The home field advantage

The home field advantage
Photo: Luc-Antoine Couturier

Regional law firms in Quebec are hoping to prove the home field advantage is just as much a factor in legal services as it is in sports.
Canadian Lawyer returns to Quebec this year for our latest regional firm survey, to find the province’s full-service outfits jockeying with local and national rivals alike for a position on Plan Nord, the multibillion-dollar project for the development of Quebec’s north. “In Quebec, everybody talks about Plan Nord, which I think is simply applying what you already do in a new conjuncture. There’s a lot of opportunity there,” says Chantal Chatelain, managing partner of the Montreal office at Langlois Kronström Desjardins LLP. “The fact of being a regional firm I think is a great advantage because we’re already spread out across the province, we already have the business relationships with entrepreneurs in the construction industry in the north, and we have experience in dealings with government regulations and authority.”

Top-ranked Lavery de Billy LLP and its predecessors have spent the better part of a century cultivating roots in the province, and Richard Dolan, the chairman of the firm’s board, says that continues to give them an edge over larger newcomers to Quebec’s legal market. “Our deep understanding of the Quebec business market has positioned us really well. It allows us to quickly understand the opportunities and challenges that the Quebec market presents to not only our Quebec clients, but also national clients,” he says.

At Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon LLP, another firm with more than 50 years of history, co-managing partner Bruno Floriani says the recent economic downturn has increased demand for regional firms like his, even from international businesses looking to expand in North America. “We got looked at a lot more seriously by some in-house counsel who were looking to retain the same quality of service, but perhaps without the infrastructure that goes along with the national firms,” he says. “There is a growing realization among some of the larger international companies that there are very good lawyers in these regional firms that are as good as any of the national firms.”

At the other end of the scale, Delegatus Services Juridiques Inc. makes its first appearance on our list in just its seventh year of business. The firm has established itself with a unique business model that offers senior lawyers flexible work arrangements and pricing options. The strategy has paid off, attracting lawyers from larger, more traditional firms and an impressive roster of clients. “We allow our lawyers to self-determine the amount of time they put in in billable hours yearly, so our work environment is much healthier. They don’t take as many clients maybe, but the ones they have they are extremely well looked after,” says vice president Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. “We’ve tripled our revenues in only a year and a half, because our lawyers are anything but laid back. They care about an excellent life, but they’re also very proactive and entrepreneurial.”

At LKD, Chatelain has also made headway attracting talent from national firms. “What lawyers see as a big advantage is they have more flexibility. They could be a very small fish in a very big pond, or a big fish in a smaller pond. Financially speaking, there’s not that much difference between the two. In fact, sometimes they get a better cut in a firm like ours than one with a very large business structure to support,” she says. “We’re living proof that not only is there space for regional firms, but there’s a vibrant space for us and a need.”

Read on to find the full list of Quebec’s Top 10 Regional Firms. The 2010 positions are noted in parentheses.

How we did it:

Canadian Lawyer asked lawyers and in-house counsel from across Canada to vote on Quebec’s top full-service, regional firms. They were asked to rank their top 10 firms from a preliminary list, with a chance to nominate a firm that was not included on the list. Respondents’ rankings were based on firms’ regional service coverage, client base, notable mandates, service excellence, and legal expertise. To be considered in the vote, firms were required to have offices primarily in the province of Quebec and offer a wide range of legal services. The final rankings were determined through a points system, in which firms were rewarded on a sliding scale for the number of first to 10th place votes received.

1. Lavery De Billy (1)

Total Lawyers: 173
Lawyers by Office: Montreal, 146; Quebec City, 22; Ottawa, 5
Core Practice Areas: Business law; financing and financial services; litigation and dispute resolution; labour and employment law; environment, energy, and natural resources.
Key Clients: Hydro-Québec, National Bank of Canada, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Héroux Devteck Inc., Fiera Axium Infrastructure.
Notable Mandates: Acted for Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. in the public offering of 4.75-per-cent fixed/floating subordinated debentures for gross proceeds of $250.1 million; negotiated a $2-billion agreement with the Quebec government for Hydro-Québec to obtain a 500 MW block of energy to allow for the expansion of phase III of Alouette Aluminium Smelter; assisted Stornoway Diamond Corp. in the development of agreements with the Government of Quebec concerning a 243-km extension of Highway 167 to connect the communities of Chibougamau and Mistissini with the Renard Diamond Project.
Star Alumni: Justice Richard Wagner of the Quebec Court of Appeal, Justice Lorne Giroux of the Quebec Court of Appeal; Justice Jacques Chamberland of the Quebec Court of Appeal; Sean Finn, executive vice president, corporate services and chief legal officer of Canadian National Railway; Donald McCarty, vice president, law, general counsel, and secretary of Imperial Tobacco Canada; Pamela McGovern, general counsel of Hydro-Québec.
Affiliations: World Services Group
The Firm: Lavery de Billy traces its roots to 1979, when Montreal firms O’Brien Smyth Guilbault Pryde Courtois and Lavery Johnston O’Donnell Clark Carrière Mason & Associés merged to become Lavery O’Brien. In 1991, the firm joined forces with Quebec City’s Gagnon de Billy Cantin Beaudoin Lesage & Associés, adopting the moniker Lavery de Billy. More than 30 lawyers from the now defunct Desjardins Ducharme law firm joined Lavery in 2007, bulking up its business law and commercial litigation groups.
Voters singled out Lavery for its diversity of expertise and solid client base. “The approach they have with clients is always personal and professional,” said one respondent. For another, the firm’s essential quality was its ability to find “timely and cost-effective solutions that fully address the client’s situation, without ever compromising excellence.”

2. Langlois Kronström Desjardins LLP (2)
Total Lawyers: 93
Lawyers by Office: Quebec City, 50; Montreal, 43
Core Practice Areas: Civil and commercial litigation; class actions; labour and administrative law; public and private real estate law.
Key Clients: Fédération des caisses Desjardins du Québec, Intact Compagnie d’assurance, Iron Ore Co. of Canada, Quebec’s Provincial Court Judges’ Association, TELUS Communications Co., WestJet.
Notable Mandates: Currently acting for Desjardins in various class actions instituted by credit card holders over the establishment of certain fees and the legality of revolving credit agreements, as well as class actions in B.C. and Ontario over competition complaints by merchants; successfully represented mining firm Canadian Royalties Inc. in a dispute with a joint venture partner in a Plan Nord project at the Quebec Court of Appeal; represented Bastien Estate in its successful appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada in a landmark decision on aboriginal law and taxation.
Star Alumni: Former Quebec chief justice Michel Robert; Chief Justice Pierre Blais of the Federal Court of Appeal; former Quebec Court of Appeal justices René Dussault and Paul-Arthur Gendreau; Justice Bernard Godbout of the Quebec Superior Court.
Affiliations: IT law network Lexing
The Firm: Established following the 2003 merger of Kronström Desjardins in Quebec City and Lévis, and Langlois Gaudreau in Montreal and Quebec City. Langlois Gaudreau dated back to 1916 as the firm of William Morin, who partnered with Léopold Langlois in 1957. Kronström Desjardins, as it became known in 1992, was founded in Lévis in 1936 by Roger Kronström. The firm shuttered its Lévis office in 2010.
Voters were impressed by the quality of the firm’s mandates, as well as the depth of legal expertise. “Superior quality standards,” said one voter, while the “high quality of young partners involved in high profile/complex matters,” impressed another.

3. Cain Lamarre Casgrain Wells LLP (3)

Total Lawyers: 162
Lawyers By Office: Quebec City, 34; Saguenay, 33; Montreal, 30; Drummondville, 12; Rimouski, 9; Val-d’Or, 9; Sept-Îles, 7; Sherbrooke, 6; Rivière-du-Loup, 6; Alma, 4; Saint-Félicien, 3; Saint-Georges, 3; Amos, 2; Roberval, 2; Amqui, 1; Plessisville, 1
Core Practice Areas: Commercial and corporate affairs; banking and finance; labour and employment law; native affairs; public administration.
Key Clients: Financial institutions; health-care institutions, municipalities, public institutions; First Nations; telecommunications carriers; transportation companies; companies in the energy and natural resources sector.
Notable Mandates: Acted for Société immobilière du Québec in its $45-million acquisition of the Îlot Voyageur site, including the land and building; represented Alexandre Dubé in his successful appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in an aboriginal taxation matter regarding the taxability of investment income paid by a credit union located on a reserve; constitutionality contests handled by lawyers André Gauthier and Raymond Nepveu on behalf of the Conference of Municipal Judges of Quebec.
Star Alumni: Former Canadian ambassador to France and Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard; Quebec Superior Court justices France Bergeron, Martin Dallaire, and Robert Dufresne.
Affiliations: State Capital Group, TAGLaw
The Firm: Cain Lamarre Casgrain Wells came onto the scene in 1999 following the merger of three firms: Cain Lamarre Wells, founded in 1928 in Chicoutimi; Gauthier Nepveu Leblanc & Brouillette, established in Sept-Îles in 1951; and Casgrain Desrosiers Lévesque Bujold Villeneuve, which dated back to 1877.
With its total of 16 offices spread across the province, it’s no surprise that many voters emphasized the firm’s reach. “It’s a firm everywhere in Quebec so it understands the region reality,” said one respondent.

4. BCF LLP (5)
Total Lawyers: 135 professionals (includes patent agents)
Lawyers By Office: Montreal, 109; Quebec City, 24; Barbados, 2
Core Practice Areas: Commercial law; commercial litigation; tax; corporate finance including banking; mergers and acquisitions.
Key Clients: BMO Financial Group, BRP, Sobeys Quebec Inc., Bombardier Aéronautique, Quebecor, Royal Bank of Canada, CAD Railway Industries Ltd.
Notable Mandates: Represented Blue Note Mining Inc. in the sale of its New Brunswick properties to capital pool company GeoVenCap Inc. for $8 million; acted for the purchasers of CAD Railway Industries from parent group Global Railway Industries Ltd. in a $12.4-million deal; represented Montreal-region grocer Adonis Markets as grocery store giant Metro acquired a majority stake in the company.
Star Alumni: Marie-Josée Lapierre, director of legal affairs at Yellow Pages Group, Jocelyn Auger, vice-president and general counsel at Enerkem.
Affiliations: Meritas
The Firm: Established in 1995 under the name Brouillette Charpentier Fournier in Montreal. It opened an office in Quebec City in 2001, the same year it joined Meritas. The firm gained strength with the addition in 2004 of a team of patent and trademark agents from Brouillette Kosie Prince. The firm changed its name to BCF in 2005, which preceded a five-year period of expansion at the firm, with substantial additions made to personnel, offices, and technical resources.
Voters cited the firm particularly for its deep business roots: “Good coverage and great business savvy and approach,” said one voter.

5. Robinson Sheppard Shapiro LLP (6)

Total Lawyers: 79
Lawyers By Office: Montreal, 76; Hong Kong, 1; Beijing, 1; Shanghai, 1
Core Practice Areas: Business; litigation; insurance; transportation; labour.
Key Clients: Burger King Canada; National Bank of Canada; Fonds d’assurance-responsabilité professionnelle de la Chambre des notaires du Québec; Stericycle; Renaissance Capital; Lloyd’s Underwriters.
Notable Mandates: Represented the vendor in the sale of the second largest residential revenue property in Montreal; represented Quebec hospitals pursued by thousands of claimants in class actions.
Star Alumni: David Shapiro, vice president and general counsel of Air Canada; Quebec Superior Court justices Francine Nantel and Lucie Fournier.
Affiliations: International Lawyers Network
The Firm: Founded in 1921 by Benjamin Robinson and Joseph Shapiro. Until Claude-Armand Sheppard arrived at the firm in 1959, the firm primarily served an anglophone business clientele. It has diversified since the 1960s to become a full-service firm, with an increasing number of francophone clients. Notably, sons of the firm’s founding partners — Jonathan Robinson and Barry Shapiro — continue to practise at the firm.
The professionalism and experience of the lawyers at RSS featured strongly in voter comments. They are “focused on providing the best possible service in a quick, efficient, and cost-effective manner,” said one respondent. “Good balance of young and senior lawyers,” said another.

6. De Grandpré Chait LLP (7)

Total Lawyers: 70
Office: Montreal, 70
Core Practice Areas: Real estate; business; construction; litigation; insurance.
Key Clients: Large real estate developers and property managers, institutional investors and lenders, financial institutions, a top Canadian food retailer, a leading North American retailer, a European leader in construction and infrastructure.
Notable Mandates: Represented the vendor in the $114-million sale of a major real estate portfolio that included 30 shopping malls located mainly in Quebec; won a $12-million settlement in a class action against Pfizer Canada Inc. on behalf of consumers of the drug Celebrex; acted for a large Quebec company in its acquisition of a fish and seafood distributor with $110 million in sales, as well as a meat product distributor with sales of $70 million.
Star Alumni: Quebec Superior Court justices Yves Poirier, Christiane Alary, and Martin Castonguay; Quebec Court justices Gilles Lareau, Normand Amyot, and Christian Tremblay.
Affiliations: Interlaw Ltd., Lexwork International, and the US/Europe Network
The Firm: Established in 1999 through the merger of predominantly francophone de Grandpré Godin and predominantly anglophone Chait Amyot, a firm that traces its roots back to 1928.
“Outstanding service, expertise worthy of a large national firm,” impressed one voter, while another respondent highlighted the firm’s “competitive rates and great service.”

7. Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon LLP (4)

Total Lawyers: 76
Lawyers By Office: Montreal, 76
Core Practice Areas: Corporate-commercial and financing; commercial and civil litigation; taxation and estate planning; insurance; intellectual property; real estate.
Key Clients: Insurance companies; manufacturers; financial institutions; major retailers; aviation companies; computer and software companies; shipping and transportation companies.
Notable Mandates: Counsel to clients involved in national and international mid-market transactions; involved in a leading case relating to oppression remedies available to shareholders of Quebec companies; class action suits relating to breast cancer and contaminated blood.
Star Alumni: Quebec Superior Court Justice Pierre Jasmin, Former Barreau du Québec president Yvon Jasmin.
Affiliations: TerraLex Inc.
The Firm: This new firm was spawned in 2010 through the merger of Lapointe Rosenstein and Marchand Melançon Forget. Two of the four founding members of Lapointe Rosenstein — Brahm Gelfand and Mark Rosenstein — continue to practise law with the merged firm. So too do a pair of Marchand Melançon Forget’s founding members, Paul Melançon and Michel Marchand.
“LRMM is traditional, yes, but they hire exceptional people who are first and foremost smart and human, and then lawyerly,” said one voter who gave the firm top marks.

8. Stein Monast LLP (8)

Total Lawyers: 54
Office: Quebec City, 54
Core Practice Areas: Corporate law and financing; commercial law; securities; civil and professional liability insurance; labour and employment law; real estate.
Key Clients: Autorité des marchés financiers, Bridgestone Canada Inc., Chartis, Génome Québec and Genome Canada, National Bank of Canada, Professional Liability Insurance Fund of the Barreau du Québec, Investissement Québec, Cominar, Groupe Le Massif, Greif Brothers Canada, Roynat Inc., Desjardins Venture Capital.
Notable Mandates: Acts as counsel for Quebec in the financing of its sovereign debt; represented National Bank of Canada at the Supreme Court of Canada in Quebec (Revenue) v. Caisse populaire Desjardins de Montmagny regarding provincial legislatures’ ability to modify the order of priority in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act; acted as counsel for Investissement Québec in the matter of the plan of compromise or arrangement of Davie Yards Inc.; represented the vendors in the $44-million sale of Norref Fisheries to Groupe Colabor Inc.
Star Alumni: Quebec Superior Court justices Bruno Bernard, Jean-Francois Émond, and Alicia Soldevila; Paule Gauthier, former CBA president; former Quebec premier Jean Lesage; former prime minister Louis St. Laurent.
Affiliations: Risk Management Counsel of Canada
The Firm: It is the successor of Stein Monast Pratte & Marseille, a Quebec City firm that was founded in 1957. It merged with Montreal’s Desjardins Ducharme from 1992 to 2007.
One voter said Stein Monast stands out thanks to the quality of its lawyers, calling the firm a “strong commercial presence in Quebec City.”

9. Delegatus Services Juridiques Inc. (-)

Total Lawyers: 18
Office: Montreal, 18
Core Practice Areas: Corporate and commercial law; commercial and civil litigation; real estate; financing; intellectual property.
Key Clients: Yellow Pages Group, Pharmascience, ABB, La Coop fédérée, Société en commandite Gaz Métro, Fédération des caisses Desjardins du Québec.
Notable Mandates: Acted for Vantrix Inc. in private placements of convertible notes and shares issued to different investors; helped Accedian Networks to build a legal department in their company; acted for Quebec City on the occasion of the leasing of the Coliseum of Quebec City; represented Yellow Pages Group in its acquisition of assets from an Ontario company.
Affiliations: Collaborates with like-minded firms in other provinces.
The Firm: Delegatus was founded in 2005 by Pascale Pageau, who aimed to create a law firm that provides lawyers with a more flexible practice and enables businesses to substantially reduce their legal service costs. In the last two years alone, the firm has grown from six lawyers to 18 and tripled its revenue.
Voters were struck by the firm’s business model, which has shaken up the Quebec market in its short life. “The business model is interesting,” said one voter who was impressed by the “very high quality of the lawyers.” “A completely different vision, and for a firm of this size, a tremendous leader,” said another.

10. Joli-coeur Lacasse Avocats (9)
Total Lawyers: 94
Lawyers By Office: Quebec City, 61; Montreal, 28; Trois-Rivières, 5
Core Practice Areas: Commercial and international business; insolvency and enforcement of security; real estate; administrative law; civil litigation.
Key Clients: Entities involved in fields such as engineering, transport, manufacturing, finances, and real estate.
Notable Mandates: The acquisition of York Fire & Casualty Insurance Co. by La Capitale Financial Group; the acquisition of a major bus transportation group; the reorganization of the North American activities of a major group of European investors.
Star Alumni: Quebec Superior Court justices Clément Samson and Marc St-Pierre, Tribunal administratif du Québec Judge Marie Charest, and former Tribunal du travail du Québec judge Gilles Plante.
Affiliations: Pannone Law Group, Lawyers Associated Worldwide
The Firm: Founded in 1983, and in 2007 merged with Pouliot L’Ecuyer, a Quebec City firm, and Lozeau L’Africain of Montreal. Four partners of Quebec City’s Grondin Poudrier Bernier SENCRL also recently came aboard.
“Excellent client service, emphasizes responsiveness, and top-notch legal expertise,” said one voter who was also struck by the firm’s “reasonable rates.”

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