Almost 40 years ago, four young lawyers took the bold step of establishing their own law firm: Johnston, Heenan, Blaikie. Driven by a passion for law, entrepreneurial vision, legal virtuosity, and a culture of excellence, Heenan Blaikie acquired a solid reputation and remarkable talent to attract top-calibre lawyers and professionals. The very elements that made our firm’s reputation-competence and expertise, spirit of innovation as well as the value we place on relationships with our clients and our outstanding team-remain unchanged today and still fuel our successful progress and growth.
Read on to see how we became one of Canada’s premier law firms and what we have celebrated along the way.
1973 – Donald J. Johnston, P.C., O.C., Q.C., Roy L. Heenan, O.C., Ad. E., and Peter M. Blaikie, Q.C., decide to join forces. The firm of Johnston, Heenan, Blaikie opens its first office in Montreal.
1978 – Donald J. Johnston decides to enter politics and the firm adopts the name it bears today. Mr. Johnston becomes a Member of Parliament for the Westmount riding and later holds various posts in the Trudeau government, including as President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Justice and as Attorney General of Canada. He returns to the firm in 1988 as an advisor and becomes President of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1990. Mr. Johnston leaves the firm again in 1996 upon his appointment as Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the first non-European to occupy this prestigious position.
1984 – The year is marked by the arrival of a recruit who would raise the firm’s profile significantly. The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau joins us as counsel. He remains with the firm until his death in September 2000.
Our growth across Canada
1989 – Norman Bacal, who held, at the time, the position of national co-managing partner, leaves for Toronto to set up a new office. Heenan Blaikie becomes one of the few firms with a presence in Canada’s two largest cities.
1991 - Peter A. Gall, Q.C., joins the firm to establish our presence in Vancouver. He’s subsequently joined by Arthur Evrensel who leaves Montreal to lend him a hand. Heenan Blaikie is now the first truly “national” law firm.
1992 - André Roy, now a Quebec Superior Court judge, opens the Trois-Rivières office.
1998 - Marcel Aubut, O.C., O.Q., Q.C., Ad. E., a business personality and emblematic figure in the world of sports, and former President and CEO of the Québec Nordiques NHL franchise, announces that his law office, Aubut Chabot, will join our firm to become Heenan Blaikie Aubut, an integral part of Heenan Blaikie LLP in Québec City.
The same year, Danielle Gauthier opens the Sherbrooke office and is soon joined by Hubert Pépin, well known in the region and having practised there for over 30 years.
1999 - Guy Dufort and E. Joy Noonan leave the Montreal and Toronto offices, respectively, to establish our Ottawa office.
An office in Kelowna is also set up to extend the activities of our Vancouver office.
2000 - Calgary’s economy is on the verge of a boom and James Pasieka and E. Mitchell Shier, guided by John James, open our Calgary office.
2004 - The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, P.C., C.C., O.M., Q.C., Ad. E., joins us as counsel, after a prestigious political career that lasted nearly 40 years, including 10 years as Prime Minister of Canada.
Embracing continuous change
2006 - The Honourable Donald J. Johnston returns to the firm as counsel, after serving 10 years as Secretary-General of the OECD.
Our Victoria office opens and succeeds the Kelowna office.
2007 - Canadian Business magazine names Heenan Blaikie as one of the 50 “Best Workplaces in Canada”. This honour is a tribute to our 1,000 lawyers, managers and employees, who are driven by a shared energy, passion for work, and commitment towards our clients.
2008 - The Firm’s steady growth is marked by a significant addition. The Honourable Mr. Justice Michel Bastarache, C.C., who sat on the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada for more than a decade, joins our Litigation group.
Our international growth
2009 - The volume and breadth of the firm’s international business keeps on growing. The firm launches activities in Paris and Singapore, where representative offices are established.
2011 - Heenan Blaikie opens its first foreign office in France to develop investment opportunities in mining, natural resources and infrastructure projects in Africa and offer biotechnology, health and information technology services to European clients. The Paris office, which now succeeds our representative office, is headed by Jean-François Mercadier.