Canada’s Gowlings takes baby steps towards becoming global player

Canadian firm Gowlings used its partnership conference at the end of last year to prepare its partners for life at a global business as the firm eyes up merger opportunities.

At the firm’s conference in Toronto in October, Gowlings’ management invited three guest speakers, all partners at separate firms, to talk to its members about what it is like being part of a firm that had become global.

Gowlings chair and chief executive officer Scott Jolliffe told The Lawyer he was interested in exploring the option of a merger but that nothing was imminent.

“I think everybody [in Canada] is considering their options in a repeatedly changing market,” said Jolliffe. “Every year we bring in people from other firms to speak at our meetings. [At the last conference I] wanted my partners to hear about what it was like being part of a global firm. The three speakers shared their views on strategy and how they saw the global market moving.

“In Canada it’s still a big step to become a global firm. A lot of firms have offices outside of Canada but the world is changing – it’s no longer a collection of predominantly national firms that have an international presence – and the change is being led by the British. My feeling is that though Canada remains insulated, even isolated, sooner or later the market here is going to change.”

Joliffe denied rumours that Gowlings was discussing a merger with DLA Piper, saying that the firms had never been in talks. But Jolliffe added that it was widely discussed among firms in Canada that DLA Piper was interested in the country.

Transatlantic firm SNR Denton is set to secure a three-way tie-up with Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain and Salans (17 January 2013 ). Meanwhile, Norton Rose has merged with two major law firs in Canada since 2010 (4 October 2011).