Thirty lawyers from the dissolved Heenan Blaikie LLP law firm will follow prominent Quebec lawyer Marcel Aubut and join Montreal-based group BCF.
While competing firms have recruited a number of star Heenan lawyers, this is the largest reshuffling since the Montreal-firm decided last week to dissolve its partnership, leaving more than 540 law professionals to find new homes.
A group of 60 lawyers in Toronto had looked into joining U.S.-based legal giant DLA Piper, but those talks have collapsed.
With close to 200 lawyers, BCF focuses on corporate work in Quebec. "They have an entrepreneurial spirit and I can identify myself with them," said Marcel Aubut in a phone interview from Sochi, where he is attending the Olympic Games as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
In addition to being partner, Mr. Aubut will become vice-chairman of BCF's board when he and his colleagues officially join the firm on February 17th.
The influential Quebec lawyer arrived in Sochi a week ago, and at the time it was clear that Heenan Blaikie was unravelling fast. Mr. Aubut said he considered about 10 offers. "I finally knew what was like to be a free agent," recounted the former CEO of the Quebec Nordiques.
By late Thursday in his Sochi hotel close to the Olympic Village, his mind was made up. "The choice wasn't easy," he said.
One of the options he looked into was the creation of a new firm through a merger of the Quebec, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières bureaus, with the possible addition of some Heenan lawyers from Western Canada. "At one point, you have to go with the less adventurous, less risky and more stable proposition," Mr. Aubut said.
BCF's offer also appealed to him because it allowed Heenan lawyers in Quebec City to stay together as a group. "I have always demanded the highest level of loyalty from the people I work with, and I didn't want to abandon them," Mr. Aubut said.
Most of the lawyers working for the firm he founded in Quebec City in 1983 (Aubut, Chabot) and then merged with Heenan in 1998 will join BCF, as well as some corporate lawyers based in Montreal. Mr. Aubut refused to identify the most high profile lawyers of the group, saying he didn't want to overlook anyone.
"He is one of the best lawyers in Canada, and we are really proud to have him play on our team," said Mario Charpentier, managing partner at BCF, in a press release, praising his leadership, his experience and his wide range of contacts across the world.
"Together," Mr. Aubut added, "we can bring the firm to a whole new level."
Mr. Aubut said he was confident the other Heenan lawyers would find firms to pursue their careers. "Of course this is sad. There were no financial reasons for (Heenan) to stop its operations; it was in good shape. But a partnership is exactly that, and when there is nothing holding it together, one must move on."