Montreal has over the years been able to develop a certain ability to attract large international companies to establish themselves. Today, Quebec City is also of interest to the rest of Canada, as evidenced by the opening of an office by major Alberta business law firm Bennett Jones setting up shop downtown.
Historically, Canadian economic development has been east-to-west for centuries, and west-to-east expansion remains a rare occurrence, particularly in the field of business law.
While major Montreal firms such as Norton Rose Fulbright and McCarthy Tetrault have offices in Calgary, this is the first time an Alberta law firm of Bennett Jones’ caliber has decided to set up shop east of the Ottawa River.
In this era of energy transition, the interest of a firm specializing in business law is no stranger to the expertise and capacity for innovation developed in Quebec’s renewable energy sector.
Alberta, a major oil and gas producer, also has strong energy expertise, but the western province is committed to the energy transition and that’s why alignment with Quebec makes sense, said Hugh MacKinnon, president and CEO of Bennett Jones.
Energy transition is certainly a topic at our establishment in Montreal. Quebec and Alberta are two energy-producing provinces and this is a key sector of the economy.
Hugh MacKinnon, President and CEO of Bennett Jones
“We want to support Western companies to conduct transactions in Quebec in all areas of activity, just as we want to do with Quebec companies that want to make acquisitions or partnerships with Western companies,” explained Hugh MacKinnon.
Since January, the Bennett Jones firm has taken over the entire floor of Maison Manuvie, 20,000 square feet, Boulevard de Maisonneuve. As proof of its commitment, the Alberta firm has signed a ten-year lease and has also taken up options for possible expansion.
Pascale Dionne-Bourassa, specializing in commercial litigation, is Bennett Jones’ first associate lawyer in Montreal and is responsible for recruiting the team in the city.
“I presented several mandates to them in Quebec with my firm d3b Avocatts and they asked me to join them. For me, joining this great office was a turning point. I am the first partner in Montreal and we are now looking for talent and we see that there is interest.
“We have a great culture to share and we want to participate in downtown renewal. The firm has been ranked as one of the best employers in Canada for 22 years. We expect to have a team of 100 lawyers in Montreal within five years,” says Pascale Dionne-Bourassa.
A centuries old institution
Bennett Jones was founded in Calgary in 1922 by RB Bennett, who would become Prime Minister of Canada in 1930. The group took off significantly in the 1970s with the oil and gas boom that caused an explosion of economic activity in Alberta.
During these years of strong growth, the firm hired lawyers from across Canada, somewhat duplicating the corporate culture.
“Oil and gas is the engine of our business, but we are very diversified in all areas of operations. I opened the Toronto office in 1999 and we are opening our Montreal office there because we see a lot of potential in terms of commercial law, litigation, infrastructure, mergers and acquisitions”, Summary of Hugh MacKinnon.
Bennett Jones has over 500 lawyers in its various Canadian offices. The firm has many clients in the oil and gas sector – Total, Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus, Irving, Trans Mountain Pipeline, etc. -, but also represents many large companies in all areas of operations, such as Bank Royale and Ernst. & Young.
Bennett Jones, who worked with CP on its $31 billion merger with Kansas City Southern. The firm is also partnering with its client Volkswagen for a project to set up a battery plant in Ontario.
Bennett Jones has Quebec companies as clients including Videotron, Osisco, Air Transat and PharmaScience.
Alberta and Quebec look similar. We share an entrepreneurial spirit and a common civic sense.
Hugh MacKinnon, CEO of Bennett Jones
Hugh MacKinnon comes to Montreal every week to support Pascale Dionne-Bourassa and finds the city a delight. He quietly tamed French by saying he was doing 1000 days of exercises on the language learning site Duolingo.
“We thought we would set up sooner, but COVID has postponed our projects. There we have come to settle for good. This is not a satellite office,” the CEO clarified.
Bennett Jones in brief
- Years in existence: 101
- Number of Employees: 1000 including 500 advocates
- Offices: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, New York
- Largest Desk: Toronto, 220 lawyers