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Jean Charest returns to legal practice, joins Bay Street firm

Quebec Liberal Party Leader Jean Charest responds to questions at a news conference in Saint-Romain, Que., on Wednesday, August 29, 2012. Quebecers are going to the polls on Sept. 4.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

After nearly three decades in politics, former Quebec Liberal premier Jean Charest is returning to the practice of law and joining McCarthy Tétrault LLP, the Bay Street law firm announced on Thursday.

Mr. Charest, 54, defeated in last year's provincial election, will join the prestigious firm as a full equity partner and provide "strategic advice" to its corporate clients, said Marc-André Blanchard, the firm's chief executive officer.

"I would say he is the most accomplished political leader of his generation in Canada," Mr. Blanchard said in an interview. "It's a pretty unique contribution he can make."

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The announcement of Mr. Charest's new gig comes as he re-emerges into the national spotlight after his election defeat: He is scheduled to speak Thursday night at Toronto's Albany Club, and in Vancouver on Friday.

While a list of major law firms was said to be vying for Mr. Charest, McCarthys is not a surprising choice: Mr. Blanchard is a well-connected Quebec Liberal and the former president of the Quebec Liberal Party.

Law firms make a habit of hiring former politicians to add some clout, shake hands and open their Rolodexes.

But Mr. Blanchard says Mr. Charest has not accepted a sinecure. He has instead insisted on being a full equity partner in the firm and working hard on behalf of its clients, Mr. Blanchard said.

Mr. Charest's political experience and negotiating powers will be invaluable to Canadian companies seeking to invest abroad, Mr. Blanchard said, as well as for foreign clients looking to make politically sensitive business moves within Canada.

"People with a background like Jean Charest are more relevant than ever to our clients," Mr. Blanchard said, pointing to the firm's clients interests in China, Africa, India, Brazil and Europe and crediting Mr. Charest with kickstarting the current free-trade talks between Canada and the European Union.

Mr. Charest will be based in Montreal, but will travel and work for the firm's clients across the country, Mr. Blanchard said, adding that Mr. Charest plan to come to McCarthys is a "long-term" move.

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Mr. Charest joins the ranks of former Quebec premiers in the legal profession. Former Quebec Liberal premier Daniel Johnson is also at McCarthy Tétrault, while former Parti Québécois Premier Lucien Bouchard returned to legal practice after politics with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP.

Mr. Charest, who was wooed away from Ottawa to become the Quebec Liberal Party's saviour in the late 1990s, returns to his first profession decades after he last worked as a lawyer. He only practised criminal law briefly before winning a seat at 26 years old as a Progressive Conservative MP in Brian Mulroney's massive 1984 majority.

"It is with great enthusiasm that I join the law firm and team of McCarthy Tétrault, the first Canadian law firm to establish a national presence and whose history is intimately linked to the development of Québec and Canada," Mr. Charest was quoted as saying in a statement. "My association with such a prominent business law firm is an opportunity for me to contribute to the business and economic development of Québec and Canada."

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About the Author
Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. From 2010 to 2016, he was the law reporter in Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and white-collar crime. He won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards for investigative journalism in 2010. More


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