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Global firm Norton Rose Fulbright snaps up Bull Housser

Global firm Norton Rose Fulbright LLP has acquired British Columbia regional firm Bull Housser Tupper LLP.

The merger, which was announced yesterday, adds Bull Housser’s 90 lawyers and a Vancouver office to Norton Rose Fulbright’s stable of more than 3,800 lawyers globally, with 575 in Canadian offices including Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.

For Dal Bhathal, managing partner at The Counsel Network, this move is a further indication of change in the legal profession and a sign of the importance for firms to focus strategically on their development.

“It’s no longer going off that they’ve been around for hundreds of years and have strong relationships, you really have to ask where is the business going and who do we want to become? For some firms, like Bull Housser, that may be more of an international approach, which is great, and for others it could mean they want to consolidate more at home or streamline the services they’re providing.”

Bhathal adds that if Bull Housser wants to play on a bigger playing field, “then absolutely this was a good move for them.”

Janet Grove, Bull Housser managing partner who will remain managing partner of the Vancouver office, says the move got unanimous support from the partners, and when the staff and associates were notified, they were “very excited, which is not always the reaction you get, but we’re very pleased.

“It’s still important to have strong local, regional industry expertise, but more and more we’re finding that business is going global, business is going borderless,” Grove says. “Our clients are [going global], too, so we want to be able to meet the needs of our clients not just today but over the next decade, and we think the best way to do this is to be able to help them wherever they go.”

She says the two firms have complimentary areas and that they each bring their regional expertise, which is an added benefit for clients. Her firm offers knowledge of the market and industries that are key to the B.C. market, and joining forces with Norton Rose Fulbright “allows us to meet the full needs of the client, however they are moving or growing.

“This is adding an office in a key market, this is not about reducing who we are. In fact, we’re looking at this for growth,” Grove says.

Charles Hurdon, managing partner of Norton Rose Fulbright, says the move completes Norton Rose Fulbright’s coast-to-coast coverage for clients in terms of the major markets in Canada.

Hurdon says his firm has worked with Bull Housser closely over the years and knew they’d get along.

“We’ve got the right partner in a market we really wanted to be in both for our Canadian clients and for our global platform,” he says, noting that Bull Housser is a well-established firm with more than 125 years in the market. “We were very attracted by their history, by their strong ties to the community and by their practice.”

Bhathal says the merger is good news for the Canadian market.

“Canada is now more on an international playing field, so that’s a good thing — Canadian firms are getting more prominence on the world stage,” she says.

The merger will take effect Jan. 1, 2017, and Hurdon says they don’t anticipate any significant changes, and “certainly nothing structural.”

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