OTTAWA -- Former federal Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay has joined the Toronto law firm of Baker and McKenzie, but he's refusing to rule out a return to politics.

He says going back to practising law was always part of his plan and the opportunity to advise on a range of matters, including government and regulatory enforcement, is too good to pass up.

It does mean that he will be moving to Toronto, but MacKay insists he'll still keep his home in Pictou County, Nova Scotia where he grew up and launched his political career and he is used to the commuting lifestyle after years in Ottawa.

He represented the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova for 18 years and served as defence, justice and foreign affairs minister before leaving politics last May.

MacKay says the time is right to move to the private sector and begin the next phase of his career.

Following the Conservative defeat in last fall's election, MacKay's name was bandied about as a possible successor to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

"I've tried throughout my life and professional career to not rule things out -- or close doors," MacKay said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Monday.

"So, it's not where I've been focused of late. My focus has been to return to the private sector and the practice of law, to make that career transition and all of that has been predicated on putting my family first."

But MacKay also noted that he has dedicated a good portion of his life to public service and he doesn't want to be "unnecessarily limiting myself to say, 'No, I'll never go back to public life'."

But he said politics is not his intent now.

Starting his new job, MacKay said he received "several large briefing books" on international cases and issues that the firm is dealing with and the experience almost made him believe he was back in government.