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March 4, 2011 2:05 PM

From the Motor City to the Stampede City, Firms Set Up New Shops

Posted by Brian Baxter

The week's end saw a flurry of office openings by large law firms. Thompson & Knight headed to Detroit, Toronto firm Torys became the latest to stake out turf in Calgary, and Latham & Watkins could be on the verge of opening a new office in Boston.

But first to Detroit, which, through catchy Super Bowl car ads, is announcing its determination to bounce back from some down years. Though Thompson & Knight's gross revenues slipped by 11.2 percent last year, and its merger talks with Reed Smith broke off in January, the firm announced late Thursday it had hired litigation partner Philip Kessler to lead a new Detroit office.

Currently based in New York, Kessler is a former chairman of Detroit firm Butzel Long. He stepped down from that post last August and subsequently set up a solo practice in Franklin, Mich. Kessler will now direct Thompson & Knight's expanding operations in New York--the firm opened there in 2005--while also heading the firm's Detroit office, which is set to open sometime this spring.

North of the border, Toronto firm Torys became the latest to stake out turf in Calgary, opening a seven- lawyer office there; four of the attorneys were recruited from the Calgary office of rival Blake, Cassels & Graydon.

Why so sweet on Calgary? As part of its annual Canada Report in August 2008, The American Lawyer traveled to Calgary, also known as Cowtown and the Stampede City, to look at the flood of firms drawn by Alberta's oil sands.  (The Calgary Herald ran a similar story on Friday.)

Torys trails other leading Canadian firms such as Blakes, McCarthy T├ętrault, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, and Stikeman Elliott, which all have large Calgary offices that they've expanded in recent years, according to The Toronto Globe & Mail. In February, Oslers and fellow Canadian firm Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer nabbed roles advising Chinese oil giant PetroChina on its proposed $5.4 billion investment in Alberta oil and gas assets.

Back in the U.S., the Boston Business Journal reported on Friday that Latham was on the verge of opening an office in Beantown. A Latham spokeswoman was checking in to the matter and didn't get back to us by the time of this post, but the BBJ reports the firm is poised to become the latest national firm to branch out in Boston. (According to previous reports by the BBJ, Latham as been eyeing Boston since late 2007; the firm shuttered a small office in suburban Newton, Mass., several years ago.)

In December, Jones Day recruited five partners from local shop Hanify & King for its Boston office opening the following month. The hires, which included name partner John Hanify, saw Hanify & King change its name to Murphy & King. A Murph in Boston? No way.

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