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December 2012 Newsletter

December 1, 2012



Dear Friends and Colleagues,


For a month with so few redeeming qualities, this past November wasn’t as dreadful as it could have been.  Sure, it’s long and dark and cold and devoid of a real holiday or NHL hockey and populated with a few too many bad moustaches, albeit for a good cause, but at least we had some interesting developments to keep us distracted.


First, there were the mergers.  Walt Disney buys the Star Wars franchise.   Leon’s buys The Brick (do you think they don’t have to pay until 2018?).  Then my alma mater, Fraser Milner Casgrain, announces its union with Salans and SNR Denton to form Dentons.  Soon thereafter we learned of Norton Rose adding Fulbright & Jaworski to form Norton Rose Fulbright.


This all raises a few interesting questions:   How many global law firms can Calgary handle?   Who will be left scrambling for a chair when the music next stops?  Are these Canadian-turned-global firms risking their referral pipeline, magnifying their conflict problems and de-personalizing their partnerships or are they opening their doors to greater deal flow, enabling their clients one stop shopping and hoping that one plus one equals more than two?   Regardless of the answers, the remaining traditionally national Canadian firms have some decisions to make.  You may recall (though that would be odd) that back in May, 2011 I wrote in this space that “I happen to believe national is the new regional” and what I meant by that, and what I still believe, is that the Canadian legal marketplace is becoming polarized.    The traditional Canadian national firm, all the rage a mere 10-12 years ago, risks merely being a global regional firm and will need to find new ways to stay relevant (let alone viable) in the face of either a deep-pocketed, cross-border, multi-national, polycentric, “reach play” OR a deep-rooted, local-strength, conflict-free, regional-expertise “depth play.”   The global firms say they tap into exceptional depth in each of their global offices; while the local firms say they can access talent anywhere they need it through strategic alliances and referral networks.  Are they both right?   And where does that leave those in the middle?   For one, speaking purely with my recruitment hat on, it is not compelling to simply be big.  Wal-Mart is big but I don’t like to shop there.   There has to be something tangible and better for the clients, the lawyers who work there and the recruits they hope to attract.   The firms that can articulate that message the best, and then deliver upon it, will win.  Meanwhile, the smaller local firms with their depth and long-standing local relationships will pick up conflict work, do it for less, hold on to their identity and weather the storm just fine.  Then again, perhaps I’m wrong.  Maybe you don’t need to be Wal-Mart or the corner store.   You could just be a strong national Canadian brand.   You know, like RIM or The Hudson’s Bay Company…


Second, and somewhat related, was the latest excellent piece of work by Altman Weil in the form of their 2012 Chief Legal Officer Survey.  With 38% of law departments reporting that they plan to increase their in-house lawyer workforce in the next 12 months (compared to only 7% planning to decrease the number) and with 39% of law departments decreasing their outside counsel budget in 2012 (the first time in three years that the survey has found more departments decreasing than increasing their law firm spend) and 29% of law departments expecting to decrease their use of outside counsel, compared to 14% that plan to increase it, the more interesting question in the months ahead isn’t “which firm will merge next?” but rather “which firms will best be able to respond to the changing landscape and capture the shrinking pie for their services while maintaining per partner profits, brand identity and a culture worth coming to work for every day?”    Getting bigger without offering the consumer something in return could be a dicey proposition.   At least Wal-Mart is cheap.


Finally, and closer to home, I’m pleased to announce we’ve started tweeting.   You can follow us @pekarskystein on Twitter.  Not sure exactly what we’ll use this medium for and I can assure you that condensing my thoughts to 140 characters or less won’t be easy.   However, we’d be tickled if you followed us.  You can watch for Pekarsky Stein postings, photos and other community news.  Speaking of which, we are very pleased to be attending the upcoming Candy Cane Gala on December 6th, where we will once again be a proud Gold Level sponsor of this tremendous fundraiser for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.  Kudos as well to our Partner, Ranju Shergill, for hosting another superb table of exceptional women at the most recent Women of Influence luncheon held on November 23rd.  And props must go to our colleague Lisa Luedtke for her dominant performance at the 1st Annual Jenga Tournament in support of the B.U.S.Y. Foundation helping to raise over $2,000 for the foundation (aimed at providing high potential youth with scholarships, networking and mentorship opportunities)  and bringing home “Party Pig Kameron” (a pig full of beer) as her prize for having steady hands.


Speaking of party pigs, our firm holiday party takes place December 18th but it’s only for clients of the firm.  There’s still time to get on the invite list.  (Hint:  send us work).


On behalf of everyone here at Pekarsky Stein, we wish you and your families a very safe, healthy and restful holiday season.  See you in 2013!






Fraser Milner Casgrain to go Global

By: Jeff Gray

Article Link:

Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP plans to merge with two global law firms in a three-way combination that would establish a massive new international player and shake up Canada’s legal industry.

FMC’s partnership board has unanimously recommended a deal to the firm’s partners that would see it join with London- and Washington-based SNR Denton and London’s Salans, creating a 2,500-lawyer global giant with offices around the world. Read more

Norton Rose to Merge with U.S. Legal Giant

By: Jeff Gray – Law Reporter

Article Link:

London-based international law firm Norton Rose, which recently made headlines when it merged with two Canadian law firms, has now made its first move south of the border.

The firm announced Wednesday that it was merging with U.S. legal giant Fulbright & Jaworski, renaming the now truly global firm Norton Rose Fulbright. Read more

In-House are Taking Charge

By: Jennifer Brown

Article Link:

The common refrain you will hear from in-house counsel these days is whenever possible they are bringing work in-house as opposed to sending it out. If they are sending work out, it’s for complex files or specialized one-off projects involving litigation, tax, or intellectual property matters. Even then, they may well be breaking down a litigation file and managing some aspects of it themselves to cut costs, sending only the most complicated aspects to external law firms. Read more

Chief Legal Officers Aren’t Waiting for Law Firms to Change

By: Daniel J. DiLucchio, Jr.

Article Link:

Newtown Square, PA, November 5, 2012 – Corporate law departments report that they are re-negotiating outside counsel fees, shifting work to lower-priced law firms, increasing in-house capacity, opting for alternative service providers and using new technology — all to develop a more cost-effective legal services model — according to over 200 General Counsel who participated in the Altman Weil 2012 Chief Legal Officer Survey. Read more

Why Recruiting Looks Easy

By: Miles Jennings

Article Link:

There is an absolutely wonderful children’s book called 20 Heartbeats about a painter who paints a horse for a very wealthy man. I hate to ruin it for you, but I have to say what happens.

The rich man pays this famous painter to paint his favorite horse. But years go by and the painter won’t finish the painting. The rich man finally shows up at the painter’s house and demands the painting. Read more

It’s Your Business: Invest Like an Owner

By: Thomas S. Clay and James D. Cotterman

Article Link:

Ask anyone getting ready to start a business what is needed, and undoubtedly capital investment will spring to mind. Ask anyone who wants to expand their business, or simply remain competitive, what is needed and you’ll get the same answer. It is no different with law firms.

A true owner (or partner) mentality is comprised of two critical aspects: a tangible financial commitment that includes capital investment, as well as an emotional or cultural commitment. Both are necessary for law firms to operate as something more enduring than a collection of solo practitioners. Read more

Top Lawyers Fear Their Profession is Broken

By: Kirk Makin

Article Link:

The public has been given a rare window into a profession in turmoil, as leaders of the Ontario bar debate the future of articling, the treatment of female lawyers and whether young lawyers are unprepared to practise law.

At the end of 10 hours of emotional debate in the Law Society of Upper Canada’s governing council Thursday, it was clear that some of the country’s top legal minds believe their profession is, in effect, broken. Read more

Law Firm Leadership – By the Numbers

By: Stephen Mabey

Article Link:

A law firm leadership boot camp workshop was held as a precursor to the CBA’s Law Firm Leadership Conference in Calgary last month. I had the good fortune to participate as a co-presenter with Karen MacKay and Lorie Peters and in preparing for it Karen circulated a survey, titled “The Leadership Imperative,” to a cross section of people involved in law firm leadership in Canadian firms. Read more

Why Our Laws Need to be Updated to Stop Preventing Us from Sharing

By: Leo Singer

Article Link:

“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws,” Frédéric Bastiat wrote more than a century and a half ago. “On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” If the French political economist were alive today, he could say that it is time for our laws to do some catching up again. Read more