Jean Coutu in-house counsel moves to FMC

A pioneer of franchise law in Canada has returned to private practice at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP after several years in-house at Quebec retailer The Jean Coutu Group.

Jean H. GagnonJean H. Gagnon, who was most recently vice president, legal affairs for The Jean Coutu Group Inc., has joined FMC as counsel and strategic adviser in the firm’s Montreal office. Gagnon will join the firm’s commercial law group, specifically the franchise and distribution law team.

Before going in-house, Gagnon was in private practice for 30 years and Jean Coutu was one of his clients. In 2007, the client asked him to go in-house to help build the company’s legal department.

“There were two lawyers at the time but not a structured legal department,” says Gagnon. “So I went there to do that for them.”

The Jean Coutu Group were facing several challenges at the time including drug distribution reform and the purchase of a Quebec generic drug manufacturer.

“There was a few things to do in-house and at that time I told them I would stay three to four years and then come back to what I love doing which is franchising first, so after four years I’m coming back,” says Gagnon.

“I love franchising because it’s a business relationship where two businesses work together to help each other to succeed — the franchisee and franchisor — it is a relationship similar to a partnership and there are a lot of challenges.”

Gagnon says the franchise market in Canada is growing at a healthy pace with many companies looking to do what Tim Hortons has done and move stateside.

“We have several large franchise systems that are almost comparable to what exists in the U.S. with Canadian Tire and Shoppers Drug Mart and Tim Hortons which is the best example of how companies are now looking outside of Canada,” he says.

Gagnon was the first person inducted into the Franchise Hall of Fame for his contribution to the advancement of the franchise industry. He is also an Advocate emeritus, a Fellow Chartered Administrator, and has received many other distinctions and awards. He is the former editor-in-chief of Franchise & Distribution.

“We are thrilled to have a lawyer of Jean’s calibre join the firm,” said Claude Morency, managing partner of FMC’s Montréal’s office. “The firm’s franchise and distribution law group is an industry leader in Québec, and Jean’s arrival will strengthen our team’s dominant position, while enhancing our excellent reputation.”

Gagnon has also worked as a negotiator, mediator and commercial arbitrator. He pioneered franchise law in Québec and Canada and is one of the founders of the Québec Franchise Council, where he has served as a director, chairman (for over seven years) and governor.

As well, he has authored 18 books, numerous papers and articles on franchising, business law, negotiation and mediation.

“His broad experience and highly specialized abilities have led him to touch on every aspect of the management and development of franchise systems and to play a key role in numerous complex transactions,,” said Stéphane Teasdale, head of FMC’s national franchise and distribution law section. “With Jean aboard, FMC will maintain its leadership position in franchise law in Québec and will strengthen its presence in the franchise market in Québec and other parts of Canada.”

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