International Report: Racine

French independent Racine has grown in leaps and bounds in the quarter of a century since its establishment. The firm was founded in 1981, turning over Ffr221,000 (the equivalent of e34,000 (£23,390)). Since then it has grown by 27 per cent each year on average, bringing in €12m (£8.3m) for 2005.

Current managing partner Bruno Cavalié has been in charge since 1996, when Racine took on its present name and form.

“I wanted to create a firm that’s like me,” explains Cavalié. “I wanted to cultivate a way of working which is very close to clients. I had a vision that was quite Anglo-Saxon. I copied a lot from the Anglo-Saxons.”

Cavalié believes this means working in a more organised fashion than French firms tend to, and for the firm’s lawyers to work more closely together. In total, Racine has a legal staff of 65, including 19 partners. They are spread over four French offices in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Paris. The firm also has associations with firms in Brussels, Luxembourg, Budapest and Sofia, as well as being a member of networking organisation TAGLaw.

The firm is likely to expand further within France. Other cities in which it is looking for a base include Nantes and Lille, both big industrial centres where Racine has an impressive client list of large corporates.

Much of the work handled by Racine is contentious, although it does have a corporate capability. Around 35 per cent of its turnover comes from mid-market M&A work. A recent deal saw corporate partner Luc Pons advise Vivendi Universal Games on the disposal of Coktel, a subsidiary specialising in educational software.

Other clients include international giants such as Air France, luxury brands such as Gucci and stalwarts of the French retail and industrial markets such as sports retailer Decathlon and construction company Eiffage.

Cavalié believes that the firm’s strength in litigation and arbitration gives it the edge over its US and UK rivals. “They can’t break into litigation,” he says.

Racine’s contentious capability is extensive and extends from construction litigation to media law. It also claims an advantage through knowledge of the local bars and its presence in the regions.

Apart from the plans for Nantes and Lille, Racine is unlikely to become a very big law firm in terms of people. Cavalié is content with it being the sixteenth-largest independent firm in France, but that is where things stop.

“We’re not looking to grow,” he says. “We’re looking to get along well – getting on well is the key.”

Managing partner: Bruno Cavalié
Turnover: e12m (£8.3m)
Total number of partners: 19
Main practice areas: Litigation, corporate
Key clients: Air France, Electricité de France, Gaz de France, Gucci, Hermes, McDonald’s, Vivendi
Number of offices: Four
Locations: Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Paris