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Revenue hike of 47 per cent hoists Ashursts into top 20; domestic firms fall behind with slow growth
Ashurst Morris Crisp has gatecrashed France's top-20 law firms, according to the latest research by Juristes Associés. Ashursts' revenue has risen by a staggering 47 per cent to £20.9m, due mainly to its strong private equity practice led by partner Thomas Forschbach. Ashursts Paris managing partner Christopher Crosthwaite said: "There were a number of big private equity deals in France and we were involved in most of them." The firm advised on Schneider-Legrand, the biggest deal in France last year. In addition, Forschbach advised the private equity consortium that bought the transmission tower business of Télédiffussion de France and also worked on the E1.5bn (£1.1bn) Elis leveraged buyout (LBO). Crosthwaite attributed a small portion of Ashursts' phenomenal figures to luck. "On any major disposal every one is pitching. You can be a terribly good law firm and be unlucky not to be advising the winning party," he said. A failure to advise the winning bidder in France's numerous auctions accounts for a large part of Shearman & Sterling's 6.3 per cent drop in turnover. Shearman advised failed bidders on the Elis and Schneider-Legrand LBOs, Carlyle Group and Eurazeo on their failed bid for Houghton Mifflin, and Schroder Salomon Smith Barney on the proposed high-yield debt financing for France Telecom's sale of its transmission towers. Shearman's blip aside, Anglo-Saxon firms are beginning to dominate France's top 20. Lovells can boast of a healthy 20.3 per cent rise in turnover, a figure that local managing partner Robert Follie claimed was due to 2002 being the first full financial year that the firm has had as a fully merged entity. Despite a tough year, most firms have recorded an increase in turnover. Clifford Chance posted a 15.2 per cent rise to E84.7m (£59.6m). Yves Wehrli, managing partner of Clifford Chance's Paris office, said: "The lateral hires, including the most recent arrivals - Jean-Pierre Grandjean from Bredin Prat and Claude Lazarus from Herbert Smith - have helped to develop the business." Of the French firms, only Bredin Prat has shown a substantial rise, up 14.8 per cent to E35m (£24.6m), while Gide Loyrette Nouel has shown a solid 9.2 per cent rise in turnover to E108.1m (£76m). Gide's recent investments in new offices in the UK and Morocco came in 2003 and would not have affected these figures, which relate to the calendar year 2002.