Deloitte & Touche Juridique et Fiscal, the Paris legal arm of the Big Six accountancy firm, is to merge with French law firm Thomas & Associes in a move that will create the fourth largest law firm in France.
The new firm, which will begin operating on 1 September, will bring together 200 lawyers, including 30 partners, and will join KPMG's French associate Fidal, Gide Loyrette Nouel and Arthur Andersen's firm Archibald Andersen in the top four in France.
A medium-sized Paris commercial firm, Thomas & Associes has a strong banking law department and the merger is seen a major boost for Deloitte & Touche Juridique et Fiscal, increasing its credibility as an all-round commercial law firm.
Dominique Lartigue, chairman of Deloitte & Touche Juridique et Fiscal, and Jean Bernard Thomas, Thomas & Associes founder and senior partner, will be joint managing partners. No decision, however, has yet been made on the new firm's name. It will operate under both firms' names in the interim.
Thomas said of the merger that it would "allow us to offer our clients in France and abroad a complete range of international services.
"For the Deloitte & Touche practice, this is a decisive step in developing a world-wide network of lawyers."
Paul Downing, head of European legal network at Price Waterhouse, said: "The French market is restructuring swiftly and the pace of change is accelerating. I would expect quite a few mergers to take place in the next six months."
John Sell, a partner at Klein-Goddard Associes, Theodore Goddard's Paris firm, agreed. He said Deloittes move was "likely to be a spur to those thinking about such mergers."
He said the alliance had caused "consternation" in the French legal market. "Thomas may have seen this as the future for many middle-sized French firms," he added.