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December 8, 2010 6:19 PM

Miller Thomson Merges with Saskatchewan Shop

Posted by Brian Baxter

A week after we reported on the merger mania gripping many large Canadian law firms, another of those rumored to be mulling a combination of its own has agreed to acquire a smaller shop in a resource-rich locale.

Miller Thomson, a 450-lawyer firm based in Toronto, announced on Wednesday that it has acquired 30-lawyer Saskatchewan shop Balfour Moss, making it the first national Canadian firm with offices in cities like Regina and Saskatoon.

Saskatchewan, perhaps best known stateside for its popular Canadian football team, has been booming lately because of a return of oil and gas work and other deal activity.

This past August several large international firms landed key legal advisory roles on BHP Billiton's nearly $40 billion bid for the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. The deal took a hostile turn the next month before eventually collapsing in the face of Canadian government opposition and after millions in legal and other advisory fees.

But Saskatchewan's abundant natural resources continue to appeal to international buyers, as the Canadian province's production of potash, a compound commonly found in fertilizer, continues to bolster its bottom line.

In the firm's release touting its new merger partner, Miller Thomson chairman Gerald Courage said that Saskatchewan had become a force in the Canadian economy and that his firm was eager to take part in the "province's unprecedented economic success story."

"Saskatchewan is the largest potash producer in the world, accounting for 30 percent of total production, and hosting approximately 50 percent of the world's potash reserves," says a statement by the firm. "Canada's highest grade uranium is produced in Saskatchewan, and the province will also soon become the largest producer of conventional oil in the country."

The Montreal Gazette reports that Balfour Moss, one of Saskatchewan's oldest law firms, is known for representing institutional lenders and real estate developers on transactional and contractual agreements, and also has strong litigation and environmental law practices. The firm will assume the Miller Thomson name.

With the merger, the Financial Post reports that Miller Thomson will have doubled in size the past five years with 11 offices across Canada, making it one of two firms with the most offices throughout the country.

Miller Thomson becomes the fourth major Canadian law firm to announce a merger in the past month. In early November, Lang Michener and McMillan announced their plans to combine operations, only a few days before Ogilvy Renault unveiled its plans to become part of a new Norton Rose international megafirm.

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