Canada: At the Forefront of Technology and Life Sciences Practice in Canada and Beyond

Last Updated: November 19 2004

Published in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, October 2004.

Editor: Ms. Reicin, would you tell us something about your professional experience?

Reicin: I have been practicing corporate and securities law for over 20 years. My practice has been a general corporate practice focused on securities, financing, mergers and acquisitions and general corporate advice. Fifteen years ago I started getting involved in health technology and other technology competencies, and this has been the core of my practice ever since.

Editor: You are the practice leader of Torys’ technology and life sciences groups. For starters, please tell us how you came to this area.

Reicin: I wrote my economics thesis in 1980 on the emerging Israeli technology sector. This was very modest at the time, but since then Israel has emerged as one of the major technology centers in the world. I then spent a year working with the fledgling Israeli industry. That was a very good experience for me, and I developed a sense of the industry from the inside, which has served me well ever since. When I returned to the United States, I began working on health technology deals, and one deal soon led to another as clients began to recommend my services. Soon enough, I was spending most of my time in this area.

Editor: How did you come to Torys?

Reicin: Torys is known to have one of the best and most extensive technology practices in North America, and a few years ago Canada’s preeminent IP life sciences practice, led by Eileen McMahon and Conor McCourt, joined Torys. That sent a signal to everyone engaged in this area that Torys was determined to make its practice the standard by which other firms measured theirs. It certainly piqued my interest in Torys, and I followed the firm’s fortunes. Torys is unique in that it is a firm that values emerging companies and the entrepreneurial spirit but also has a blue chip institutional client base. Technology clients looking to grow can best be serviced by a firm that can take them from the cradle through growth, including major transactions, mergers and acquisitions and IPOs. However, most law firms with large and substantial clients and experience in sophisticated transactions do not seek entrepreneurial business clients. More importantly, I found I was constantly competing with Torys for new business. It’s now great to be part of the team.

Editor: What advantage does the life sciences sector in Canada offer?

Reicin: Canada is largely an untapped resource in the life sciences area. Yet Toronto is the fifth largest biotech research hub in North America, with a high level of innovation and much lower research costs than in the United States.

Life sciences investors are looking for ways to reduce risk. In my opinion, one of the best ways of reducing risk is to reduce costs. Costs of research in Canada can be, depending on the available tax credits, 30% to 50% less than the cost of doing the same research in the United States. And, with the average cost of bringing a drug to market exceeding $850 million, this amount of reduction – of even a portion – of those costs can be significant. In addition, the research facilities are top flight, as are the people who administer and operate them, and competition for the best investment opportunities is much less.

Our group at Torys is involved in cultivating those opportunities and in aiding with the commercialization and financing of the initiatives that result from them. Because of our cross-border capability, we help Canadian companies structure themselves so that they are attractive not only to Canadian investors, but also to U.S. investors.

Editor: Would you give us an overview of Torys’ life sciences group?

Reicin: At Torys, the life sciences group is a subset of the technology group. The latter has about 40 full-time lawyers, about half of whom have a corporate background; the others are from the IP and health regulatory fields. In addition, there are 15 to 20 lawyers from other disciplines or practice areas who spend a substantial amount of time working in the industry, including tax lawyers, litigators, employee benefits and labor lawyers.

Editor: What types of clients does your practice represent?

Reicin: The companies are U.S., Canadian, European and Israeli. We represent venture capitalists, investment bankers, biotech companies, medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies, nutraceutical companies, and just about any type of enterprise – whether neweconomy or traditional – that is interested in the creation, acquisition, use and commercial exploitation of technology. These organizations run the gamut from start-ups to later-stage and mature enterprises. They seek advice from us in a variety of areas that connect to technology and life sciences, including advice on private and public financings, the protection and commercial exploitation of intellectual property rights, e-commerce and Internet matters, technology contracting, litigation, stockholder and employment matters, international business structures, distribution arrangements, strategic alliances, partnerships and joint ventures, licensing, stock exchange listings, and mergers and acquisitions. In light of our extensive experience in all of these areas, we believe we are in a position to add significant value to the undertakings of these clients. As a measure of the quality of service we provide, I should note that many of these companies come to Torys for strategic planning advice.

Editor: Your group has the ability to draw upon the talents of people from all across the firm?

Reicin: Torys has extraordinary resources, and this is of great importance in serving life sciences companies. They carry on their activities all over the world and need a great many services, including IP advice, health regulatory advice, international tax planning and litigation services. There must be some coordination and prioritization of all these needs, and a firm like Torys – which has attorneys who really understand the industry – is in a position to bring it all together. As I say, this is how Torys adds value, and this is, I think, the way in which it differentiates itself from other firms. That familiarity with the industry and the ability to bring a whole battery of legal disciplines and specialties to bear on an issue constitute the firm’s value proposition.

Editor: A lawyer must have at least some understanding of the client’s business and the principles of the technology that underlie it in order to provide effective advice. To what extent is this a challenge for Torys?

Reicin: Far from being a challenge, this is where we have our edge. Our bench is quite formidable. As I indicated, our group includes approximately 20 IP lawyers. This number includes people with chemistry and biochemistry degrees, and people who have worked in this industry. They understand the industry’s knowledge base – the science and technology – and they are teamed with people like me who have spent years working with these companies on the particular business issues they face as technology enterprises. We are in a position to anticipate our clients’ legal needs and to help them develop strategies rather than respond passively to those needs.

Editor: I gather this is a borderless practice as well. The Toronto people call upon New York, and vice versa?

Reicin: Totally borderless – that’s the beauty. For our clients, this advantage offers less hassle and greater efficiency, not to mention cost savings. Our group offers clients the intimacy and responsiveness of a small firm but, at the same time, draws upon the resources of a firm consisting of more than 330 lawyers located in the key commercial centers of New York and Toronto. Our presence in these locations, with the skill sets and expertise we possess, enables us to serve our clients both nationally and internationally.

Editor: I gather this is an area of the law that is growing at a rapid pace. That is exciting, but there must be challenges at the same time. Can you share your thoughts with us on this?

Reicin: This is a practice area that requires its practitioners to be quick on their feet. The industry is dynamic. New issues are always arising, and we are required to be constantly creative. That’s what I like about it, and I find that my colleagues are also energized by the pace and dynamism of the practice. At the same time, recurring issues allow us to build on our previous experience. This is an area of the law that is new and that has developed its own set of precedents. As we move forward, those precedents provide a basis and framework for our practice.

Editor: What about the future? Where do you see Torys’ life sciences and technology groups in, say, five years?

Reicin: We will continue to dominate the Canadian market and become a substantial player in the U.S. market. As we grow our U.S. practice, our New York office will become our "base" office.

Editor: You combine a very active career as a lecturer and writer with your legal practice. How do these two aspects of your career connect?

Reicin: The two connect very well. In fact, the speaking and writing forces me to think of creative solutions and approaches to client issues. Speaking and writing is as much a learning experience as it is a teaching experience, and as a result I think I am able to bring more to my practice, and to my clients, than if I did not carry on with this activity. Most lawyers are busy with their practices just turning out deals and often don’t get a chance to take a step back and reflect on new structures and other creative ideas. Being proactive and thinking of new model ideas and approaches for my client is where I think I bring the most value.

Editor: Is there anything you would like to add?

Reicin: I enjoy working in a firm whose lawyers are totally dedicated to their clients. The compensation structure and team-oriented atmosphere are such that people want to work together, ensuring that the best resources and most appropriate people are put on each project. Not only is this a great way to practice law, it provides the best service to the clients. Our attorneys are focused on practicing law rather than internal politicking

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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