Legal talent scatters across the capital in wake of Heenan Blaikie closure

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Several more high-profile local lawyers from Heenan Blaikie have signed contracts with new law firms, shifting Ottawa’s legal landscape.

(Stock image)

By Jacob Serebrin

The national law firm, the ninth-largest in the National Capital Region, announced last week that it would proceed with an “orderly wind-up” of its operations over the next few months.

No reason was given for the move, which came on the heels of a rumoured mass exodus of lawyers from the firm’s Ottawa office.

In announcing the shutdown, Heenan Blaikie said several practice groups and even entire offices will continue to operate under new names, but did not provide specifics.

However, in Ottawa, at least 19 of the company’s lawyers have joined new companies, according to appointment announcements by the firms.

That’s more than two-thirds of the 27 lawyers Heenan Blaikie told OBJ it employed last summer.

Among the lawyers on the move is former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who has taken a position with Dentons Canada. That firm was created through the merger of Fraser Milner Casgrain with two international firms announced in 2012.

On Tuesday, Gowlings announced that it has hired eight commercial litigators from Heenan Blaikie’s Ottawa office.

Pierre Champagne, Benoit M. Duchesne, Rodrigue Escayola and Louis-Pierre Grégoire will join Gowlings as partners, while Julie Paquette, Catherine Bélair-Noël, Stefan Kimpton and Jocelyn Duquette will join the firm as associates.

“The addition of this fluently bilingual team to our commercial litigation group further expands our ability to meet the needs of our francophone clients, while enhancing the scope of our litigation services in areas such as condominium law, construction law and insurance defence, among others,” said Scott Jolliffe, Gowlings chair and CEO, in a press release.

Also on Tuesday, Borden Ladner Gervais confirmed that Dan Palayew, the former co-managing partner of Heenan Blaikie’s Ottawa office, would be joining the firm as a partner and regional leader of the Ottawa labour and employment group.

Rumours that Mr. Palayew was making the move have been circulating since the beginning of February, when news first broke that Heenan Blaikie was planning to undergo a restructuring process.

Six of the Ottawa office’s other lawyers are planning to join their colleague and former Heenan Blaikie partner Mark Power at a new boutique firm, Juristes Power.

David Taylor, Justin Dubois, Élie Ducharme, Jennifer Klinck, Perri Ravon and Michael Sabet of Heenan Blaikie Ottawa will join the new firm. Former Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache is also reportedly in talks to join the new firm.

Last week, Fasken Martineau LLP announced it was hiring former Heenan Blaikie lawyers Sébastien Lorquet, Judith Parisien and Marie-Andrée Richard.

Organizations: Gowlings, Dentons Canada, Fraser Milner Casgrain Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache Fasken Martineau

Geographic location: Ottawa, National Capital Region

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