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Toronto law firm Meighen Demers announced yesterday that it is joining forces with Montreal-based Ogilvy Renault, making it the latest in a long list of mid-sized practices that are teaming up with larger organizations.

"This is a natural evolution and a next step," Jacques Demers, chairman of Meighen Demers' executive committee, said in an interview yesterday.

He stressed that the move was by no means a matter of survival for the highly regarded business boutique. "We are currently in robust financial health."

Still, he said that for the past year, the 38-lawyer firm has been "strategically examining options for serving clients."

Two months ago, when the phone call came from Ogilvy Renault managing partner Raymond Crevier, Mr. Demers said he and his partners had already identified the firm, which has 354 lawyers and patent and trademark agents, as one of a few they might join.

Mr. Crevier said he made that call because Ogilvy Renault wanted to increase its presence in Toronto and felt a merger with Meighen Demers would be a good fit culturally and in areas of expertise.

Ogilvy Renault opened its Toronto office five years ago and currently has 66 professionals working here.

Yesterday's announcement marks a dramatic shift in strategy for Meighen Demers, which has been singled out more than once as an example of a mid-sized firm that has its pick of clients and has bucked the consolidation trend.

Even yesterday, on the firm's Web site, it described its approach as one that competes "by quality, not size."

The leaders of both firms said there is no reason for the merger to change that, although Mr. Demers said the deal has had an emotional aspect for the partners involved, many who came from larger firms.

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