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Management-side labour law firms of the world unite!

The latest Canadian law firm to go global is one of the country's major management-side labour law boutiques, Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP.

Recent mergers of Canadian law firms with large international players, including the swallowing of Ogilvy Renault LLP by London-based Norton Rose, have sparked globalizing talk across the profession. But Filion Wakely --whose client list includes major multinationals, public sector organizations and Canadian companies large and small -- has opted to keep its independence.

Instead of a merger with a global giant, it is joining a new international alliance of like-minded boutique management-side firms called L&E Global.

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"It gives us a global connection," Roy Filion, one of the firm's founding partners, in an interview at the firm's Toronto offices. "It gives us the ability to tell our clients that we are connected globally."

The alliance, which was founded in 2010, includes the U.S. firm Jackson Lewis, as well as law firms in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Poland and New Zealand.

Mr. Filion says it will allow Filion Wakely to refer Canadian clients who need advice in other jurisdictions to its new partners, as well take in new work from the other members when they refer international clients who need Canadian employment law expertise.

The firm must pay a fee to cover the costs of the alliance's administration and the paycheque of its Belgium-based CEO, but otherwise remains independent and keeps its own brand name. The arrangement allows the boutique firm to stay a boutique, Mr. Filion said, but exchange ideas and expertise with other lawyers around the world.

The international alliance itself is a product of the changing legal landscape internationally, where giant global law firms such as DLA Piper and Norton Rose have been growing, and boutique firms are looking for new ways to compete.

Mr. Filion, a veteran of courts and labour tribunals, said the alliance will help give the firm an edge in its rivalry with Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP, another leading management-side labour and employment law firm.

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Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. He spent six years as the law reporter in The Globe’s Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and writing about fraud, insider trading and corporate tax avoidance. More

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