Davis name disappearing after joining up with DLA Piper

Another familiar name is about to disappear from the Canadian legal landscape as Davis LLP adopts the DLA Piper LLP brand.

The firm will become DLA Piper (Canada) LLP when it completes the deal next month to join forces with DLA Piper, a firm with 4,200 lawyers around the world. The deal was announced this morning.

DLA Piper, which had been seeking a Canadian presence for some time, initially approached the Canadian firm, says Robert Seidel, Davis’ managing partner.

“In the meetings, it became obvious very quickly that we shared a vision, we shared a culture,” says Seidel, noting the discussions had been underway for several months.

Among the commonalities was a focus on growth.

“It started in terms of the aspiration as the top business law firm,” says Seidel, who adds Davis partners had given the firm’s executive committee a mandate three years ago “to look outward locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.”

With the firm having had significant lateral growth in recent years, particularly in places like Calgary, it was time to consider additional opportunities to expand, according to Seidel.

“In order for us to grow with our clients, it secures opportunities that didn’t exist until this point,” he says, citing the inbound and outbound work opportunities for the firm.

“The Canadian marketplace is only so big,” he adds, suggesting Canada, with the arrival of the Norton Rose Fulbright and Dentons brands in recent years, is “catching up to the phenomenon” of the global law firm.

According to Seidel, DLA Piper will operate on the Swiss Verein model with the firms retaining their own profit centres. Davis has seven offices across Canada as well as an associate office, which will continue to operate as Davis & Takahashi, in Tokyo.

According to Law Timeslist of the largest law firms in Canada that came out today, Davis is 14th in Canada with 251 lawyers. With the new arrangement with DLA Piper, Seidel expects the firm’s growth to accelerate.

“For our perspective, it’s a bit of a journey that finds its roots almost to a point in time in which Davis & Co. started to look eastward,” he says, citing the firm’s western roots.

For its part, DLA Piper has lawyers across the United States as well as in Mexico, Brazil, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. It famously looked at securing a presence in Canada last year as Heenan Blaikie LLP was collapsing. Roger Meltzer, global co-chairman of DLA Piper, said Davis would be a “valuable addition” to the firm.

“As a G20 nation and the principal trading partner of the U.S., Canada has been, for some time, an integral part of our global strategy,” says Meltzer. “Davis is a firm with a long and successful history and the right combination of talent and experience centered on core areas of DLA Piper’s focus.”

Meltzer is also vowing that the arrangement will be a “disruptive” force in the Canadian legal market. Over the last three years, one of the key roadblocks DLA Piper faced in previous discussions with large Canadian law firms with a more significant Toronto presence than Davis, was their worry about jeopardizing referral relationships with other U.S. firms.

“The problem with it was they weren’t sure that they wanted to do it, he says.

So when those talks fizzled, DLA Piper eventually decided to go west to a firm that didn’t have the extensive U.S. referral relationships as some of its counterparts, he says. With Davis’ solid presence in areas like energy, forestry, and mining, DLA Piper’s hope is the merger will allow it to counter the dominance of some of the more Ontario-focused firms in industries like the financial sector, according to Meltzer.

“We’re going to make every effort to disrupt that. Toronto is very crowded, massively lawyered,” he says, calling the combination with Davis an “out-of-the-box” decision. “We feel like we needed to do something that was materially different.”

Davis, he adds, is a “very, very successful firm. It’s profitable and very profitable.” And with the new arrangement allowing it to integrate into DLA Piper’s operations, Meltzer expects it to become even more profitable.

The move, in fact, comes as DLA Piper expands elsewhere in North America. More recently, it completed a merger with Gallastegui y Lozano S.C. in Mexico.

Update: 12:15 pm: Comments added from Roger Meltzer, global co-chairman of DLA Piper.

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