A boutique Ottawa law firm that caters to small and medium-sized businesses is joining forces with a Calgary firm in a bid to broaden its expertise and raise its market profile.
Regent Law, which has offices in Ottawa and Toronto, announced this week it has entered into a “joint alliance” with Calgary-based Burstall LLP. Both firms target business clients, focusing on areas such as corporate and commercial litigation, mergers and acquisitions, competition law and corporate finance.
Regent Law founder Justin Fogarty, an Ottawa native who launched the firm in Toronto in 2012, said the new partnership will allow each firm to tap into the other’s expertise.
“We basically are working as a team,” said Fogarty, whose firm expanded to Ottawa in 2015 and now has six lawyers in the capital. “We’re trying to build a national platform.”
Fogarty said the two organizations fill in gaps in each other’s service offerings. Regent Law specializes in commercial litigation and areas such as bankruptcy, insolvency, competition and trade law, while Burstall focuses on public securities law, mergers and acquisitions, banking, private lending and shareholder disputes.
Burstall managing partner Doug McCartney said the two firms fit together like a “hand in glove,” adding clients’ reaction to news of the alliance has been “overwhelmingly positive” so far.
“They do a lot of things very, very well that we don’t do. And we do a lot of things that they don’t do,” said McCartney, whose firm has 22 lawyers. “You put it together, and you’ve got a pretty lean, efficient machine.”
Under the new arrangement, lawyers from one firm will work with clients of the other when their particular services are needed, flying in for face-to-face meetings or teleconferencing, depending on the situation. To facilitate the partnership, Fogarty is now licensed to practise law in Alberta as well as Ontario, and McCartney has been called to the bar in Ontario in addition to his home province.
Fogarty said the arrangement will deepen both firms’ talent pools without requiring them to lease more space or hire extra office staff, keeping costs down.
“It allows us to be more flexible with respect to how we deal with clients in terms of how we bill them and the value that we can bring, because we’re not as heavy with overhead,” he said.
Fogarty said his firm is moving away from the traditional hourly billing model in certain cases, instead charging a flat rate for handling a file. In Calgary, McCartney said his firm will sometimes accept an equity stake in a promising startup in exchange for legal services.
It’s all part of a “significant paradigm shift” in the way professional services are being delivered, Fogarty said, as firms adapt to new technologies and changing client expectations.
"Billing practices and technology are really changing the practice of law, and we want to be ahead of that."
“Billing practices and technology are really changing the practise of law, and we want to be ahead of that,” McCartney said.
Fogarty said this week’s announcement could be the first step toward a formal merger of the two firms, possibly as soon as next year.
“The idea of a boutique law firm is not new,” he said. “But what is new is the idea of a national boutique. I suspect that other firms, once they sort of see how things are rolling out for us, will say, ‘This is a good idea.’ It’s fun to be at the cutting edge of this.”