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Heenan Blaikie‘s Toronto office is seen in this file photo.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

One large reason Heenan Blaikie LLP could not survive is evident from a quick look at the law firm's position in the ranks of dealmakers: So small it doesn't make the top 25.

Yes, the deal activity was down. But Heenan was not even getting much of what there was.

The top law firms for mergers work in this country last year were Torys LLP at No. 1, followed by Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP and Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. Nine other Canadian firms made the top 25.

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Over the past three years, the list of deals that Heenan worked on was very short, according to the transactions submitted to Thomson Reuters for its industry rankings. Adding up all the firm's merger business from the last three years would just be enough to get Heenan into the top 25 for last year alone. And that would still be far – very far – from the top of the list. It would take working on about $4-billion of transactions to get on the bottom of the list. Top-ranked Tory's was nearing $40-billion.

Size is not everything for law firms, as they get paid by the hour. A lot of small mergers can be very lucrative. But Heenan just didn't do very many takeovers of any size.

The list of corporate underwritings is similarly scanty. (One note here: Heenan does not appear to have submitted all its deals to Thomson.)

Looking at the corporate names on the client activity page of Heenan's web site, the conclusion is similar. Aside from a few familiar names as regular corporate clients, such as Sprott Inc., Heenan's list of client work is not very oriented to Bay Street. Many of the corporate transactions have a Quebec connection, reflecting the firm's roots in that province. It's clear that Toronto's corporate group was struggling to make a big dent in the market.

To be fair, Heenan Blaikie never held itself out as a big player in corporate mergers or other work, but such files are among the most lucrative and help pay the bills when there is expensive corporate real estate such as Heenan's very nice downtown Toronto office.

Here are some of the biggest deals by Heenan in the last few years:

  • The 2011 takeover of Brookfield Renewable Energy by Brookfield Renewable Power, worth $3.4-billion.
  • The 2011 purchase of Iberian Minerals Corp. by Trafigura of the Netherlands, for $390-million.
  • The 2012 sale of assets by PetroBakken to Crescent Point Energy Corp. for $428-million.
  • The 2012 sale of AGF Trust Co. to B2B Trust for $404-million.
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