Gowling WLG launches, looks abroad for future mergers

One of Canada’s largest law firms has merged with a firm in the United Kingdom, bringing the number of legal professionals in the firm around the world to more than 1,400.

Peter Lukasiewicz, chief executive officer of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP, and counterpart David Fennell, chief executive of Gowling WLG (UK) LLP.Gowling WLG officially launches today.

The firm says the merger “marks an historic occasion in Canadian legal and business circles, as it’s the first time ever that a Canadian law firm has co-led an international law firm combination.”

“This has been the culmination of seven months of very hard work since the partners voted in July to combine the two firms,” said Peter Lukasiewicz, chief executive officer of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP.

Lukasiewicz said he feels “fantastic” about the launch.

The Canadian firm (previously Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP) has about 700 legal professionals employed in seven offices across Canada. The merger with Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co., a firm headquartered in London and Birmingham with about 700 legal professionals, means the size and reach of the firm has increased.

“We’ve been working very hard to integrate the two firms through our practices, which we call the services.

We’ve integrated our service groups with common leadership, common membership, and we’ve also integrated our industry sectors, and so that’s been an enormous effort to integrate the two firms,” said Lukasiewicz.

“At the core of Gowling WLG is a commitment to helping our clients navigate increasingly complex challenges in a tough business and legal environment,” said David Fennell, chief executive of Gowling WLG (UK) LLP.

Lukasiewicz added there’s been other operational details that needed attention, like building a new web site.

“All these operational details have required an enormous amount of effort and we’re very pleased with how it has turned out,” said Lukasiewicz.

The new firm will focus on different sectors, including financial services, energy, infrastructure, life sciences, natural resources, advanced manufacturing, real estate, and tech.

“We’ve now doubled our professional capacity, meaning that we now have significantly more expertise, both in terms of sector expertise and service expertise, and that’s something we can bring to our existing clientele immediately,” said Lukasiewicz.

“But secondly, as well, to those same clients, we bring the ability to provide them with the same kind of service that they’re used to getting from us, in new jurisdictions, the United Kingdom, and France, and Germany, [and] in Asia.”

Both founding firms have already worked closely together, including on matters in Canada, the U.K., China, the Middle East, France, Germany and Singapore. The firms also recently joined forces to win a global intellectual property mandate from cereal manufacturer Weetabix.

Scott Joliffe, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Gowlings, will continue in his role as a representative on the global board of Gowling WLG. The international board has six members in total, with three members from each of the founding firms and is co-chaired by Lukasiewic and Fennell.

Lukasiewicz said discussions about the merger began in 2014, and intensified in fall 2014 and spring 2015. The merger was announced last July.

“Our plan is to expand the combination by adding firms in Europe and in Asia, so that we will become a fully formed global law firm and be able to bring those services to our clients in those jurisdictions, as they expand their businesses and are looking for assistance for parts of the world outside of Canada,” he said.

Update 4:15 pm: Info about the international board added.

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