Ex-Norton Rose team launches Paris base for Canada’s Heenan Blaikie

Canadian firm Heenan Blaikie has launched its first European office with the four-partner team who quit Norton Rose last year.

The team, led by corporate partner Jean-François Mercadier, announced their departure from Norton Rose in October (14 October 2010) but their destination was not known.

The Heenan Blaikie office opened in Paris this week with the aim of strengthening the firm’s relationships with clients in Francophone Africa. Mercadier confirmed the move but declined to comment further.

As well as Mercadier and fellow Norton Rose partners Pascale Gallien, Anne-Sylvie Vassenaix-Paxton and Alexander Brabant, two senior counsel from Norton Rose have also become partners in the new office. Ali Bouromand works alongside Mercadier with an African focus, while litigator Karen Leclerc will strengthen the dispute resolution team led by Brabant.

The office will also be staffed by 10 associates, including nine from Norton Rose and one lateral hire.

Initially Heenan Blaikie’s Paris outpost will focus on resources, energy and infrastructure in Africa and offer a biotechnology, health, IT and technology practice to European clients.

However, The Lawyer understands that the team and practice areas are likely to grow as opportunities arise.

The Norton Rose team and Heenan Blaikie are understood to have been in talks for several months after the Canadians approached Mercadier early last year. Norton Rose, however, cited disagreements over the management of the Paris office as a reason for the team’s departure.

The Paris office is Heenan Blaikie’s first full base outside Canada, although the firm also has a representative office in Singapore. The firm has around 230 partners and another 260 lawyers.