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Americas Derivatives Awards 2022 - Canadian Law Firm of the Year: Borden Ladner Gervais

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A law firm that continually demonstrates it is at the vanguard of derivative industry developments

Since the inception of this award, there has only ever been one winner. The asset class requires a global, integrated, cutting-edge practice group and Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) boasts one the largest and most experienced derivatives practices on the continent.

Always at the vanguard of industry developments, BLG spent 2021 working with issuers, investors and regulators on some of the sector's most important issues. Once again, the firm is GlobalCapital’s Canadian Derivatives Law Firm of the Year.

The sheer breadth of BLG’s activity speaks to its dominance in the derivatives market. The firm has long counted global asset managers, banks and corporates among its client base. The practice stands out from its competitors in providing exemplary service to both the users of derivatives and the dealers. Expert advice covers everything from structuring and regulatory compliance through to close-out issues and registration requirements.

There have been so many times we’ve brought firms together to help each other in a way that doesn’t result in legal work for the practice. We’re here to help our clients in any way that we can
Carol Derk, partner and head of the firm’s derivative practice.
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Increasingly, BLG is supporting cutting-edge innovation across the derivatives space, working on trading platforms driven by AI and distributed ledger technology. Canada’s crypto regulatory regime is built in part on its treatment of OTC derivatives. BLG’s derivatives team has significant crossover with the firm’s Digital Assets Group, which is at the forefront of the cryptocurrency and digital asset movement in Canada.

This has allowed the practice to adapt seamlessly to support the innovative wave of next generation derivatives. Standout work in 2021 included analysing whether wine futures are regulated derivatives in Canada, and how digital assets and NFTs should be structured to comply with regulation.

“That sort of fundamental analysis is something we've done for so many years that we were able to transition very easily into the crypto and digital asset space,” says Carol Derk, partner and head of the firm’s derivative practice.

BLG is often contacted directly by regulators to provide insight on how rules and frameworks affect the market. This relationship helps the firm not just analyse, but assist the emergence of new instruments and platforms. “Without that connectivity and collaboration with the regulators, there is no way we could have moved forward such a novel industry in such a short period of time,” says Julie Mansi, partner at BLG.

Our commitment to fully appreciating and understanding a client's needs has been a factor in helping the derivatives practice grow so successfully
Julie Mansi, partner at BLG.
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The firm works hard to instill the spirit of innovation and dedication in its staff, looking internally as well as further afield to build on its deep pool of talent. “There’s a strong focus on growing talent by training our younger lawyers and bringing them up to speed on these new issues,” says Derk. BLG takes its responsibility as market educator seriously, holding major teaching sessions for key players, including global banks, to help them build derivatives capacity. The firm’s derivatives lawyers serve on working groups sponsored by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, and are regular speakers at conferences and derivative law events.

But the firm’s core focus is on its clients. The breadth of BLG’s customer base and the complex nature of the derivatives industry means lawyers have to build expertise across multiple different sectors - from commodities and energy to real estate and health care.

“We are negotiating, canvassing and advocating for our clients,” says Mansi. “We can only do that from a position of knowledge and that knowledge cannot be superficial. No matter how technical the issues, it's crucial we understand their business in order to provide meaningful advice. Our commitment to fully appreciating and understanding a client's needs has been a factor in helping the derivatives practice grow so successfully.”

Spending time getting to grips with the details of a clients’ business also helps build strong, enduring relationships. BLG prides itself on taking the same comprehensive, collaborative approach with each client, no matter the size or scope, becoming a trusted advisor beyond just legal issues. “Clients will reach out to us for help and insight across the business,” says Derk. “There have been so many times we’ve brought firms together to help each other in a way that doesn’t result in legal work for the practice. We’re here to help our clients in any way that we can.”

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