John Mercury talks one-on-one with Canadian Lawyer on becoming the next Executive Chair of Bennett Jones, starting on January 1, 2024. Dominique Hussey will become the firm's new CEO on the same date.
John says that a change in leadership doesn’t mean that Bennett Jones will be changing how it operates—it’s the opposite.
The change will be an evolution with a seamless transition. “When you’ve had a leader in place for so many years, naturally, everyone—clients, the firm—is looking for, ‘what's the next signal?’, and I think that sending the right strategic message, a message of inclusiveness and stability, will be really the key, and thanking our clients,” he says.
Canadian Lawyer spoke with John about his work and strong relationships in New York, how Bennett Jones trains its lawyers, the importance of discipline and focus and why it's so critical to understand the businesses and industries of the firm's clients.
John says he doesn’t believe in being all things to all people and that his preferred model is finding the right people who can offer specific services strategically. Any effort Bennett Jones puts into growth will be done in a "very disciplined manner in a very competitive landscape," he says.
“I use the word ‘discipline’ deliberately because I think it’s important for all firms to have their thesis and to really stick to their knitting. We’ve just seen too many stories where a lack of that discipline can [hurt]. I don't think you can afford that in this marketplace. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
At the same time, John says the need for being disciplined, strategic and careful, is just one aspect of the business. The other side is the spirit in which the firm was founded, and that is a vital part of what makes Bennett Jones the firm it is, and it’s an essential aspect Mercury doesn’t want to lose.
“Last year, we celebrated our 100th anniversary, but we started representing risk-takers and entrepreneurs and pioneers. That impacts the nature of your service when you are spending decades and decades representing people who are on that side of the table. That’s where we flourished. Obviously, we will have a diverse client base, but that entrepreneurial spirit is not something we want to lose and that we will actively try to maintain. That’s something that unites our offices, our philosophy,” he explains.