From my discussions with insiders, it appears that the carnage from the dissolution of Heenan Blaikie continues as professional administrative staff (IT, HR, marketing, support staff, etc. ) are left in limbo as to what will happen to those not moving with the mass exodus of lawyers to other law firms.
There have been allegations that the dissolution was not managed well by the firm’s executive team. From the descriptions I have heard, it very much seems like an “every man/woman for his/herself” situation with panicked lawyers desperately calling around for a job while support staff were left to watch in distress and shock.
Even on the Titanic, women and children were, for the most part, put on the lifeboats first – it seems that times have changed.
Staff and lawyers have complained about the lack of a communication strategy, which only added to the stress and chaos.
There will surely be many unflattering stories coming to light about the firm’s lawyers and how they reacted to the dissolution; I have already heard a number of them.
Did some of these smart, professional and ethical lawyers act in a manner that brings the profession’s already dismal approval ratings up, or down? Only history will tell us.
Bill Gates’ mother wrote a letter to his then-fiancé Melinda on the eve of their wedding. She ended it with the quote, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” It is a variation of the oft-quoted Spiderman phrase “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Bible scholars will recognize it as a variation from Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
No matter who said it first, executive teams at all law firms in this country have to keep it in mind. Much had been given to the lawyers at most Canadian law firms – particularly those of Heenan’s size – and so much should be expected of them. Support staff are an intricate and indispensable part of delivering legal services. They should not be treated as after-thoughts in any race to the lifeboats.
The question that still remains unanswered in my mind however, is how could really smart lawyers move their clients and entrust their entire career to another law firm on about 24 hours of thinking and due diligence?
Would they advise their own clients to do that?