Heenan Blaikie announces its dissolution

One of the country’s largest law firms calls it quits

By Daniel Fish

On Wednesday February 5th, 2014

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After weeks of speculation, Heenan Blaikie LLP announced this evening that it will “wind-up” its operations over the next few months, according to a press release.

The firm also insists it will continue to serve its clients until there has been a “harmonious transfer of their files to other law firms.” Exactly what form this transition will take, though, remains unclear.

Although Heenan Blaikie’s days as a self-contained law firm will soon come to a close, the press release says that “several practice groups and even entire offices will continue to operate under new names” — the specifics on which groups will survive are not yet known.

For many in the legal community, tonight’s decision came as little surprise: over the last several weeks, partners at the 40-year-old law firm have fled in droves, taking up positions at other major firms including Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP and Dentons.

Questions still linger regarding the fate of articling and summer students who, until recently, had expected to start work at Heenan Blaikie this year. The Financial Post reports that Heenan Blaikie has asked other Canadian firms to take on its now-unplaced articling students.

This year, the firm hired fewer summer students than it has in seven years, according to this magazine’s annual report of summer job numbers. Heenan Blaikie’s annual hireback rate — a measurement of the proportion of articling students it hires as first-year associates — also fell this year by 36 percent, according to Precedent’s annual survey.

With a staff of more than 500 lawyers, eight offices in Canada, plus another in Paris, Heenan Blaikie is the first major Canadian law firm to collapse since the fall of Goodman and Carr LLP in 2007.

More to come.


Photo: JasonParis