Cliff Proudfoot, managing partner at Lawson Lundell, on his firm’s busiest year on record

Straight from their win for Regional Law Firm of the Year at the Canadian Law awards, Cliff Proudfoot explains how the BC firm got there

Lawson Lundell is one of the only major business law firms in Canada that is headquartered in BC. And they’ve been committed to the West and the North for more than 135 years. And they continue to grow. In this exclusive interview, managing partner Cliff Proudfoot, speaks on the reasons why 2022 was such a big year.

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Greg Hudson  03:37:11 

Hello, I'm Greg Hudson, welcome to Canadian lawyer TV. Today I'm talking with Cliff Proudfoot, the managing partner of Lawson Lundell. They've just won regional law firm of the year for the West. Welcome, Cliff, thank you so much for chatting with us. 2022 was one of the most successful, and also one of the busiest years for Lawson Lundell. Tell me about some of the highlights of the year. 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:37:35 

22 was the year when I think all of us were tested. If we think back, you know, omnicron started really in December of 21. And it flowed into January and February of 22. So we quickly forget what we were actually dealing with. And so are people, I think they're really tested. And for us, the big success was they met that challenge. And they succeeded in a way that just surpassed my expectations. And they really just rose to the challenge. That was the big success. 

Greg Hudson  03:38:12 

So you've won regional law firm of the year, tell me about what makes your region the west and the north unique? 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:38:20 

Yeah, so it's quite different than, say, Ontario, or Quebec, or eastern Canada. So Western Canada, first of all, it's a lot less populous. And so our business community is smaller, the publicly traded companies are far fewer in Western Canada than they are in Toronto. In western Canada, maybe because of a historical anomalies, with treaties, you know, we absolutely lead the country in Aboriginal indigenous law, and the changes that are coming about there, you know, with respect to Aboriginal title, the duty to consult and how all that is sort of unfolding. And so for the area of project development and regulatory, it's actually a very different environment, I think, then, say the rest of the country, we have a business community with less publicly traded companies, but more entrepreneurial companies, more privately held companies. So so different in that perspective, and, frankly, maybe a bit more fun, because when you're dealing with people that actually own the business, and it's theirs, it's they're obviously very engaged. And it's, it's exciting to work with people like that. So I think those are kind of the, to me, those are kind of the big differences between sort of Western Canada and maybe, you know, central Canada and the east. 

Greg Hudson  03:39:46 

What are some of the practice areas that saw the greatest growth for your law firm? 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:39:51 

So last year, I was looking back at my managing partners report last year, I reported out to the firm, there were like 22, major transactions that we worked on. And they ranged from sort of, you know, pure corporate, to real estate transactions, the whole gamut from sort of just straight corporate, to mining to private equity, publicly traded companies. So that was a very busy area in 2022. For us, the regulatory side was also very busy. This is project development, getting projects across the line, dealing with First Nation concerns and environmental concerns. That was an incredibly busy area. And then, you know, things like litigation are generally pretty steady. They're just busy, and they were they were busy. And then the last area that I thought was a real uptick last year, not such good news, really, I guess is more insolvency. You know, insolvency was an area because of rising interest rates definitely became more busy. 

Greg Hudson  03:40:52 

Correct me if I'm wrong, you also reopened your forest or re-launched your forestry group. Tell me what prompted that? 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:40:59 

Well, we hired Brian Gilfillan, and he's just a leading forestry lawyer and a bunch of us like myself and David Allard and others, we do forestry, and have done it for a long, long time because BC Basically, most of the major head offices here in Vancouver used to be forestry companies, less so now, but still a big deal. And so with Brian joining, we just thought, well, this is a great opportunity. He was so much an operational forester, forestry lawyer that has a real chance to sort of take advantage of that and reinvigorate the group. And so that's what we did.  

Greg Hudson  03:41:33 

You also join forces with Petraroia Langford which increased your footprint in Kelowna. Tell me about how that deal came about. 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:41:39 

I phoned them. I heard that they were possibly going to leave Ferris and I was very interested in growing our footprint in the Okanagan. Kelowna is the fastest growing municipality in Canada. It has a tremendous tech business community that has developed there and grown and, and with university British Columbia Okanagan rowing that that whole market has just been so invigorated. And by joining Lawson Lundell and Petraroia Langford together in the Okanagan Valley, we become the dominant corporate commercial law firm in the Okanagan. And in an area that's the fastest growing area in Canada, so that that was the opportunity. And we met with them. They're just really good people with great practices, the Executive Committee met with the partners, and we just clicked right away, and then it just seemed like wow, this could really come together and happen. And lo and behold, it did. Lucky. Yes. 

Greg Hudson  03:42:45 

What were some matters are cases that you are especially proud of last year. 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:42:51 

Our litigation group in Calgary had a huge win in a claim in which they were asking for Remington developments. And after a very hotly contested seven or eight week trial, they got a judgment for $163 million in commercial litigation in Canada. We don't have cases like that in Canada very often. And it was just an extraordinary result for them. Now, of course, it's under appeal. Not surprising, because of the dollars involved. But our team just did a magnificent job. And there's just so proud of them. And so that was just a huge, huge achievement for the shop. I guess on the on the solicitor side, I guess I would just say that the breadth and number of transactions that they did and the dollar size, you know, ranging from billions of dollars, obviously to, you know, much smaller 10s to hundreds of millions, they had a really busy transactional year with a lot of successes and for a lot of our important clients. So those I think of the work highlights. 

Greg Hudson  03:43:53 

What does it mean for your firm to have won a Canadian law award? 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:43:58 

Oh, yeah, look, it's really nice for our people to be recognized. Our people are just pound for pound. They're just terrific. And as good as any other law firm in Canada, the leading law firms and so when you get a recognition like that, it's just it's kind of an affirmation about how I feel about our people. And so it's just tremendously satisfying. 

Greg Hudson  03:44:20 

Thank you so much Cliff for chatting with us today. And congratulations again. 

Cliff Proudfoot  03:44:24 

Oh, thank you very much. It's a pleasure. 

Greg Hudson  03:44:26 

Thanks again for chatting with us, Cliff. And again, congratulations. For Canadian lawyer TV, I'm Greg Hudson. Have a great day.