David Leonard is the new chief executive officer of McCarthy Tétrault LLP, replacing Marc-André Blanchard, who was appointed ambassador of Canada to the United Nations in January.
A litigator who has spent his entire career at McCarthys, Leonard says his experience gives him an edge because his clients have hired him to come in when they have a problem, figure out that piece of business where there is a problem, and then find a solution.
“It’s that skillset that I’m going to bring to other practice areas in our firm. I think I’m uniquely positioned because I understand our client service, our business and I’m going to help our great people continue to do that for our clients,” he says.
Leonard will oversee more than 550 lawyers and the operations of all six McCarthy Tétrault offices in Canada and the United Kingdom. A statement from the firm said Leonard will “play an integral role leading the firm, driving growth in current Canadian markets, while expanding a footprint internationally and into new markets.”
But that doesn’t mean opening new offices. Leonard says in looking at how to grow revenues and profitability the focus is on the United States and in London (where the firm has an office) to leverage existing relationships with clients and other law firms to see if there is work to be driven to Canada such as cross border class action litigation.
“Some of our people are also able to follow our clients, expanding beyond Canadian borders, and do deals with them in other jurisdictions so we will continue to push in that regard,” he says. “We’re not going to start running around opening offices in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. It’s really about our people here who have relationships with the U.S. firms and building on that.”
Leonard acknowledges it is a difficult time for the legal market but says “what comes out of challenges are opportunities and there are a lot of opportunities ahead with our clients in how we are delivering our services and structuring our firm and people to deliver services.”
The announcement follows a partners’ ratification vote that gave Leonard overwhelming support.
Leonard joined McCarthys as an associate in the litigation group in 1994, having completed his articles at the firm. He became an income partner in 2001 and an equity partner in 2003. In 2011, he was appointed litigation practice lead for the Toronto office, and in 2012, he was appointed litigation national practice group leader.