The Inside Story of the Rise and Fall of Heenan Blaikie

​Heenan Blaikie was one of Canada’s leading law firms that boasted 1,100 employees and once had two former prime ministers on its staff—Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. When it collapsed in February 2014, lawyers across Canada and the business community were stunned. What went wrong? Why did so many lawyers run for the exit? How did it implode? What is it that holds professional partnerships together?

This is the story of the rise and fall of a great company by the ultimate insider, Norman Bacal, who served as managing partner until a year before the firm’s demise. Breakdown takes readers into the boardroom offices during the heady growth of a legal empire built from the ground up over 40 years. We see how after a change of leadership tensions erupted between the Toronto and Montreal offices, and between the hard-driving lawyers themselves. It is a story about the extraordinary fragility of the legal partnership, but it’s also a classic business story, a cautionary tale of the perils of ignoring a firm’s culture and vision.

book specs

6” x 9” 352 pgs.


$29.95 (Hardcover)
$16.99 (eBook)


978-1-988025-15-5 (Hardcover)
978-1-988025-20-9 (eBook)

release date

February 28, 2017

media contact

Sarah Barlow



in Management on,

in Legal Profession on

in Legal History on


Top 100 Best Seller


for Canadian Non-ficton, during the week of March 25, 2017

Globe and Mail

An illuminating insider’s account of the collapse of one of Canada’s premier law firms. Puts you in the passenger seat of a train wreck.

Jacquie McNishSenior CorrespondentThe Wall Street Journal

Good storytelling makes for a good book. Norman Bacal’s ability to render a business story accessible to all readers, not just lawyers, makes this an entertaining read.

Robert LantosFilm Producer, ChairmanSerendipity Point Films

A fascinating and important business story, whose lessons on the impact of culture and leadership apply to all organizations, regardless of size, sector or geography.

Calin RovinescuPresident and CEOAir Canada

Jaw dropping!

Drew HasselbackEditorLegal Post section of the National Post

…Great flow and well put together. It all boils down to leadership…an awesome read…

Ellis JacobPresident and CEOCineplex

An enjoyable read.

Canadian Business History Association


June 4, 2018Norman Bacal will be speaking at a conference organized by the management consulting Burnie Group in Toronto.
March 7, 2018Norman Bacal will be giving a talk at Osgood Hall.
February 14, 2018Norman Bacal will be giving a talk at the University of Ottawa.
January 24, 2018Norman Bacal will be talking about his bestselling book, Breakdown, at the venerable Toronto Club on January 24. He’ll talk about the rise and fall of the Heenan Blaikie law firm that he led until a year before its sudden demise.