Buffalo Law Journal: Toronto law firm courts WNY clients

December 17, 2018 
Patrick Connelly  – Editor/Reporter, Buffalo Law Journal, Buffalo Business First

Attorney Allan Ritchie isn’t a Western New York native but he believes in the economy here and the direction it’s trending.

“It’s a different Buffalo than it was 15 years ago,” said Ritchie, a Canadian attorney who every month spends a week or more in Buffalo to meet with his employees, fellow lawyers and clients.

“I think the growth is going to be dictated by the amount of north-south trade that goes on and the growth of the Buffalo business community,” he said. “I’m definitely bullish on Buffalo as an economic hub. I’m confident that regardless of the political situation, businesses on both sides of the border know that it’s important that we get along, know that it’s important that trade continues and grows. I’m very optimistic.”

Ritchie is managing partner of the Toronto-based Loopstra Nixon LLP but spends 75 percent of his time with a team of attorneys from the firm growing its cross-border practice.

To Ritchie and Loopsta Nixon, a cross-border practice is one where attorneys work alongside their U.S. counterparts to provide Canadian business law advice to clients with existing Canadian interests or an ambition to expand.

“We want to be here (in Buffalo) to understand the business community that they operate in and be able to build relationships that are face-to-face,” he said.

The firm delved into the concept in 2004 that this could be an area in which it could serve clients. The Buffalo office opened in January 2017.

“In the years leading up to the office opening, we noticed an increasing amount of north-south business between Toronto and Buffalo and also noticed that the Toronto legal market was largely ignoring the resurgence in Buffalo’s economy,” he said.

“A lot of our referral sources are lawyers and professionals in Buffalo who have a very deep relationship with their clients. We may be only dealing with a small Canadian slice of what they’re doing, so we want to have a deep relationship with their advisers because we’re not necessarily getting transparency into every element of the business.

“The only way that we can come to the table with that level of trust is to get to know all the people working day to day with them,” Ritchie said. “We spend a lot of time meeting lawyers in Buffalo, meeting with accountants in Buffalo, explaining what we can do and explaining how we can help their clients.”

Ritchie started his legal career at Loopstra Nixon, then moved to a firm where he handled work between Canada and Chicago. Along the way he noticed the impact the Canadian connection had on business growth.

He returned to Loopstra Nixon in 2010 and sought to sharpen the practice’s focus as business development grew in the Toronto-Buffalo corridor.

The cross-border practice now makes up about 30 percent of the firm’s overall business and he believes that will continue to rise, he said.

“It’s a big part of what we do and a big part of where we’re going,” he said. “It starts with the actual geography and the real estate development that’s going on here. There are a lot of exciting places to be in Buffalo down at Canalside. The buildings that are going up and the growth of the professionals here I think are being noticed by the outsiders and people particularly in Southern Ontario.”

In 2018 in Buffalo, Ritchie said the cross-border team:

  • Assisted numerous privately held corporations in the acquisition of Canadian companies or the formation of new companies for Canadian growth initiatives.
  • Assisted a multi-national company in negotiating the acquisition of a power plant in Fort Erie, including navigating regulatory matters and negotiating acquisition terms.
  • Partnered with a large law firm in connection with the rollout of a wireless telecommunications strategy for one of the largest U.S. media companies, advising on Canadian commercial agreements and Canadian telecommunications regulatory matters.
  • Acted on behalf of a manufacturer of industrial, commercial and consumer electrical components in regard to a major product-liability case in Canada.

“I think the areas that are most exciting that we see Buffalo developing are technology and biotechnology,” he said. “We are big fans of the city and it’s fun to watch it develop.”

Ritchie also said the new trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has brought some solace.

“I think the biggest elements that facilitated north-south trade have remained,” he said. “There’s nothing there that I see as a barrier to continued prosperous trade between the U.S. and Canada.”