Freshfields, Paris

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Paris office was the first of the firm’s 28 foreign offices to open, in 1972. Initially the office was staffed with UK lawyers, but Freshfields quickly realised that it needed a French law capability. In 1980 the first French avocats joined the firm and it has never looked back.

Firm:Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

, Paris
Managing partner: Jean-Claude Cotoni
Turnover: €106.5m (£72.84m)
Profit per equity partner: £700,000
Total number of lawyers: 195
Total number of partners: 39
Main practice areas: Corporate, finance, litigation, real estate
Key clients: Nomura, Goldman Sachs, Total, IXIS, Société Générale, Calyon, Gaz de France, Cinven, BNP Paribas, Bouygues, France Telecom

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Paris office was the first of the firm’s 28 foreign offices to open, in 1972. Initially the office was staffed with UK lawyers, but Freshfields quickly realised that it needed a French law capability. In 1980 the first French avocats joined the firm and it has never looked back.

Managing partner Jean-Claude Cotoni was elected to the role in June 2004, replacing the previous incumbent Jean-Luc Michaud. Michaud is now a member of Freshfields’ firmwide partnership council, continuing the office’s tradition of contributing to the overall management of the firm.

Cotoni says the Paris office has an important role to play in Freshfields as a whole.

“It does offer the network a first-class French practice in all our practice groups,” he says. Freshfields Paris has lawyers practising across the board, but its particular focus is on corporate. The firm’s French M&A team – which covers the tax, competition, employment, IP and IT aspects of corporate law – brings in 45 per cent of Freshfields’ French turnover of e106.5m (£72.84m).

The finance and public law team is the next biggest, accounting for 22 per cent of turnover. Dispute resolution is not far behind with 20 per cent, although Cotoni explains that much of this work consists of international arbitration.

There are five arbitration partners based in Paris, which is a centre for this booming area, compared with three litigation partners. The litigators focus on domestic disputes, particularly bankruptcy and regulatory work.

According to Cotoni, the bulk of the work undertaken in Paris is sourced from France.

“I’d say that around 75 per cent of business is derived from Paris for established domestic and international clients,” he estimates. “The balance is work originated from other Freshfields offices.”

Cotoni and Michaud both say that Freshfields’ size makes it stand out in a crowded Paris market. The firm now employs nearly 200 lawyers, including 39 partners. It also owns a 49 per cent stake in notarial firm Didier Lasaygues, set up by the eponymous former Freshfields senior associate in 1997. The association with Didier Lasaygues means that Freshfields can provide a full range of French real estate services, as a notary is required for many transactions.

Cotoni denies that the loss of newly nominated corporate head Arnaud Pérès to Davis Polk & Wardwell in July last year was a major blow, saying that the firm has nevertheless continued to bring in big deals.

However, Freshfields is unlikely to be striking back with lateral hires of its own – Cotoni thinks the practice is now of an adequate size and strength. He now plans to focus on retaining lawyers by providing quality work and a decent work-life balance.

Firm: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Paris
Managing partner: Jean-Claude Cotoni
Turnover: e106.5m (£72.84m)
Profit per equity partner: £700,000
Total number of lawyers: 195
Total number of partners: 39
Main practice areas: Corporate, finance, litigation, real estate
Key clients: Nomura, Goldman Sachs, Total, IXIS, Société Générale, Calyon, Gaz de France, Cinven, BNP Paribas, Bouygues, France Telecom