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Managing Partner: Good times for Macleod Dixon

|Written By Kirsten McMahon

With strong roots in energy, resources, and mining, it’s a good time for Macleod Dixon LLP. The firm first opened in Calgary in 1912, and now has more than 250 legal professionals in Calgary; Toronto; Caracas, Venezuela; Moscow; Almaty and Atyrau, Kazakhstan; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Worldwide managing partner W.H. (Bill) Tuer says, although times are good for the firm, finding the right talent can still be a challenge. But creativity can go a long way, he adds. Q: With seven offices around the world, I’m interested in how your management is structured. Can you walk me through it?

A: We have a full-time managing partner, which I’ve been in the position of since 2000. The managing partner reports to a seven-member executive committee. The managing partner has a three-year term in that position, and the members of the executive committee also have a three-year term, but there are no limits on the number of terms that either the executive committee members or the managing partner can serve. The executive committee essentially serves like a board of directors.

Q: Would there be representation from different offices?

A: Constitutionally, we don’t have a mandate for that, but practically speaking, it is a cross-sectional representation of the firm so that all of the constituencies are effectively represented.

Q: Would that cross-section include different practice areas as well?

A: That’s right. Basically, we’re trying to have representation geographically, practice areas, various demographics so people within the firm feel that there is representation for them on the executive committee. Those are the criteria we essentially use. We also have a chairman, Dan Hays, and the chairman isn’t a part of day-to-day management but effectively serves as an external ambassador for the firm.

What kind of work is going on at your 30-lawyer office in Toronto?

Toronto is basically a business office, with ability to serve on the transaction side and on the litigation side. The office generally though has a focus on energy, mining, and resources. That’s the strengths we’re playing on in Toronto.

Q: And is that the philosophy of the firm as a whole?

A; That’s correct. We do have a focused business plan and that drives our growth, and size is not a goal and size isn’t a strategy for us. It’s to maintain a leading position in the areas that we choose to develop in terms of our core business.

Q: What are some of the challenges you encountered in your role?

A: The biggest challenges we’re facing today is coping with growth and success. We are recruiting in all of our markets and recruiting on an ongoing basis. Recruiting in these thriving markets is a challenge because there’s just not enough resources to go around. We’re looking for space in four of our different offices, so again, looking for space in booming markets can be a challenge.

Q: Are you looking for talent across Canada?

A: Yes, we are recruiting Canada–wide to fill positions in Canada but, in fact, we’re going even beyond that. On the international side, we’ve brought a lawyer from Kazakhstan, for example, to Canada and we’re trying to be a little more creative in exploring more possibilities. Also, one of the things we offer  . . . is the international experience and the international opportunities. When we’re recruiting, we offer those possibilities as well to individuals, which will hopefully give us a leg up in attracting some people who may see that as an interesting part of their future career.

Q: What practice areas are booming for the firm at the moment?

A: This is a good time generally for Macleod Dixon because of our focus in energy, resources, and mining, and those industries are strong not only here in Canada but internationally as well. Our practice in that area, domestically and internationally, is booming today and we see that continuing. Commodity prices are strong, energy prices are strong, the economies we’re operating in are strong. In addition to that, sometimes when you have that strength in the commercial sector you’ll see some softening in litigation but, in fact, here in Calgary we have the largest litigation group in Western Canada and we’re very busy.