A year ago, mergers and acquisitions lawyer Brock Gibson said it felt “like you were on quicksand and nothing seemed stable.” The markets were tanking, U.S. investment banks were struggling and deals had come to a standstill due to the lack of available financing. “It was a very uncertain time for everybody in the world,” said Mr. Gibson, who is chairman of law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon.
Jonathan R. Grant, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault, agreed it was bleak. “We were very, very pessimistic going into 2009 because the economy was terrible.”
A year later, all that has come to pass and law firms had a banner year, thanks to the large equity financings undertaken by financial institutions and capital raising by industries such as mining and real estate investment trusts.
“We had very robust M&A in 2009 and a very robust equity and debt issuance,” says Mr. Gibson, a Calgary-based lawyer, whose firm placed fourth in the legal league tables when acting in debt and equity offerings for both equity issuers and underwriters — where it had the largest number of deals, 78, than any other firm. It was also counsel to Suncor Energy Inc. in the country’s largest M&A deal last year, the merger with Petro-Canada.
All around it was a positive year for law firms. When it came to acting for equity issuers, Torys was the top legal dog, based on dollar value of transactions, with 36 deals worth $15-billion. Rounding out the top five were Stikeman Elliott, which had the largest number of equity deals, 54, McCarthy Tétrault, Blakes and Davies Ward Philips & Vineberg.