DLA Piper set to move into Canada with team from failed Heenan Blaikie

DLA Piper is to make its first steps into the Canadian legal market with the rescue of up to 70 lawyers from collapsed Canadian firm Heenan Blaikie.

The firms have been in discussions for a number of weeks, with partners at Heenan Blaikie aware of the move when they voted to wind down the 40-year old business on Wednesday (4 February).

DLA Piper, which confirmed the discussions, has only shown interest in the outfit’s Calgary and Toronto-based teams. The Montreal-based firm has eight offices in Canada, as well as a small base in Paris.

“It should be noted that several practice groups and even entire offices will continue to operate under new names,” read a statement on Heenan’s website on Wednesday, alluding to the offices which may take on DLA Piper’s name.

If the move goes ahead it will end years of merger talks between DLA Piper and various Canadian firms.

“It’s just like everywhere else – when the game of musical chairs starts, you need to find a seat,” DLA Piper co-chair Frank Burch told The Lawyer three years ago (7 March 2011), making it clear that the global giant was a likely candidate to expand into the Canadian market. “We’ve talked to six or seven [Canadian] firms and continue to talk to three or four of the top 10.”

According to Reuters Dentons is also picking up the pieces of the 500-staff firm, bringing in five real estate lawyers and three corporate lawyers from Montreal and Toronto.

Heenan Blaikie’s collapse has also resulted in the creation of a Vancouver-based litigation outfit – Gall, Legge, Grant & Munroe – which has been set up by Heenan’s founder Roy Heenan, according to Reuters.

Partners in discussions with DLA are understood to come from a range of practice areas, including tax and M&A. Details on the moves are yet to be decided. 

Read more about the Canadian legal market in Before the Stampede.