The Calgary Alphabet

A big part of what I do/did for Lexpert is interpret Calgary and Alberta for Bay Street. (It’s true. They don’t get us. At all). Rarely have I done it better than in the December 2011 Last Word, C is for Calgary. This particular piece is dedicated to, and inspired by, Ken Mills, the Calgary managing partner of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. Mills is always prepared for me. He has notes. And when I came to interview him for my Calgary legal market post-Norton Rose and Torys, he was uber-prepared. He had a list. It was alphabetized. He ‘fessed up about his thing for the alphabetical order. I loved it. And I had this Last Word written in my head before I left the office. Full text follows.

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Last Word: The Calgary Alphabet / C is for Calgary

by Marzena Czarnecka

You’re either here, you want to be here, or you don’t understand what all the fuss about here is. For all of you, a Calgary primer, a Calgary alphabet, a Calgary ode. You knew I’d need to fly the Calgary flag the month I write a Calgary story, didn’t you?

A is for—no, not Alberta, how dull would that be? Asia, my friend. All of Asia.

B is for Bennett Jones, Burnet Duckworth & Palmer and Blakes—three firms with very different business models, each successful in this market. And, above all, B is for boom and bust… which takes us to…

C is for Cyclical. As in, “It’s a cyclical thing.” It’s not a cliche, it’s the oilpatch’s truth.

D is for Cynamic. One of our favourite adjectives, even during a downturn. (D is not for downturn.)

E is for Energy, what else. And also EnCana, the plans of ambitions of which are a market marker. We’re watching you, Mr. Hopwood. (If you don’t care who Terry Hopwood is, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of understanding Calgary. Google it.)

F is for Fun. What you’ll have when you come to visit, especially in the first two weeks of July.

G is for Fas, of which there’s still more—waaaay more—around here than of oil. We’re pleased as punch that we’ve come this far on sub-normal gas prices. Just watch us soar if when they do. Also for Greenfield, of course: tough to do here, but they keep on trying, bless their ambitious little hearts.

H is for Hunger, world-wide, for what we’ve got. That’d be oil. And, we hope, gas? Don’t you people need gas too?

I is for In-house counsel. Colleagues. Alumni. Competitors for talent. Handers out of work. Gods.

J is for Jilted Lover Syndrome, an affliction an awful lot of Calgary partners are suffering from these days. They would not have gone over to the new greenfields for nuthin’, not for love or money—definitely not for money, no—but why didn’t anyone call them?

K is for King Ralph. Love him or loathe him, Ralph Klein’s ascent from city hall reporter to mayor to premier and his legacy define Calgary—and could only have happened here.

L is for Lexus, the SUV of choice among your Calgary partners (yes, it’s a mystery.) Also for Lawyers and Law firms—of whom/which we have many. Too many. Too few. Both, sometimes at the same time, depending on who you ask.

M is for Meritocracy, with a capital M. And also for money. We like money here, and we don’t sugar-coat it.

N is for Norton Rose. Yes, we Noticed. Now, what Next?

O is for Oil. Enuf’ said.

P is for Per-Partner-Profits, high. Calgary may bill less per hour than Toronto, but the PPPs, well, they may not necessarily be less. You knew there was a reason you wanted to be here, right? (Also see M.)

Q is for Qi, an ancient Chinese coin, and also an alternate spelling of chi, that New Age energy thing. Energy, get it? China, get it? OK, I’ll stop.

R is for Recruiters. On every doorstep. Except yours. Why haven’t they called you yet. (See J.)

S is for Stampede. Yee-haw. You should come. And sands, oil. We don’t use the ‘T’ word in that context here.

T is emphatically not for tar. Toronto? Not so much on our minds these days. Torys in Town. WhaT’s nexT?

U is for US, naturally. What it used to be all about up here… and which is still right below us, still consumes most voraciously what we’ve got, and still has the power to fuel our growth or stall it.

V is for Vancouver. Hasn’t always been—we didn’t use to think we had a lot of synergies with the Left Coast. But to get our crude to Asia, we’ve got to get it there first. Like Toronto and Montreal, we’ve got to look West to get East.

W is for Wild West. Life’s better out here.

X is for X-rated gossip on the street. I was going to tell you about it but I want to have a career, and odds are you’ll find out anyway if you keep your ear to the group, but, well, ok, here goes…

Y is for Yes. The default answer here to “Can you do it?” (Do we want to do it? Well, that’s another question altogether.)

Z is for zeros, six. Where we start the conversation. Zeros, nine—where it goes the minute someone says oil sands.

Marzena Czarnecka is a Calgary native, which means she was born elsewhere but after she got here, no matter how many times she tries to leave, she just keeps on coming back, cause there’s no place like this in the world. The format of this piece is inspired, and an homage to, Ken Mills, managing partner of the Calgary office of Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP, who has a thing for organizing things alphabetically.

Thomson Reuters article record

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