The world needs more Canada

Jean Cumming, Lexpert
Jean Cumming, Lexpert
In this issue, we reflect on a number of Top Deals (p. 29) of 2016 (and Cases on p. 36). Several of these Deals were outbound, that is to say, companies led by trailblazing leaders expanded into other countries, very often the US.

While this is exciting and prosperous for clients, as a byproduct, it potentially raises the FOMO level for Canadian business lawyers: As one expressed it, Canadian law isn’t very exportable.” Certainly, league tables show US-based or global law firms are steadily, increasingly retained by Canadian companies as they go outbound. This makes sense for the jurisdictionally specific work, but what about on deal leadership? Is there any reason why Canadian firms cannot be involved in this respect?

This is an uphill prospect for external counsel, even when Canadian in-house counsel and executives are in the driver’s seat. So wherein lies the best chance for Canadian lawyers to make it up that hill? It may be that if Canadian lawyers are integral to their clients’ strategies, they will be afforded the opportunity to join deal leadership teams outside the country. This in turn requires considerable preparation by Canadian lawyers. To understand your client’s strategy domestically is obviously more manageable than it is to understand their prospects, opportunities and challenges elsewhere. There is another piece to the preparation: Canadians in general may have a degree of deference that holds us back from competing. If lawyers want deeper involvement on outbound deals, they would do well to set that aside. Canadian law may not be very exportable but your clients are proving that Canadian thinking and dealmaking acumen are exportable indeed.