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Managing Partner: Knowing your strengths

|Written By Jim Middlemiss
Managing Partner: Knowing your strengths

Sometimes the practice of law requires a leap of faith. That’s what the partners at Langlois Kronström Desjardin (LKD) did when they appointed two of the three managing partners of their Levis, Quebec City, and Montreal-based offices.

Rather than turning to old stalwarts to manage the business, the firm’s lawyers turned over the reins to fresh blood and new faces — Jean-François Gagnon, who runs the Quebec office, and Pierre Jauvin, both of whom had been with the firm less than two years when they got the nod to oversee the firm’s direction. (Yves Charbonneau runs the Levis office.) Jauvin, formerly of the international law firm Coudert Brothers LLP, talks about how LKD is growing three years after the merger brought together the Montreal-based Langlois, heavy in litigation, with the Quebec City/Levis-based Kronström Desjardins, known for its corporate work.


Tell me about your Montreal office.

Montreal has a forte as a litigation firm first and foremost. We have strengthened our litigation and decided to build around our forte rather than diversify in Montreal and we have added several senior litigators in order to create the nucleus of litigators that can do a lot of work, for example, more than a dozen defensive large class actions at the same time.

So we had to give ourselves the resources to deal with that. We represent major blue chip institutions. Our client base in Montreal is large companies. We do the litigation and other national firms do the commercial work. Our Quebec City office does litigation, but it is more commercial and so is Levis. We have a few commercial lawyers in Montreal; five or six. A lot of our commercial work is done in conjunction with Quebec City.  We’ve recognized the force of each office and tried to build around each force.

So how has the merger gone?

The merger has produced significant growth in the last year and a half. When you look at the offices today, we have approximately 120 lawyers. The Montreal office has doubled its size in the last year or year and a half.  We are now close to 50 in Montreal with 65-70 lawyers in Quebec City and Levis.

What’s your growth strategy?

We are taking our time to diversify.  One of the reasons we are taking our time is that we have no empty offices anywhere.  We’ve grown too fast and we are happy about it. Now we need space. We have had two profitable years and 2007 looks great for our market and us.

It’s unusual to appoint someone as managing partner who hasn’t been with the firm for an extended period of time. Why did they do that?

I think the firm when I came in here wanted someone that could give it a different spin, given the fact that I managed Coudert Brothers, and others. The three of us are 43 years old. We are right in the prime of our practices. It was an easy fit in the culture.

As a managing partner relatively new to the firm, what are your challenges?

The first challenge was to get ready for the next generation. When we looked at our firm, we wanted to make sure we were getting the required number of strong litigators and strong partners in commercial law who were in their 40s; that we were ready for our generation, as the founders were 55-60. We had to turn the firm toward our younger people and make sure we have a good business development group and we have people who could not only develop clients and entertain those that existed, but could go after new major clients. We have added people from different firms and different groups of practices that have built impressive practices but are still in their young 40s.

How did you become managing partner with so little association with the firm?

When I joined, one of the issues they asked me was “Can you wait one year before you start managing?” they said laughingly. It took six months. It came naturally. We had the structure for a few years of one managing partner. A year after I came in we decided to replace that structure with someone in each office. The markets are so different. I am not very qualified to decide what’s great for Quebec City and vice versa. We work very well together, respecting each other’s local management and we make decisions that impact all offices together.