More than 100 people gathered together to fête the occasion in the legendary Oval Room with its hand-painted gilded touches at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. Among the crowd were lawyers from Torys’ Toronto and New York offices, other big law firms in Montreal, clients, and representatives from the Quebec Bar and the Canadian Bar Association — where Rodrigue is chairwoman of the national task force on class actions. Justice Pierre J. Dalphond, a class action specialist who now sits on the bench of the Quebec Court of Appeal, was also in attendance.
Les Viner, managing partner of the firm founded in Toronto in 1941 by business lawyer John Stewart Donald Tory, took to the podium first, saluting Quebec jurisprudence and his own long personal association with the city he called “fun, worldly, and sophisticated.”
“We are here for good,” said Viner, speaking alternately in English and French as he explained Torys’ decision to open an office in Montreal “first to be closer to Quebec clients, second, to deliver litigation defence work with a single actual integrated legal team and legal strategy, and third, and most importantly, Quebec is very important.
“It is important to Canada, it is important in our clients’ businesses and it is important jurisprudentially,” said Viner. “Quebec’s history as a progressive and reform-minded jurisdiction makes it a leading indicator of evolving legal developments in our country.”
“So we need to be here, we are very glad to be here, and we feel very lucky that we found someone to head our new office who shares our values, who is a passionate lawyer, an inspirational leader and une fière Québécoise,” Viner said.
Rodrigue, who oversaw the opening of the Montreal office in Place Ville Marie on April 2, following her nomination as Montreal managing partner in February, said she is building a team with lawyers not only called to both Canada’s common law and Quebec’s civil regime jurisdictions but having an active practice in both.
Two associates now working at the Montreal office are going to take the Ontario bar exams and three associates at the Toronto office are preparing for the Quebec bar exams, which will enable Torys to offer “seamless” service on multi-jurisdictional class action files, often filed simultaneously.
Rodrigue told Legal Feeds she will be at the Montreal office two days a week and will continue to commute to Toronto as she has for the past seven years as the former co-chair of the national class actions team at Norton Rose and its predecessor Ogilvy Renault, where she began her career as a stagiare 22 years ago.
“Paul brought me to Toronto and Les brought me to Montreal,” joked Rodrigue, referring to husband Paul Carenza, the tax group partner and former Ogilvy Renault lawyer now with Cassels Brock and Torys managing partner Viner.
“We are already very busy,” said Rodrigue, noting while at Norton Rose, she had already been handling some Quebec class action work for clients of Torys since the firm then had no office in Montreal. She said there is no specific plan for how big the Montreal office with its litigation focus will become. Torys’ Calgary office, which opened two years ago to complement offices in Toronto and New York, now has 25 lawyers.