Allen & Overy closes Toronto ‘marketing outpost’

Global law firm Allen & Overy is closing its Toronto office as the outpost’s sole partner departs for an in-house gig in his hometown of Montreal.

Francois Duquette is moving back to Montreal for an in-house position with Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.Francois Duquette says he’s making the switch after a job at pension fund company Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec “ticked a lot of the boxes” he wanted.

“I thought it was a good move for my career,” says Duquette, adding moving back to Montreal was also a plus.

Duquette, who staffed Allen & Overy’s Toronto office with a senior associate, says the firm decided to shut down the office after he accepted the job in Québec.

“I decided to make that move and the firm had to decide what they wanted to do with the Toronto office. [They] took the decision to close the office because I am the sole partner and therefore there was an issue with keeping the office open in this configuration,” he says.

The firm, headquartered in London, England, will continue to serve its Canadian clientele on a fly-in-fly-out basis, as it did prior to the opening of the Toronto office.

Allen & Overy’s Toronto office, the firm’s only Canadian presence, did not involve practising local laws. It used Canadian firms for domestic legal work, a system that will continue going forward.

“It was never our intention to practise local law; it was always meant to be a marketing outpost,” Duquette says.

In Toronto, Duquette’s main duties included continuing transactions he had started when he was based in the Middle East and Africa, and acquiring new clients for the Allen & Overy network. Before starting the Toronto office last year, Duquette practised in Abu Dhabi from 2004 to 2011 and founded the firm’s Casablanca office in 2011.

For Duquette, in-house legal work isn’t new. He was seconded to a Middle Eastern energy company five years ago and enjoyed the in-house dynamic, he says. After his tenure in Toronto, which didn’t involve Canadian legal practice, he’s looking forwarding to doing more hands-on work.

“It will be good to get my hands dirty again,” he laughs.

Caisse de dépôt has a good mix of local and international clients, Duquette also says.

“For me it was the perfect fit,” he adds. “Pension fund is a very interesting and diversified work.”

Allen & Overy, a Magic Circle firm, has more than 500 partners and boasts offices in some 30 countries.

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