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Merger mania shifts up a gear as U.S., U.K. firms go shopping

Bar Talk

Christopher S. Reed/© Copyright 2007 by Christopher S. Reed

The Canadian legal world has gone mad for merger talk. This is nothing new, of course, and predates even Ogilvy Renault LLP's surprising announcement last fall that it was tying the knot with London-based Norton Rose LLP to become part of a globe-straddling legal empire.

But it shows no signs of slowing down. This week, there was word that U.S.-based international legal behemoth DLA Piper - soon to officially become the world's biggest law firm, at least by head count - is courting as many as three or four unnamed major Canadian law firms.

Now, Bar Talk has confirmed reports out of the U.K. that British law firm Clyde & Co. LLP, which has 700 lawyers and 24 offices around the world, is planning a move into Canada, in the form of a possible merger with insurance-law boutique Nicholl Paskell-Mede.

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A spokeswoman for Clydes in London, Louise Nelson, said in an e-mail that David Angus, a Conservative Senator and former partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP, had "kindly agreed" to help the firm establish a Canadian wing.

Ms. Nelson said Mr. Angus is assisting her firm, a full-service operation which focuses on aviation and insurance law, in merger talks with Nicholl Paskell-Mede, which has offices in Montreal and Toronto.

"It would be premature to say more at the moment but in due course there may well be an opportunity for us and Nicoll Paskell-Mede to provide further detail," Ms. Louise said Tuesday.

There be dragons

Last year, Bar Talk mentioned that Michael Carabash, a Toronto lawyer who has launched a Web-based legal service, had pitched his business to a taping of CBC's Dragon's Den.

Mr. Carabash, whose website, offers clients downloadable legal forms such as contracts or wills, says the episode is supposed to air Wednesday. He was not allowed to say if the Dragons bought into his concept.

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