French seek barricades to halt Anglo-Saxon invasion

The French bar is looking to give membership to in-house lawyers in an effort to make a united stand against the Anglo-Saxon law firms and accountancy-linked legal practices that are flooding into Paris.

The proposals come in response to the Rapport Nallet, a government report on multidisciplinary practices published in July.

In addition to recommending that MDPs should be accepted by the bar association, which has already been vetoed, the report also suggested the unification of the legal profession.

The proposal has prompted a furious debate, with private practice lawyers accusing their in-house counterparts of being professionally inferior.

Discussions are on-going in Paris between the Conseils Barreaux, which represents private practice lawyers (avocats), and the Association de Conseils d'Entreprises, which represents France's in-house legal advisers.

Jacques-Philippe Gunther, Freshfields partner and vice-president of the association which represents avocats under the age of 40, says that his association is strongly opposed to the move, on the grounds that the avocats would lose their independence.

Traditionally, French in-house lawyers have been regarded as inferior to avocats, with the latter group regarding the former as would-be avocats who failed to make the grade.

A final decision is expected from the Paris bar in March next year.