May 23, 2014
By Jane Brown
A decision by Canada’s highest court reinforces the right of big law firms and other partnerships to force out senior partners when they turn 65.
Vancouver lawyer Mitch McCormick was a partner in the law office of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP for 30 years. During his tenure, the firm’s partnership agreement enforced mandatory retirement at 65. In 2009, when McCormick was 64, he challenged the mandatory retirement provision before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
In a unanimous 7-0 ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court said the Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to hear McCormick’s complaint because, “as an equity partner of the law firm, he was in effect his own boss and not a person vulnerable to its control.”
The decision is seen as a landmark ruling that gives accounting, law and other professional services partnerships, significant control over their ability to put time limits on their ownership.