Dechert dragged into Coudert dispute by partner who was forced out

Dechert dragged into Coudert dispute by partner who was forced out” />A former partner of Coudert Brothers in Paris is suing his old firm, former colleagues and Coudert’s French merger partner Dechert for h2m (£1.35m).

A trial kicks off in October before the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris to hear Stephen Montravers’ case against Coudert, Dechert and 10 of his former partners.

Montravers left Coudert in December 2003 for Moquet Borde & Associés, which merged with Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker. In October 2004 he set up a commercial litigation boutique, Montravers & Partners.

Montravers alleges that Coudert dismissed him from the partnership without a full partners’ meeting of Coudert Paris, and that he was then prevented from having access to files and financial information.

He claims that Coudert did not respond to a request for arbitration before it dissolved in the summer of 2005, prompting him to file his claim before the tribunal. Dechert has been dragged into the case because it merged with Coudert’s Paris office in September 2005.

“I’ll try to clean up the situation my way,” Montravers said.

In the 73-page brief filed before the Paris court, it is claimed that the project to evict Montravers from the partnership began well before he left Coudert. Montravers was originally a litigation associate until 1994, when he left, along with four senior partners and three other lawyers, to set up independent firm Sokolow Dunaud Mercadier & Carreras.

However, in 1996 Montravers was tempted back to Coudert by Paris managing partner Jacques Buhart. He became an equity partner in January 1997 and between 1999 and 2001 worked closely with Buhart and fellow management committee member Jonathan Wohl.

Montravers claims that following the election of Steven Beharrell to the role of firm chairman in 2002, he and Buhart were ousted from their management roles at a September 2002 Paris partners’ meeting to which both arrived late due to other commitments. Buhart was replaced by George Yates as office managing partner.

The brief claims that Buhart was later expelled from the partnership “with extreme brutality”, adding: “The expulsion of Monsieur Buhart by the executive board and by Monsieur Yates rings – without him knowing it – Monsieur Montravers’ ‘death sentence’.” Montravers alleges that he then had to fight for his monthly drawings and later withdrew from elections for the Paris Bar Council in order to devote himself to the firm. However, according to the brief, he was then taken off email distribution lists and was told he was expelled from the firm.

The total amount of damages claimed adds up to h2m, including payments for drawings, for six months’ notice that Montravers says he was not allowed to work, repayment of h165,617 (£112,050) in capital contributions and h1.45m (£980,000) in damages.