The rumors have swirled for days and lawyers have been leaving one of Canada’s most prestigious law firms and now the firm, Heenan Blaikie, has confirmed it is winding up its business.
The firm was founded in 1973 and includes a number of prominent politicians, judges and others, including former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The company made the announcement in a statement after a vote was conducted Wednesday evening. It said a decision was made for an “orderly dissolution.” Details of the vote were not released.
That followed a meeting of partners on the weekend to discuss a possible restructuring of the firm and the future of its regional offices across Canada. It had some 500 lawyers in eight offices.
Earlier Wednesday, the firm had declined to comment on media reports that dozens of partners had resigned in recent weeks because of falling profits.
However, rival firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin announced Wednesday that four lawyers had joined its labour, employment and human rights group practice in Ottawa. All of them — Claire Vachon, Sébastien Lorquet, Judith Parisien and Marie-Andrée Richard — had worked at Heenan Blaikie until recently.
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Lean, speaking to the Star before the windup announcement, said he had no indication Heenan was in financial difficulty and was “stunned” by the sudden turn of events at the firm.
“I have nothing but positive things to say about Heenan. They have quality people, very good lawyers with tremendous expertise,” Lean said. “I am heartbroken that they’re going through this.”
The pace of corporate deal-making in Canada’s oilpatch slowed considerably last year, while activity in other sectors failed to make up for the shortfall. That made 2013 the slowest year for mergers and acquisitions since 2009, according to industry statistics compiled by consulting firm PwC.
The slowdown hurts law firms that typically earn big fees by advising on those deals.