FMC merger with Salans, Dentons set for 2013

Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP is preparing to merge with two large international law firms in a move CEO Chris Pinnington says will provide a significant boost to Canada’s presence in the global legal market.

The three-way merger with Salans LLP of London, England, and Washington, D.C.- and London-based SNR Denton will create a 2,500-lawyer firm. The move would make it one of the 10 largest law firms in the world.

The firms are recommending the deal to their partners on Nov. 13. Subject to the vote, the combination will become effective in the first quarter of 2013.

The new firm will be known as Dentons but will incorporate the legacy firms’ brands for an intermediate period. After that the FMC name will name will disappear.  Pinnington says the brand is “impactful and has a long legacy.” He adds the firms share similar firm cultures and values.

With 550 lawyers and legal professionals across six offices in Canada, FMC is already one of the nation’s largest law firms. It will also be the first law firm merger that gives a Canadian firm a substantial presence in the United States.

“This is about the globalizing economy,” says Pinnington. “By expanding our geographic reach, we will be able to work with our clients as they continue to expand their businesses overseas.”

Energy, mining, and infrastructure — all areas Pinnington calls FMC’s “pillars” — are central to the global economy, he says. The move, he adds, “puts us into key markets that interest our clients.”

SNR Denton, a 1,200-lawyer firm, has more than 60 locations worldwide, including in Britain, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific, and Africa. It was formed when American firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP and Britain’s Denton Wilde Sapte LLP merged in 2010.

Salans has more than 750 lawyers who serve clients in 17 countries and specialize in sectors such as the automotive, telecommunications, and financial industries.

The three firms are building a new one together, says Pinnington, who emphasizes that FMC is not “being acquired or taken over.” The amalgamation would follow a structure that doesn’t combine the firms’ finances.

FMC has offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary. Canada’s sixth-largest firm will take three of the 14 seats on the new firm’s global board.

“The combination is the most significant law firm combination not born out of the merger of a UK and US firm and the only combination involving firms with significant operations in Europe, Canada, the UK and the US,” says a statement from the firms.

Strategic planning for the merger began two years ago. A thorough consultation process followed, says Pinnington.

The new firm will be structured as a Swiss Verein with four separate limited liability partnerships and led by a global board and leadership team including:
  • Elliott Portnoy, global chief executive officer, currently SNR Denton's global chief executive officer
  • Joe Andrew, global chairman, currently SNR Denton's global chair
  • Francois Chateau, global vice chairman, currently Salans' global board chairman
  • Bill Jenkins, global vice chairman, currently FMC's national partnership board presiding member
  • Chris Pinnington, Canada chief executive officer, currently FMC's chief executive officer
  • Matthew Jones, U.K., Middle East, and Africa chief executive officer, currently SNR Denton's EMEA chief executive officer
  • Dariusz Oleszczuk, Europe chief executive officer, currently Salans' global managing partner
  • Peter Wolfson, U.S. chief executive officer, currently SNR Denton's U.S. chief executive officer
  • Jana Cohen Barbe, currently SNR Denton's financial institutions and funds sector co-chairwoman
  • Michael Barr, currently SNR Denton's U.S. senior partner
  • Neil Cuthbert, currently SNR Denton's Middle East senior partner
  • Mike Kaplan, currently managing partner of FMC's Toronto office
  • Martin Kitchen, currently SNR Denton's U.K. senior partner
  • Evan Lazar, currently Salans' global real estate co-chairman

Update: Nov 28, 2012: The partners of Salans, FMC and SNR Denton voted to combine to create Dentons. The new firm will launch in the first quarter of 2013. For more information, visit
dentonscombination.com.

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