Leading Canadian firm Fraser Milner is merging with highly-rated Quebec practice Byers Casgrain to form one of the country's top five law firms.
The new firm will be called Fraser Milner Casgrain and will have 465 lawyers in six offices across Canada.
Fraser Milner has offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa, and the merger marks its first step into Montreal, Quebec.
Byers Casgrain, which has 77 lawyers in the city, 40 of whom are partners, has been trying to break into the national market for some time.
The move is an important step for the firms, which are trying to build practice capabilities in both official languages, French and English.
The merger comes amid a wave of consolidation in Canada, with firms struggling to establish a presence in as many of the country's multiple jurisdictions as possible.
In April, Gowling Strathy & Henderson teamed up with Quebec practice Lafleur Brown (The Lawyer, 10 April). The firm became one of the top three in the country by size, with 550 lawyers.
In February, a tripartite merger created another top player - Fasken Martineau DuMoulin - formed by the link-up of Toronto's Fasken Campbell Godfrey, Montreal's Martineau Walker and Vancouver-based Russell & DuMoulin.
Fasken Martineau's London co-managing partner John Elias says firms realise that to attract international clients that view Canada as a single market, they need offices in every major financial centre, particularly Quebec.
He says: "Quebec is home to approximately 25 per cent of the Canadian population, so it is a significant market. Montreal in particular continues to be one of the financial centres in Canada, and it would be difficult for any law firm to say it had a national presence if it didn't have a presence in Quebec."