… while R&W's Paris office plots breakaway

Rogers & Wells' highly profitable Paris office is offering itself as a unit to rival firms because of unhappiness over the planned merger with Clifford Chance.

“The real powerhouses at the office are not happy with the merger,” a source close to the merger says.

This is because the merger with Clifford Chance will see Rogers & Wells move away from its highly merit-based pay structure towards Clifford Chance's lockstep system.

The Paris office would be attractive to a number of foreign firms without operations in the city.

Sources in Paris tell The Lawyer that Paris partners have been in advanced talks with US firm Latham & Watkins but that these broke down last week.

Unlike Rogers & Wells' London office, which only practises US law, the Paris office practises mainly French law and runs virtually independently of the rest of the firm, with a separate profit-share scheme.

The source says the office was initially set up as a satellite operation which has succeeded beyond the expectations of New York.

“Rogers & Wells impressed upon them that they would have to make their own money, and this turned out to be very favourable for the people in Paris,” the source says.

Since 1990, French bar rules have not allowed any foreign firm not already established to set up in the country.

The inside source says that Rogers & Wells' other foreign offices – in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong – are likely to be integrated relatively painlessly with those of Clifford Chance.

Last month The Lawyer revealed that Rogers & Wells partners were circulating their CVs to other firms.

Rogers & Wells' Paris office was unavailable for comment as The Lawyer went to press.