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Jean-Nicolas Delage and Christian Jacques co-led emerging and high-growth tech group for Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP.Handout

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP has poached two high-profile technology lawyers from Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, one of the biggest defections in Canada in the hot market for legal services to digital firms.

Jean-Nicolas Delage and Christian Jacques have joined as partners in Osler’s emerging and high-growth companies group after co-leading that practice for Fasken in Montreal since the early 2010s.

Osler has been the leading adviser on venture capital deals in Canada for years and among the top 25 globally. Fasken is the second largest here in terms of rounds advised, according to market research firm Refinitiv.

It’s a blow for Fasken, whose tech practice strongholds are in Vancouver and Montreal. Mr. Delage and Mr. Jacques have advised on five go-public transactions in recent years, including working with Airbnb challenger Sonder Holdings – a Canadian-led U.S. company with a big presence in Montreal – and electric jet-ski maker Taiga Motors on mergers with publicly traded special purpose acquisitions companies. They have advised prominent local private technology companies including Vention Inc., RenoRun Inc., Element AI Inc. and Nesto Inc., and financier Amplitude Ventures.

For Osler, it helps to cement its national technology practice, which expanded from Toronto to Vancouver in 2015 and has partners in Calgary and Ottawa. The practice will now have 16 partners including four in Montreal.

The ex-Fasken pair “had the most significant emerging and high-growth companies practice working with startups” in Montreal and Quebec, said Chad Bayne, co-chair of Osler’s tech practice, who met with them last October to discuss a potential move. “We wanted to solidify our market-leading presence across the country in every major market. I thought bringing our teams together would do that.”

Asked why they moved, Mr. Delage said, “Osler was really the only firm that had a fully dedicated national team with a super strong presence in Toronto to tackle the legal issues of our clients going forward. We felt we would be in a better position to better service our clients within a firm like Osler.”

The pair said some of their Fasken clients were already starting to follow them to their new home.

The talent raid is also a bet by Osler that the tech market, which has been in a funk since late 2021, is poised for a revival. Mr. Bayne said his firm is seeing signs of a recovery in terms of deals, acquisitions and funding activity led by flush U.S. investors who have “money burning a hole in their pockets. They’re just ready to do deals. Our strategy was to beef up the team and make us the number one destination for Canadian companies and cross-border investors coming into the ecosystem.”

Fasken said in an e-mailed statement it was “an emerging tech practice pioneer in Canada” with more than 80 practitioners and that its group leaders “and established team of lawyers remain in place and we continue to have the largest and strongest emerging tech team in Quebec.”

The incoming partners joined Fasken in the late 2000s; Mr. Jacques had started his career at Osler before working as an analyst with Quebec regulator Autorité des marchés financiers. Mr. Delage had been co-chair of law firm BCF’s intellectual property group.

Canada’s tech sector was undergoing a retrenchment at the time because of the 2008-09 recession. But the seeds of a future rebound soon appeared with the launch of the Montreal startup hub Notman House and the emergence of financiers such as Real Ventures and Inovia Capital. The Fasken pair convinced their partners they could build a teeming tech practice to complement the firm’s thriving practice in Vancouver.

Mr. Delage and Mr. Jacques immersed themselves in the local Montreal scene, sponsoring a startup conference, partnering with Notman House, volunteering at events and joining boards of accelerators. That led to relationships with fledging companies which began to grow. “Our tagline was, ‘If we take care of the ecosystem, the ecosystem will take care of us,’” Mr. Delage said. “That worked extremely well for us.”

It’s similar to the plan followed by Osler under Mr. Bayne and his mentor, Geoff Taber, at the same time, as they became active participants in the Toronto-Waterloo, Ont., startup corridor, supporting such programs as Next 36 and Creative Destruction Lab. That led to key relationships for Osler with startups that became some of Canada’s best-known tech companies, including Hootsuite Inc., Wealthsimple Technologies Inc. and ApplyBoard Inc.