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First Anglo-Canadian law firm merger

|Written By Jennifer McPhee

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP will become the first Canadian law firm to merge with a United Kingdom firm next year when it officially acquires Stringer Saul LLP, a London boutique firm that specializes in listing companies on London''s Alternative Investment Market.

Norman Ziman (left) of Stringer Saul and David Corbett of Fasken Martineau celebrate the creation of the first full-service Canadian-U.K. law firm.

Prior to the launch of the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 1995, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) was the dominant exchange for mining companies around the world. However, Canadian clients of the big Bay Street firm - known for its mining law expertise - are increasingly looking to access the London capital markets through the booming AIM exchange.

"Stringer Saul's expertise and reputation in the AIM securities market will provide tangible benefits to our clients globally," says David Corbett, Fasken's managing partner.

"This will put us a quantum leap ahead of our competitors in terms of the number of deals and clients that will be on AIM that we will be acting for."

After working together on AIM deals since 2004, Fasken's five London-based lawyers will join the boutique firm's 37 lawyers at Stringer's current offices in Hanover Square in London's west end district. Once the deal is formalized on Feb. 1, the London office will be renamed Fasken Martineau Stringer Saul LLP, and it will become the largest legal office in the U.K. that has full access to Canadian resources, support, and clients.

The move will expand Fasken's team to almost 650 lawyers in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, New York, Montreal, Quebec City, London, and Johannesburg.

Corbett says clients on both sides of the Atlantic will benefit from the merger.

"There are certain advantages depending on the makeup of the company to being on AIM and advantages to being on the TSX. It allows us to really look at the client, understand the client's options and then give our best advice."

The firm's expansion will also help clients dip into London's deep capital pool by borrowing, raising, or investing through non-traditional sources.

"Canadian companies are looking around the world as to where to put money and they are trying to diversify where they put money and looking for the best opportunities. This allows us to satisfy those needs."

Canadian companies are more active on AIM than U.S. companies, which is a key reason Stringer opted to combine forces with a Canadian firm rather than an American one. And both firms have notable life sciences practices.

 "Canada has a remarkable number of life sciences companies for the size of the population here," says Corbett. "So [Stringer] sees that potential synergy as well."

Corbett says Stringer also felt more comfortable, culturally, meshing with a Canadian firm.

"We've got a good name in our key areas, but we're a small firm," says Stringer's managing partner Norman Ziman, who will maintain his position in the combined office, and will have a seat on Fasken's partnership board.

"This gives us the - and I hate to use this expression but there's nothing better - the critical mass to move forward."

Not only will the merger help Stringer's lawyers attract bigger clients and get bigger work from existing clients, but it will also help them attract quality lawyers.

"It's difficult to get them away from the London magic circle," says Ziman.

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