21st February 2024

Legal Moves is a monthly roundup of job changes at Canada’s law firms.

Dentons’ Ottawa office is creating a new municipal law team led by partner Roberto Aburto, expanding its already robust planning, land use and development practice nationally.

Mr. Aburto, along with associates Kelly Duquette and Alice Mihailescu, law clerk Amanda Russo and their legal assistant Lisa Belanger made the jump from Gowling WLG’s Ottawa office.

The 41-year-old said he was attracted to the firm’s entrepreneurial spirit and its strong real estate and litigation, which will complement his team’s work.

Mr. Aburto spent 14 years at Gowling, where he said he benefited from many great mentors. But with the move, he’ll be able to head up his own team.

“It feels like a higher ceiling … This is a big brand, national firm,” Mr. Aburto said. “This is an opportunity to go out and build out our municipal team.”

The team had staggered start dates of Jan. 15 and Jan. 22.

Other notable moves this month include Katherine Cooligan and Ziad Yehia, who in January announced they were creating a new boutique family and estate law firm, Cooligan Yehia LLP, with offices in Ottawa and Toronto

Both Ms. Cooligan and Mr. Yehia had been partners with Borden Ladner Gervais, with Ms. Cooligan serving as BLG’s regional managing partner in Ottawa for six years until 2020. Last fall, BLG announced it was ending its family law services.

“I never expected that after 32 years and at almost age 60, with retirement on the horizon, the reality of family law being an outlier in Big Law would finally catch up to me. It has,” she said in a LinkedIn post. “Standing at the precipice of a new chapter, I have chosen to start a new law firm with my entire family law team. I bring to this challenge a wealth of experience, passion for the law, and a commitment to mentorship and sponsorship.”

In early January, Norton Rose Fulbright announced Toronto-based mergers and acquisitions lawyer Walied Soliman as the firm’s Global Chair for 2024. Mr. Soliman, who was also co-chair of Norton’s special situations team, has been the Canada Chair since 2017 and had previously served as Global Chair in 2019, which is a one-year term.

Also in January, former minister of justice and attorney-general David Lametti revealed he was resigning his position as MP for LaSalle-Émard-Verdun effective Jan. 31, to join Fasken as counsel based out of the Montreal office.

In a news release, the firm touted his experience with Indigenous law and emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence. “When you speak with David, it does not take long to understand that he shares our values and our commitments,” Martin Denyes, Fasken’s managing partner, said in a statement. “He has worked tirelessly toward indigenous reconciliation in Canada. He is also incredibly engaged and interested in emerging technology matters including the growing importance of artificial intelligence.”

On Tuesday, Cozen O’Connor announced that Enzo Sallese and Steven Pearlstein are joining the firm’s Toronto office as partners, while Andrea Wong is coming on board as a member, which is the equivalent of partner. All three were real estate lawyers with Minden Gross, a mid-size regional firm in Toronto that last month The Globe reported was dissolving after nearly 75 years. The trio forms Cozen’s first Canada-based real estate group.

“As the first real estate lawyers to be based in Canada, they represent major additions to our cross-border, Chambers & Partners-ranked real estate team. I’m thrilled to welcome them to Cozen O’Connor,” Daniel Hardwick, the firm’s real estate practice co-chair, said in a release.

There were also big leadership changes at Bennett Jones. On Jan. 1, Dominique Hussey became the firm’s new chief executive officer based in Toronto and John Mercury started his new role as executive chair and chair of the board based in Alberta. Hugh MacKinnon, who has served as chair and CEO since 2005, is now the Chair Emeritus.

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