IT companies and governments. “What do we bring to the party? We’re a very tight-knit, aggressive group of professionals who really care about what we do every day for our clients and we’ve had a rich history and we just think this (merger) is part of our evolution,” says New Brunswick-based chairman Peter Wright. “When you combine that with Cox Hanson, you just have a darn good law firm.”

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5. Boyne Clarke[/span]

Lawyers: 40

Offices: 1

Provinces: Nova Scotia

Lawyers by Office: Dartmouth: 40

Core Practice Areas:
Corporate and commercial; personal injury litigation; real estate; health law; employment law; financial recovery; media law; intellectual property; estates and probate; and family law.

Key Clients:
RBC Financial Group; Scotiabank; Duferco Steel Corporation; CBC; Capital District Health Authority; National Bank of Canada; and Doctors Nova Scotia.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel for Sempra Energy on their successful application for natural gas distribution rights in Nova Scotia; National Bank Financial Ltd. in myriad actions resulting from the financial collapse of Knowledge House Inc.; and Credit Union Atlantic Limited on the first public share offering by a credit union in Atlantic Canada.

Star Alumni:
Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Moira Legere; Dereck Jones, retired vice-president and general counsel, Bank of Montreal; James Connors, vice-president regulatory affairs, Emera Inc.; Rosalind Penfound, deputy minister, Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, and CEO, Fisheries and Aquaculture; and Brian Crocker, retired secretary and general counsel, Dalhousie University.

Affiliations:
TAGLaw.

The Firm:
Launched in 1972 by three newly admitted and entrepreneurial members of the Nova Scotia bar, Boyne Clarke has grown to 40 lawyers by repatriating homesick Maritime-bred lawyers from firms in central and western Canada. Located in picturesque Dartmouth, a 10-minute ferry ride away from Nova Scotia’s business capital of Halifax, Boyne Clarke is well poised to take advantage of a national trend toward shopping around for the best legal fees. “One advantage to us is that national clients can send us work they would normally have done in Toronto,” explains managing partner John Young. “It’s cheaper to have it done here and it’s not related to any particular province or local issue.” Still, the regional bar is facing the challenge of a trend toward greater specialization. “What we try to stay in touch with though and want our clients to know is that a broader understanding of the business details is in fact a valuable asset for lawyers working on transactions,” Young says. “And a tunneled-down expertise in the long run is not necessarily the best kind of expertise.”

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6. Wickwire Holm[/span]

Lawyers: 24

Offices: 1

Provinces: Nova Scotia

Lawyers by Office: Halifax: 24

Core Practice Areas:
Banking; corporate; construction; labor and employment; environmental; litigation; energy; commercial and residential real estate; and tax and wealth management.

Key Clients:
Designated counsel for two Canadian chartered banks; represents Canada’s largest private broadcaster; acts for some of the largest commercial real estate owners in Atlantic Canada; one of the largest marine plant aquaculture companies in the world; construction companies; schools and universities; professional liability insurers; an Atlantic Canadian retail pharmacy group; a national funeral services company; and marine terminals.

Notable Mandates:
Counsel in a significant environmental class action; involved in the review of the remediation plan for a very large inactive mining operation; environmental assessments for several large-scale energy projects; multi-million-dollar litigation involving offshore oil rigs; successfully obtained a significant decision on fishing licenses from the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal; acted for a syndicate in a $600-million financing; significant corporate restructurings; and the incorporation of a number of unlimited liability companies and related cross-border transactions.

Star Alumni:
Nova Scotia Appeal Court justices Doane Hallett and Ted Flinn; and Ted Wickwire, who helped develop Nova Scotia’s legal ethics handbook and has an annual law school lecture and the football field at Dalhousie University named in his honour.

Affiliations:
State Capital Global Law Firm Group.

The Firm:
Wickwire Holm operates a fully regional business and commercial practice from a single Halifax office, assisted by the recent loosening of the mobility rules in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. In fact, about 30 per cent of Wickwire Holm’s litigation billings over the past year have been related to matters in New Brunswick or P.E.I., says senior partner Carl Holm. Working on several of the transactions made possible by Nova Scotia’s unique legislation that allows the setting up of tax-efficient unlimited liability companies, the 24-lawyer firm has also been involved in significant related cross-border transactions. Russell MacLellan, a former premier of Nova Scotia, is counsel with this medium-sized, but influential, firm. However, the firm also strongly promotes the exceptional achievements of its associates and junior partners, who include Sean Foreman, the 2003 winner of the Zoe Odei Young Lawyers Award, the 2005 Junior Chamber International Outstanding Young Canadian Award, and past chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s environmental law section. “The initiative of our junior lawyers certainly makes me feel confident about the firm’s long-term future and I think makes a significant contribution to how we are regarded,” says Holm. “Incidentally, we also did pretty well in the legal softball league this summer.”



7. Benson•Myles

Lawyers: 18

Offices: 1

Provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador

Lawyers by Office: St. John’s: 18

Core Practice Areas:
Primarily business law, but personal legal services as well.

Key Clients:
Regional Cable Systems; Persona Inc.; International Royalty Corp.; and a chartered bank.

Notable Mandates:
Lead role as counsel for Regional Cable Systems in its completion of a plan of arrangement, including co-ordination of the legal services of several Toronto and New York-based law firms; represented dissident shareholders in successful court proceedings and related corporate proceedings in respect of Fishery Products International proxy contest and board replacement; Persona Inc. in its indirect acquisition of the controlling share block for the Bahamas public company, Cable Bahamas, and its subsidiaries; Persona Inc. in the acquisition of its shares by a consortium of private equity investors led by Texas based Hicks Muse Tate & Furst and involving TD Capital and CIBC Capital; International Royalty Corp. in connection with the acquisition of a stake in the Voisey’s Bay nickel-copper-cobalt project and a related IPO and unit offering; Barbados-based purchasers in their acquisition and financing of several telecommunications businesses in Jamaica; Trinidad and Tobago-based borrower (the dominant cable operator and a telecommunications service provider in Trinidad and Tobago) of US$120 million in a refinancing with an international syndicate of lenders; and the Barbados-based borrowers of US$100 million in secured financing.

Star Alumni:
Founding members James Puddester and David Orsborn later became justices of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, trial division.

Affiliations:
Business consulting firm Myles & Company Inc.; Capital Global Law Firm Group.

The Firm:
For an 18-lawyer shop overlooking St. John’s Harbour, Benson•Myles has achieved a significant profile in some of the largest transactions in the region, as well as on the national and international stage. Founded in 1980 by a small group of entrepreneurial lawyers dedicated to professionalism, creativity, a practical business attitude, accessibility, and mobility in working as part of each client’s management and advisory team, with strong problem-solving skills, the firm has been a lead adviser to one of the leading stakeholders in the Hibernia Offshore Oil Project, to the developers of hydro-electric and wind energy projects and programs, and in the development of mining and mineral resources. Firm lawyers have also played very prominent roles in some of the most significant litigation that has occurred in the province over the last two decades and routinely act for some of the largest stakeholders in the most material insolvency and restructuring transactions, mergers and acquisitions, says managing partner Wayne Myles.

Through its affiliation with the consulting firm Myles & Company Inc., the law firm has also played leading and supporting roles in respect of numerous cable television, Internet, sub-marine fiber optic cable, and telecommunications acquisitions and development projects outside of Canada. Benson•Myles received the 2005 St. John’s Board of Trade Business Excellence Award for “contribution to community & community service.”
Myles says the consolidation among the big regional firms has already generated some conflict work, with much more expected. As well, the firm enjoys referrals from other Atlantic Canada law firms, he says. “We still have people tell us they are referring work to us because they can’t refer work to a Stewart McKelvey or a McInnes Cooper because they perceive them to be their direct competitor in their own marketplace,” he says.


8. Blois Nickerson & Bryson
Lawyers: 18

Offices: 1

Provinces: Nova Scotia

Lawyers by Office: Halifax: 18

Core Practice Areas:
Labour arbitration; public utilities; family and child protection; insurance; property; litigation; property conveyancing; and estates.

Key Clients:
Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board; Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia; Halifax Children’s Aid Society; Nova Scotia Public Service Long Term Disability Trust Fund; Mak Americas Inc.; and Sisters of Charity.

Notable Mandates:
Confidential.

Star Alumni:
Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Justice Elizabeth Roscoe; the late Supreme Court of Nova Scotia associate chief justice Ian Palmeter; Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Michael Sherar; Justice James Williams of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Family Division; and Michel Samson, interim leader of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia.

Affiliations:
None.

The Firm:
Blois Nickerson & Bryson is an 18- lawyer Halifax-based firm that can trace its roots back to 1864. The firm handles files in other Atlantic Canada provinces, with an active private and public sector arbitration practice that extends often into New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. “The firm has concentrated on providing a broad range of services at a reasonable cost, and, by providing a high level of service, is well positioned to, and frequently does, deal with conflict referrals from local, national, and international firms,” says senior partner Colin Bryson. “We look to grow from within, by hiring and developing young, bright lawyers who can create their own niche in a competitive market.” The consolidation of the biggest firms from four fully regional law firms to three doesn’t trouble lawyers at the firm. “We don’t see it as a challenge to our existing clients,” says Bryson. “We see it more as an opportunity in terms of conflict work.”



9. Burchell Hayman Parish

Lawyers: 23

Offices: 1

Provinces: Nova Scotia

Lawyers by Office: Halifax: 23

Core Practice Areas:
Aboriginal and treaty rights; banking and insolvency; business litigation; construction law; corporate and commercial transactions; employment law; human rights; insurance and personal injury litigation; real estate; wills, estates, and trusts.

Key Clients:
Multinational corporations; major banks and insurance companies; all levels of government; individuals; small businesses; and institutions.

Notable Mandates:
Confidential.

Star Alumni:
Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Justice David MacAdam; and Federal Court of Canada Justice Robert Barnes.

Affiliations:
Risk Counsel of Canada.

The Firm:

Burchell Hayman Parish is a 23-lawyer business law firm that offers a range of legal services to multinational corporations, major banks and insurance companies, all levels of government, individuals, small businesses, and institutions. Now based on the 17th and 18th floors of the HSBC Bank Building on Halifax’s Hollis Street, the firm was created in 2000 with the merger of Green Parish and Burchell Hayman Barnes, two well-known, mid-sized Halifax firms, creating a firm with considerable depth in both business litigation and commercial transactions. Since then, the firm has enjoyed a significant amount of work setting up unlimited liability companies, until recently allowed only in Nova Scotia (Alberta has recently followed suit), attracting considerable cross-border interest. “Many times those corporate vehicles end up involved in other transactions and then also you get to work on those related transactions,” says partner D. Bruce Clarke, one of partners. “This work in relation to unlimited liability companies fits in well with our existing corporate and commercial expertise.”  The firm also has growing practice areas in media law, human rights, insolvency and aboriginal law.

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10. Barry Spalding[/span]

Lawyers: 27

Offices: 2

Provinces: New Brunswick

Lawyers by Office: Saint John: 19; Moncton: 8

Core Practice Areas:
Insurance and surety; corporate and commercial; litigation; labour and employment; personal injury; real estate and property; environmental; regulatory; family; wills, estates, and trusts; and health and hospital law.

Key Clients:

Aviva; College of Physicians of N.B.; Heath Insurance Reciprocal of Canada; and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

Notable Mandates:
Won precedent-setting ruling in Haley v. Richardson regarding contributory negligence related to the failure to wear seatbelts; and precedent-setting chiropractic liability ruling in Mason v. Forgie.

Star Alumni:
New Brunswick Court of Appeal Justice Marc Richard; and the late New Brunswick Supreme Court justice J. Paul Barry.

Affiliations:
Member of a new national affiliation of insurance defence council.

The Firm:
One of New Brunswick’s largest independent law firms, with full service, bilingual offices in Saint John and Moncton, Barry Spalding has evolved from the original Saint John firm of Barry & O’Neil, launched in 1981 by a group of six lawyers. Four of the six original founding members of the firm — John Barry, David Barry, Howard Spalding, and Peter Zed — are still practising as partners with Barry Spalding. In 2001, the firm expanded its provincial coverage to Moncton by merging with White Debow Johnston. Today, the firm’s 27 partners and associates hail from all parts of Canada and provide clients with a full range of multilingual legal services in a “free flowing informal environment,” says partner John Barry.

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    Giuseppe Lowe
    Through its affiliation with the consulting firm Myles & Company Inc., the law firm has also played leading and supporting roles in respect of numerous cable television, Internet, sub-marine fiber optic cable, and telecommunications acquisitions and development projects outside of Canada. Benson•Myles received the 2005 St. John’s Board of Trade Business Excellence Award for “contribution to community & community service.”

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