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A leading real estate law expert retires

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Me Pierre-Denis Leroux.  Photo: Blakes website

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Me Pierre-Denis Leroux. Photo: Blakes website

After 40 years of practice, Me Pierre-Denis Leroux, withdraws, at the start of 2021. He is leaving Blakes, where he had been a partner since 2011.

Specialized in real estate law, the lawyer admitted to the Bar in 1980 is very recognized in this field. He has been named in numerous directories, including the Who’s Who of Real Estate Lawyers.

Droit-inc took advantage of his retirement to discuss his impressive career with him.

Droit-inc: You announced that you were retiring after 40 years of practice … Was it a long-considered decision?

Absolutely. For a long time, I was planning to retire around the age of 60 … And it was already about three years that it was planned. The clients I worked with most often were well aware.

Is there an age limit at Blakes for associates?

In fact, associates usually retire between the ages of 60 and 65 … I fall into that category (laughs)!

And why did you make this decision?

It is demanding, the practice of law in a large firm. I have had a fascinating career, which has led me to deal with all kinds of questions in all kinds of fields – obviously, always around the same themes … You can say that I have been around the garden quite a bit. .

I still have a lot of passion for the practice of law, I have always had … But I have reached this point in my personal development.

What are your projects?

I have all kinds of plans. Obviously, I have a lot of personal projects – I will be 65 in a few months … Although currently, with the pandemic and the confinement, personal projects are a bit suspended (laughs)!

I have plenty of things on my mind, and plenty more that are pending, while these restrictions are lifted.

From a professional point of view, I have all kinds of business projects in which I am involved, which will continue to occupy me.

I will no longer have to work intensely … Very often, it has been seven days a week … I say all the time that I have done, every year since the start of my career, several nights white – less in recent years, but still – working until the wee hours of the morning …

I don’t have to do that anymore. So I can choose what I do, and do things that interest me more.

I’m retiring, but I’m not dead either (laughs)! I’m actually retiring from Blakes … it’s more of that.

Can you give us more details on these projects?

These are real estate projects, in particular, which are personal to me, on which I started to work a little more intensely. Projects with people with whom I have collaborated over these 40 years, with whom I have kept a more solid contact …

Do you think you will miss the practice?

It is certain that we cannot cut ties abruptly with such an active practice … Of course I will miss it at times, but I will still be active in these other projects. .

You have to move on at some point. I have had colleagues, over the years, who worked until they were over 80 … That was never my intention (laughs)!

When you have a very intense practice, when you are very busy, which I have been during these 40 years, you don’t have a lot of time to yourself … There are things that I have always wanted to do and that I never had the time to do … There, I got there.

Have you always been in the real estate business?

These are all things that are related in a way … At the very beginning of my practice, I did a lot of life insurance, on the litigation side. At the time, there were a lot more life insurance companies, companies … which led me to transition to real estate law, first at the bankruptcy and insolvency level. I practiced for several years in this field.

Subsequently, it led me to restructure properties, projects, to re-develop them, to sell them, to finance them or to assist clients who did that … And so, since 1995, I have not been doing no more litigation at all. I focus on real estate transactions, financing, acquisitions-dispositions, I have also done a lot of securitization, over the years – most of the time related to real estate.

Where did you start your career?

I started practicing at Lafleur Brown, which at the very beginning was called Lafleur Brown De Grandpré, a Montreal firm that had a smaller office in Toronto at the time … I was there for about 20 years. I really liked that time (laughs)!

I have known some very interesting people, from whom I have learned a lot, including the one person who I truly consider to have been my mentor in the practice of law, Louis-Philippe De Grandpré, of which I have fond memories, and who is now deceased. He was a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, and he is known to have been a very great lawyer.

About a year before I left to join Blakes, the office merged with Gowling.

Then I joined Blakes… I was there for three years. Then I left to go to McCarthy Tétrault, where I stayed for eight years. Then I returned to Blakes at the end of 2011.

What made you come back to Blakes?

It’s all a combination of circumstances. I was not looking to change cabinet as such, but over discussions with colleagues – who are now retired, by the way! – I agreed to join Blakes.

You have developed a fairly specific specialization in commercial mortgages … How did you get there?

I’ve always really enjoyed doing things that weren’t commonplace, seeing a bit of what was done elsewhere, a lot in the United States, in the financial field, and applying that here. That’s kind of what happened …

I have a client, an international bank, which had a huge project in France, the financing of which was provided through securitization. This client involved me in this project, and subsequently, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which invested directly in commercial real estate financing at the time (today, it has become Otéra), wanted to get into this field, which did not exist in Canada. There was no market, there had never been a transaction, before the one we started.

They retained my services, we set up the whole structure and we developed the market here in Canada. We adapted that to the laws of Quebec, and we were the pioneers, together. It was an adventure that lasted several years!

These were public transactions, pan-Canadian public offerings, which, from a legal point of view, I managed from Montreal, and I worked with the people from the CDPQ, who were based in Montreal, too. It was a great experience!

Does it hurt your heart not to be able to see all your colleagues, to say goodbye to them … in the context of the pandemic?

Obviously, this is a rather specific context, but it was planned for a long time before the pandemic …

Also, I really enjoyed the personal relationships with clients. I have always had more work entrusted to me than I was able to do on my own … My practice was not primarily a benchmark practice of other lawyers in the same firm, in other cities … I have always had my files directly from clients, and I saw clients a lot. I was doing a lot of follow-up on these relationships. And that I miss a lot. There are some people I probably won’t see again.

When I announced my retirement on Linkedin last week, I got a lot of posts and comments … very positive, very complimentary.

I haven’t had the chance to see everyone, and there are several that I would have liked to see, that I would have liked to talk to before I bowed out, but… it’s not bad everybody!

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