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Norton Rose loses 'great leader' over merger

Ogilvy Renault LLP's decision to become part of the London-based empire of the massive international law firm Norton Rose has cost it its chairman emeritus and one of its most senior lawyers, well-known international arbitrator Yves Fortier.

The firm, now known as Norton Rose OR LLP, announced Friday that Mr. Fortier, regarded as one of the world's top arbitrators, is leaving to continue his career as an arbitrator independently, after a half-century with the Montreal-based firm.

In a statement, Mr. Fortier, 76, said being a member of a large global firm with clients all over the world created the risk of too many potential conflicts while he acted as an arbitrator, weighing international disputes between businesses or governments.

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"Being an international arbitrator as a member of a global legal practice can create inherent conflict risks," Mr. Fortier said. "My decision to leave the firm was motivated by the need to continue my international arbitration and mediation practice in an independent and impartial way."

Mr. Fortier, the firm's chairman emeritus, was its chairman from 1992 to 2009. He said it was not easy to leave his firm: "This was a very emotional decision for me to take given that the firm has been my home for more than 50 years."

His reputation extends far beyond legal circles. From 1988 to 1992, Mr. Fortier served as Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, with Norton Rose partner Brian Mulroney in the prime minister's office. He was elected vice-president of the UN General Assembly and served as president of the Security Council. He is a judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and honorary vice-president of the London Court of International Arbitration.

Mr. Fortier is also a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne and in that capacity, he was an arbitrator at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Vancouver in 2010, part of a team tasked with presiding over athletic disputes, including those involving drug testing. Mr. Fortier is a companion of the Order of Canada.

John Coleman, Norton Rose OR's managing partner, praised Mr. Fortier as one of the firm's "great leaders" who helped spread the former Ogilvy Renault's name around the world.

"He is a distinguished jurist who has earned a reputation for being one of the best international arbitrators in the world, and we are very appreciative of his talent and leadership which helped build a global reputation for our firm including a highly successful international arbitration group."

Earlier this month, Norton Rose OR announced that it was merging with another Canadian firm, Calgary-based Macleod Dixon LLP, to create a "powerhouse" with a strong oil-patch presence.

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Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. From 2010 to 2016, he was the law reporter in Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and white-collar crime. He won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards for investigative journalism in 2010. More

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