Canada

Everybody in the Canadian legal profession knows that international firms Baker & McKenzie, Norton Rose and Dentons have set up shop in Canada. Baker & McKenzie has actually been in Toronto since 1962. Norton Rose absorbed the venerable Ogilvy Renault in 2011 before conquering the west by merging with energy powerhouse MacLeod Dixon in 2012. Dentons made its Canadian play in 2013 by merging with another long-established firm, Fraser Milner.

But how many people realize that there are several other prominent U.S./international firms working somewhat under the radar in the Canadian market? Powerhouses like Paul Weiss, Shearman & Sterling and Skadden Arps all have small Canadian offices where they service mostly American clients. Similarly, Dorsey & Whitney, Hodgson Russ, Dickinson Wright, Fragomen, and Clyde and Co. all have small Canadian presences.

By my count, that’s eleven U.S./international firms that have a real footprint in Canada, which leads to this question: why aren’t there more? Canada is a G8 nation with a strong economy. Our citizens are warm and friendly. We wear deodorant. Why have you forsaken us, international law firms?

Here’s what I dug up:

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David Bowie said it this way:

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

(Turn and face the strain)

Ch-ch-Changes

I know you’ll be humming that song a couple hours from now (and thanking me for it). But, it underscores that clients are demanding ch-ch-ch-change from the legal profession on both sides of the border. We can’t ignore it any longer. We need to turn and face the strain head on. We need to meet the challenges of globalization and technological innovation and transform our industry.

It looks like Canadian lawyers are making an attempt to join the twentieth century — sorry, I mean the twenty-first century. The Canadian Bar Association recently released its Futures Initiative report that sprung from two years of consultations by lawyers and legal profession experts. The Futures Report makes twenty-two recommendations for helping the Canadian legal profession break away from its horse and buggy business model (developed by Gen A) to join a world where you can watch video of a horse online before purchasing it with Bitcoins…

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Photo by: Bernal Saborio

Photo by: Bernal Saborio

In Mindset Matters: Lawyers That Lead Well Are Receptive to Change, I brought forward the view that business executives might be better equipped to lead law firms through the turbulent change facing the legal industry.

The Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) recent recommendation that non-lawyers be able to own law firms underscores this view.

This CBA recommendation is refreshing when juxtaposed against the Texas State Bar ethics ruling stating that a Texas law firm may not use “officer or principal” in job titles for non-lawyer employees or pay profit-based performance bonuses. As Fred Headon, Assistant General Counsel at Air Canada and CBA President, urges:

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I have a great strategy for passing the bar: write it in Ontario. The Law Society of Upper Canada (our governing body) doesn’t publish official statistics, but it is anecdotally reported that 90% of takers pass in Ontario. Contrast that with New York, where approximately 30 to 40% of takers fail in any given year. That’s a bloodbath.

The system has changed a bit since I wrote, but let me take you back in time to 2002. I had just graduated from Queen’s law school in picturesque Kingston, Ontario. I then had to face something called Bar School. That’s four months of sitting in a stifling classroom during the beautiful and inviting months of May, June, July, and August. Don’t feel bad for me — you’ll see why in a second….

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I discussed in a past column that one of Canada’s finest law schools, McGill, costs about $4,000 per year. Isn’t that crazy? I bet many Biglaw partners have spent more than $4k on a single client lunch (tip included).

McGill’s microscopic tuition highlights the two main differences between U.S. law schools and Canadian law schools: first, almost all Canadian schools are waaaaaayyyyyyyyy cheaper than their U.S. counterparts. Second, the top students from all our law schools can get Biglaw jobs in Canada. We have only about twenty law schools, but each of them regularly place students with big firms across the country.

There is an implication for Canadian schools as a result: our schools don’t really need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. They can get by with similar course offerings and limited specializations.

The U.S. law school universe is vastly different….

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Raise your hand if you’ve been to Marshall, Texas. It’s on the eastern edge of the Lone Star State, not far south from Springdale, Arkansas, where Jim Bob and Michelle are raising 19 kids (and hopefully no more), and just west of Monroe, Louisiana, where the Robertsons play whack-a-duck every fall.

I see a few hands raised. Vacationing in Marshall, perhaps? No? Visiting family? No?

Then, I bet you’re patent litigators….

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According to the latest Am Law 100 rankings, Wachtell Lipton had profits per partner of nearly $5 million in 2013.

Meditate on that for a moment. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth.

Five million bucks per year.

Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth.

I lost the slidy-thing from my slide ruler so I have to do this in my head, but I think that’s about $100,000 per week per equity partner. A little less than a newbie associate makes in a whole year outside of the major metropolitan areas.

Imagine all the things you can buy with that kind of money. A mansion that looks somewhat familiar every time you visit it. Luxury vehicles for your nanny. Dream trips for your spouse. The finest private schools for your kids. An iPhone for your son so he can talk to you every day. A high-end camera your wife can take to your daughter’s soccer game so you can watch her play through live streaming video. Oh, the joy that kind of money you can bring your family. It’s not Powerball, but it’s most certainly a lottery win per year.

How much do Canadian law partners earn?

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TALE OF THE TAPE

Name: BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA II

Birthdate:  August 4, 1961

Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii (disputed)

Height:  6’1’’ with a slim, athletic build

Title:  Most Powerful Man in the Free World

Education:  B.A. (Political Science) from Columbia; J.D. from Harvard (magna cum laude, president of the Harvard Law Review)

Party: Democrat

Little Known Fact:  None. POTUS is so heavily scrutinized that it’s almost impossible to keep anything hush hush

Sports: Pretty good lefty point guard. Loves his Chicago White Sox and Bears.

Speechmaking:  Love him or not, he’s a pretty darn good speechmaker. He knows how to rally his base supporters and tick off his enemies.

And now, in the other corner….

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Here’s something I’m envious of as a Canadian lawyer. The United States is filled with celebrity lawyers: Robert Shapiro, Gerry Spence, Harvey Levin (thank you, TMZ), Judge Wapner, Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Lance Ito.

Bobby and Teddy—lawyers.  John, Jr., a prosecutor.  Bill and Hillary and the current POTUS and FLOTUS, lawyers all.

And, of course, the most celebrated American lawyer, Geraldo Rivera (you forgot that, didn’t you?).

The U.S. loves to gawk at its lawyers, making them famous for defending ex-Hertz pitchmen, or for screaming at people on crappy daytime television where they make all judges look like arrogant cork smokers.

What about celebrity lawyers in Canada?

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A prominent Canadian magazine, Maclean’s, ranks our Canadian law schools every year. Here are the categories it uses:

1. Trees per campus acre (15%)
2. Square footage of the law library (30%)
3. Number of left-handed professors (20%)
4. Proximity to Toronto (40%)
5. Supreme Court of Canada clerkships (2%)

Some call Maclean’s methodology suspect. But my law school, Queen’s, ranks third in the country, so who am I to argue? It’s not my fault Queen’s has a huge law library on a leafy campus just up the highway from Toronto in a region with the highest concentration of left-handed people in the country. We didn’t do so well on SCC clerks, but I am told that Queen’s is working diligently to improve in that area.

Anyway, Maclean’s says these are the top 5 law schools in Canada:

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