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TORONTO: AUGUST 29, 2013 - Carol Hansell poses for a photograph in an office space in Toronto on Thursday, August 29, 2013.Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Toronto corporate governance lawyer Carol Hansell is branching into a new line of business, helping to form a new communications company that will become the first in Canada to partner – and share offices – with a law firm.

Hansell McLaughlin Advisory will combine Ms. Hansell's legal background with the government relations expertise of Ron McLaughlin in partnership with veteran communications specialists Peter Block and David Scott.

Mr. Block is a former vice-president of communications at Maple Leaf Foods Inc., who was previously national managing partner of communications firm Cohn & Wolfe and a partner at National Public Relations. Mr. Scott is also a former National Public Relations executive who led the firm's corporate practice and previously worked at FleishmanHillard.

The new venture, which opens its doors Monday, will be owned by the four partners and will be operated separately from the law firm, but the two organizations will be affiliated and staff will collaborate and even share office space, Mr. Block said.

Mr. Block said he and Mr. Scott were initially looking at forming their own independent firm, but changed directions after speaking to Ms. Hansell.

Her law firm, founded in 2013, specializes in offering independent advice to boards, investors or other players at times of crisis or in special situations, which creates a related demand for communications advice.

"It's the first of its kind in the country in the sense of having the combined legal and communications offerings and government relations, all as an affiliated business," Mr. Block said.

The communications firm was set up as a separate entity in part because the Law Society of Upper Canada does not allow law firms to do work for people who are not clients of the law firm.

The partners in the new venture did not want to restrict their clients only to people who are also using legal services, Mr. Block said.

"We're able to have a team of people available who can come in and advise on any legal aspects around a communications issue, or any communications aspects around a legal issue," he said. "So we're not restricted in terms of, well, we do communications but if you want legal advice, then go there."

Ms. Hansell said boards and management need sophisticated advice in complex situations, which requires expertise in an array of areas like boardroom dynamics, capital market priorities and investor psychology. A multidisciplinary team can integrate such expertise, she believes.

"We have long understood the need to integrate communication counsel into our offering and have now found the ideal partners in Peter and David," she said in a statement.

Mr. McLaughlin, who is Ms. Hansell's husband, was chief of staff under former Ontario premier Mike Harris, and now heads McLaughlin Advisory Inc., a government relations firm. He will create one of the pillars in the new merged advisory firm, offering advice to clients on the political and regulatory environment that could shape their approach to crisis management.

Mr. McLaughlin is also chief operating officer of Hansell LLP.