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Lawyer exodus shutters Desjardins 35 Lawyers Join Rival Lavery Firm; Quebec's Spun Off Jim Middlemiss, Financial Post Published: Saturday, August 18, 2007 An era will end for the 100-lawyer law firm Desjardins Ducharme LLP in September. The once-esteemed law firm will close after more than 50 years in business. Thirty-five of its key Montreal business lawyers will leave the firm to join rival Lavery, de Billy LLP at the end of next month. Concurrently, the Quebec City office of Desjardins, which comprises 50 lawyers and merged into the firm in 1992, has spun out and will operate under its old name Stein Monast LLP. [/url] Another seven litigators from the Montreal office will join litigation specialist Donati Maisonneuve LLP. The final eight lawyers will either retire or have said they are moving to other firms or into corporations. "We have accounted for everyone," said Gerard Coulombe, chairman of Desjardins, who explained that "Quebec City couldn't join the Lavery deal because it would have created too big a firm[for that region.]" Jean Brunet, managing partner of the Quebec City office, agreed: "You can't have a law firm of 100 lawyers in the area. "We're putting down the principles of how it will work in Quebec City," he said of the new firm, adding that he does not rule out opening a smaller Montreal office. The addition of 35 lawyers to Lavery creates a 180-lawyer firm, making it the largest independent provincial firm. The split is no surprise and has been rumoured for weeks once Desjardins started bleeding lawyers to other firms. "We took a good hard look at the various practices and groups lawyers," said Richard Dolan, managing partner at Lavery, said. "We settled on some very strong, solid business lawyers and bankruptcy and insolvency lawyers who had complementary practices to our practice mix. This is a really exciting business opportunity for us." Lavery has always had strong business in insurance, said Mr. Dolan, "The lawyers are going to bring additional bench strength to our corporate merger and acquisitions practice and the insolvency group." Of late it has been a tough go for some independent law firms, squeezed by the creation of large national firms, especially in Montreal, where several Toronto-based firms have opened offices or merged with local firms. In the spring, Goodman and Carr LLP, a 90-lawyer Toronto firm, said it was dissolving its practice. Kip Cobbett, a lawyer with Stikeman Elliott LLP in Montreal, said it is "very sad" to see Desjardins' demise. "It was a wonderful firm. It will certainly change the landscape." The agreement is subject to a vote by the Lavery partners expected later this month. [email protected]