Calgary has plenty of room for growth, say Les Viner and Scott Cochlan in Alberta Oil

As a Global Hub for Oil, Calgary Draws Top Legal Talent

August 01, 2011

Les Viner finally has his wish – a Calgary office for one of the country's top legal institutions. But Les, a native Calgarian who first practised at Macleod Dixon in Canada's oil and gas hub before obtaining his master in law from Harvard and settling in Toronto, has an uphill climb. He isn't wasting any time, though. Since opening in March, Torys has grown to 16 lawyers, after hiring legal talent from staunch competitors Blake, Cassels & Graydon, one of the most successful of the Toronto law firms to enter the Calgary market 20 years ago, and his former firm, Macleod Dixon, among others.

It is one of the faster "greenfield" initiatives deployed by any law firm entering the Calgary market with an eye to building a legal business. Les is optimistic. "It’s a great deal-doing city," says Les, whose 280-lawyer firm has offices in Toronto and New York, and is considered one of Canada's blue-chip law businesses. "I think it is one of the two key economic centers in Canada, the other being Toronto."

Torys spent the past decade focused on getting the New York model right, taking the office down to around 30 lawyers from 75 with a focus on cross-border work, as opposed to a full slate of business law services. The firm also developed China and India strategies, where it has built working relationships with different law firms. Now the focus is squarely on Calgary. "There was a plan," Les says. "It's not like I woke up and said Calgary is a good idea. Calgary is the last piece of the puzzle for us."

Scott Cochlan, who joined Torys from Blakes, is optimistic that Calgary will remain a hot landing spot for the legal profession. "We are in the early stages of shuffling the deck. I think there’s going to be a lot more movement. New players will continue to come and grow."

The business opportunities in Calgary can’t be ignored. "It's early days but so far so good," says Les. "The entire firm is thrilled. It's a great place to do business."

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