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O Canada! DLA Piper in talks with Heenan Blaikie partners to set up in Toronto and Calgary

Long having eyed a Canadian presence, DLA Piper confirmed today (7 February) that it is in talks with a group of partners from the Toronto and Calgary offices of top-tier local firm Heenan Blaikie, which announced earlier this week that it is to wind down its operations following a wave of partner departures.

The discussions, which come as a management re-shuffle at the top 10 LB100 firm announced this week will see current co-chief executive and managing partner Sir Nigel Knowles take over from Tony Angel as co-chair, could provide a long sought after entry to a market that has in recent years seen the arrival of firms such as Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) and Clyde & Co.

NRF announced its Canadian launch with a tie-up with local practice Ogilvy Renault in November 2010, while top 20 UK firm Clyde & Co merged with insurance specialist Nicholl Paskell-Mede the following year.

Although a ‘deal is not yet done’ with Heenan Blaikie, a DLA spokesperson told Legal Business: ‘We can confirm that we are in discussions with a group of Toronto and Calgary-based lawyers at Heenan Blaikie.’

Heenan Blaikie, which had been running for over 40 years with 500 lawyers and 600 staff across nine offices in Canada along with a branch in Paris, announced earlier this week an orderly wind-up of its operations following a wave of partner departures.

Other firms to show an interest in the departures include Dentons, which has hired around five real estate lawyers and three corporate lawyers in Toronto and Montreal.

The discussions comes as partners at DLA heard on Tuesday 4 February that DLA’s co-chief executive (CEO) Nigel Knowles will replace Tony Angel as global co-chairman in a senior management shake-up which has also seen London IP and technology partner Simon Levine proposed as global co-CEO.

Current Americas co-chair and corporate and finance practice head Roger Meltzer has been put forward to sit alongside Knowles (pictured) in the global co-chair role, while, Americas co-chair Jay Rains has been proposed as joint global CEO alongside Levine.

On the same day, the firm filed its international accounts at Companies House revealing net debt decreased by 32% while cash in the bank dropped almost 15% from £47.5m at the end of 2011/12 to £32.4m at the end of last financial year, with the 4036-lawyer firm’s cash position also down from £35m to £29.9m.

Turnover at DLA Piper International – which includes all the firm’s activities outside the US including its share of joint ventures – increased from £788m in 2011/12 to £800.4m in the last financial period, while profit available for discretionary allocation among members dropped almost 3% from £269m to £261.5m during that period.