Dentons Canada chief predicts growth, not more departures

Despite the departure recently of 13 lawyers from its mining group in Canada, Dentons’ head in Canada says he doesn’t expect to see more lawyers looking to leave.

“We don’t anticipate further departures, but we developed as part of our strategic review and analysis of the opportunity the possibility of these kinds of changes,” says Chris Pinnington, Dentons’ Canada CEO. “Notwithstanding the departure of our colleagues in Toronto, we continue to have a very robust mining practice across our offices in Canada and marrying it with the depth of expertise in other regions we do continue to offer our clients a compelling proposition and afford potential recruits an interesting opportunity in building the new Dentons.”

Formed by the combination of international law firm Salans LLP, Canadian law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, and international law firm SNR Denton, Dentons officially launched today. The firm now consists of 2,500 lawyers and professionals in 79 locations in 52 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the CIS, the U.K.

Joe Andrew, global chairman with Dentons, tells Legal Feeds it’s not unusual for large combinations to losing lawyers, citing Hogan Lovells which lost hundreds of lawyers, DLA Piper, and Norton Rose, whereas Dentons is looking at a net gain.

“We have lost a couple of lawyers in Toronto and two in New York and a couple in Paris, but unlike all the other big combinations we have a net gain across the globe from our announcement date to the launch date,” says Andrew, noting there was a high percentage vote at FMC in favour of the combination.

“We think our lawyers understand the strategy of the firm, they’ve bought into the strategy of the firm and those who have had the opportunity to walk out the door anytime they want to aren’t doing so,” he adds

The Canadian office is also being approached by potential lateral recruits who even a few months ago would not have seen a difference between the former FMC and its competitors.

“I’ve been heavily involved in recruiting activities over the past few months and we have a new and very compelling proposition for partners who feel in the world of globalization and dynamic shifts in the legal market what we are doing offers an opportunity to get in at the beginning of a new global law firm,” says Pinnington.

While mergers can also result in some lawyers losing clients due to issues of conflicts or referral business, he doesn’t see it being a problem for Canadian lawyers of the firm.

“To date we have not seen any erosion of those sources of work or any other client erosion attributable to the combination. On the contrary, we have seen some incredible new matter and new client opportunities that would have been out of reach,” says Pinnington.

The first weekend after the merger was announced, Pinnington says the firm heard from the former general counsel of a client in the U.K. which FMC had been pursuing who was now at a different company. He indicated his company was looking to set up operations in Canada.

“They had noticed the news about the firm joining with Dentons, which led to an introduction and engagement to develop a relationship,” says Pinnington, saying it was a client in the infrastructure sector that was “on the horizon but just out of reach.

“It was a prospect we in Canada had a desire to engage with and the result is we have a new and very satisfied happy client.”

Andrews says general counsel of large companies are becoming the “foreign relations office” of large corporations and looking for broader representation. He points to research from the Acritas’ U.S. Law Firm Brand Index Report, a survey of purchasers of legal services, which shows general counsel of companies small to large are drawn to firms with global reach even if they don’t have global needs.

“It changes the brand of the firm and is perceived to be more contemporary and responsive to the needs because there are very few businesses in Canada and other countries that don’t have aspirations to sell in countries other than the ones they are in today,” he says.

Pinnington says he has been contacted by clients from the three legacy firms wanting to discuss ‘but for opportunities’ that previously would have been out of our reach either because of geographic footprint or sector or industry practice.

When it comes to the value proposition, Andrew says in many cases global firms can offer lower costs than national firms due to having a broader roster of talent.

“With the broader base and more people who know narrow technical areas you’re more likely to get what you want and quicker, which will be less expensive.”

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