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The departures, which was starting to make its way around Bay Street on Wednesday, is clearly a blow to Blakes, which is one of Canada’s largest and most prestigious law firmsMARK BLINCH/Reuters

Three veteran partners at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP are leaving the firm, including Calvin Goldman, the co-chair of the firm's competition group.

Along with Mr. Goldman, well-known technology and competition lawyer Richard Corley is also leaving Blakes, the firm's partners were told Tuesday. Both are headed to Goodmans LLP. In addition, partner John Teolis is leaving Blakes for Norton Rose Fulbright LLP. All three are to start at their new firms in January.

Sources said the moves, news of which was starting to make its way around Bay Street on Wednesday, has to do with the mandatory retirement clause at Blakes, a common feature at law firms that forces partners to scale back or leave at a certain age, in this case 65.

Brock Gibson, chairman of Blakes, acknowledged this was an issue, but would not comment on whether there were discussions about keeping the lawyers on.

"We do have mandatory retirement. And I know Cal and John in particular wanted to practise a long time," Mr. Gibson said. " ... They know our policies and they chose to go elsewhere."

He said the prominent lawyers leaving the firm was not a blow to his firm, which he said still has "exceptionally strong practices" in the departing lawyers' areas.

Mr. Goldman is one of the small number of senior partners on Bay Street with a reputation for bringing in massive clients to his firm and who has a large reputation in competition law – a key area in getting massive corporate mergers approved by regulators.

His recent work included handling high-profile files for Microsoft Corp., Suncor Energy Inc., Nestlé SA, Sinopec, as well as BHP Billiton PLC in its failed bid to acquire Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan.

Mr. Goldman started his career at Blakes in 1976, although he spent four years as the head of the federal Competition Bureau in the 1980s. He also did a stint at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP before returning to Blakes in 2001.

Mr. Corley, called to the Ontario Bar in 1992, has done work on complex outsourcing transactions and "clean technology," recently advising Bell Aliant and Hudson's Bay Co. Mr. Teolis, who was called to the Ontario Bar in 1976, acts for banks and other financial institutions, helping them in their relations with regulators.

The issue of law firms and mandatory retirement – banned in the last few years for most workers across Canada – has been a hot one in the profession.

A Vancouver lawyer with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP has been fighting his firm's mandatory retirement policy alleging that it amounted to age discrimination, in a case heard by the Supreme Court of Canada last week.

The legal issue at stake is whether law firms, which are usually partnerships, are employers and therefore bound by provincial human-rights codes. The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that they were not.

Adam Lepofsky, a legal recruiter and the president of the Toronto-based Rainmaker Group, said many law firms are wrestling with how to deal with the many senior partners now hitting retirement age, and the client relationships that could walk out the door with them if they cannot stay on past 65.

"It's a huge challenge," Mr. Lepofsky said. "... The business of law, just like any other business, is a relationship business."

Dale Lastman, the chairman of Goodmans LLP, which has a different mandatory retirement policy, said the two new lawyers are a welcome addition to his firm.

"For years, Cal's name has been synonymous with competition law in this country," Mr. Lastman said in an e-mail, adding that Mr. Corley is "one of the top computer and technology lawyers in Canada."

Andrew Fleming, Toronto managing partner of Norton Rose Fulbright, called Mr. Teolis a " renowned leader in the law related to financial institutions" and said he would "round out our global offering to clients."

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story identified Brock Gibson as managing partner at Blakes. He is the chairman.