June 22, 2011
By Brian Burton, The Calgary Herald (The Calgary Law Review)
Where big oil goes — along with its mergers, acquisitions, capital investment, and the expanding global market — so does the growth in the business legal sector.
Calgary’s growing status as a head office city — second only to Toronto — with its abundance of energy power centres and entrepreneurial drive, is clearly spurring growth in the corporate legal community.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) specialist Robert Lehodey of Osler agrees [with other lawyers] that Calgary is very much a relationship town and says his firm has “been here long enough to have those relationships.” Osler has had a Calgary office for 17 years that has grown to 60 lawyers.
Lehodey’s M&A partner, Frank Turner, says they connect local clients with inbound foreign capital. It’s one of the reasons Osler leads the latest mergermarket ‘league tables’ for the value of Canadian M&A work completed in the first quarter of 2011. In those three months, Osler advised on nine deals Canada-wide worth $12.2 billion, including one deal in Calgary worth $5.4 billion. That was the Petro-China investment in Encana’s Cutbank assets. But people in Osler’s Calgary office hasten to add that they also supported some of their firm’s work on merger projects in Toronto.
Turner says competition for such deals is definitely intensifying as more big firms come to town. “What you’re seeing is other firms recognizing what a vibrant market Calgary is.” Lehodey says that this impact may be moderated to some degree by “the same number of lawyers spreading over more firms.” He hastens to add, though, that Osler has not suffered significantly from talent raiding by other firms entering the market. He says its own work in mergers and acquisitions sometimes shrinks the number of major clients but this has been offset in recent months by the rush of foreign capital into Calgary.