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May 11, 2011 5:14 PM

Plaintiffs Bar Update: Milberg Looks to Canada; Barroway Topaz Renames

Posted by Brian Baxter

Two leading plaintiffs firms are making news this week with moves on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that Milberg senior partner Michael Spencer is venturing to Toronto as the plaintiffs firm seeks to take advantage of new American-style class action laws in Ontario. Spencer will assist Kim Orr Barristers, a local class action boutique, in exploring new opportunities north of the border, according to the paper. After passing the Ontario bar, Spencer will spend part of his time in Toronto, but remain based in Milberg's New York office full-time, according to a statement by the firm.

The American Lawyer reported last year on how Milberg has rebounded financially after the firm reached a $75 million settlement with the government over the conduct of several former name partners. Now the firm is looking to Canada as U.S. courts and Congress have become more conservative and thus less friendly to the plaintiffs' bar.

"Simply put, Canada presents a great opportunity," Spencer told The Globe and Mail. A member of Milberg's executive committee, Spencer most recently served as lead counsel to shareholders suing French media giant Vivendi for securities fraud in a case that resulted in a $9.3 billion jury verdict in January, although the subsequent dismissal of some claims by a federal judge in the so-called "F-cubed" suit could drastically slash any final damages award.

The Globe and Mail reports that Spencer, a Harvard Law School grad and former attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, "sweated through" a three-day essay-style exam in Toronto last October in order to obtain his law school equivalency in Canada.

"I had to study Canadian constitutional law and criminal law, subjects thought to be distinctly Canadian," he told the paper. "For someone who is 35 years out of law school, that was a pretty daunting task."

Spencer then plowed through two days of exams for barristers and solicitors administered by the Law Society of Upper Canada, according to The Globe and Mail, and eventually received an exception from articling--an internship required of all new Canadian law school grads. Spencer now hopes that he can help Milberg make it big in Canada.

"I'm not someone who wants to blow my own horn, but I hope we can bring a level of sophistication and experience in prosecuting these cases as well as resources, both financial and in terms of experience, that will support the plaintiffs side," Spencer told The Globe and Mail. "And yes, I hope it does give pause to anyone who would be contemplating violating the law."

The Am Law Daily reported two years ago on Milberg's role advising Windsor, Ontario-based Sutts Strosberg on complex litigation in the U.S., and a year ago on former Sullivan & Cromwell associate turned card shark Dimitri Lascaris, now a top member of Canada's nascent class action bar at Siskind, Cromarty, Ivey & Dowler in London, Ontario. (Click here and here for more stories on Canadian class actions.)

Back in the U.S., Philadelphia-based Barroway Topaz Kessler Meltzer & Check is updating its shingle for the second time in as many years. The firm announced on Tuesday that it is dropping "Barroway" from its name as the firm rebrands itself Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check.

The change will see former name partner Andrew Barroway remain with the firm in a senior counsel capacity, as Barroway is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the firm.

Two years ago another former name partner, Richard Schiffrin, announced his retirement from the firm. Schiffrin subsequently returned to the practice of law, joining Grant & Eisenhofer in January 2009, where he remains as of counsel to the Delaware-based plaintiffs firm.

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If he studied Canadian Constitutional Law, he probably didn't do very well. Canada doesn't have a Constitution.

The Constitution of Canada (La Constitution du Canada in French) is the supreme law in Canada; the country's constitution is an amalgamation of codified acts and uncodified traditions and conventions. It outlines Canada's system of government, as well as the civil rights of all Canadian citizens and those in Canada. Interpretation of the Constitution is called Canadian constitutional law.

The composition of the Constitution of Canada is defined in subsection 52(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 as consisting of the Canada Act 1982 (including the Constitution Act, 1982), all acts and orders referred to in the schedule (including the Constitution Act, 1867, formerly the British North America Act), and any amendments to these documents.[1] The Supreme Court of Canada held that the list is not exhaustive and includes unwritten components as well.[2]

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