Fidal sets sights on international expansion as turnover rises 1.5%

French giant Fidal is focusing on building up its cross-border capabilities in a bid to change clients’ perception of the former accountancy-tied firm.

Fidal has merged its two Paris bases into a single office, joining up its ‘international’ team and its ‘Paris’ team – which formerly worked out of separate buildings on opposite banks of the river Seine – into one office in the French capital’s business district of La Défense. Both teams field around 200 lawyers.

The move follows a solid but unexceptional financial year. Fidal reported turnover growth of 1.5 per cent for 2013, with revenues rising from €317.7m (13 March 2013) to €322.6m last year. Around 70 per cent of revenue is derived from legal services, with tax advice providing the balance.

Partner and international steering committee head Christine Blaise-Engel said the firm now wants to build up its capabilities internationally and make its 50,000 clients more aware that the firm is able to advise on cross-border transactions.

“These clients have needs outside France and we need to be able to serve them,” Blaise-Engel said.

She admitted that Fidal has struggled in the past with communicating its strategy to clients, with many still thinking of the firm as a domestically focused outfit with ties to Big Four accountancy firm KMPG. Fidal was part of the firm’s legal network KLegal until it collapsed in 2003 (10 November 2003) but has been slower to reinvent itself than Iberian firm Garrigues, which was a member of the Andersen Legal network until Enron caused the parent firm’s collapse in 2002 (1 April 2002).

Fidal maintains a vast network of around 90 offices across France. Paris turned over around €100m last year, but regional offices performed more strongly. Blaise-Engel pointed to transactions such as Chinese investment in Bordeaux wineries as examples of the way Fidal is already carrying out internationally-focused deals.

“We want to develop the international network for the benefit of all Fidal,” she added.

The decision to merge the Paris offices to boost the firm’s profile follows the 2011 alliance agreement with Brazilian firm Siqueira Castro (14 February 2011). Fidal also maintains relationships with Canadian firm Miller Thomson and Portugal’s Abreu Advogados, but Blaise-Engel said the firm is also seeking to build stronger relationships with other firms across Europe.

Garrigues is also focusing heavily on its international strategy at present, and is in the process of launching its own offices in Latin America after pulling out of its regional alliance (29 October 2013).