The big five accountancy-tied legal practices and the international firms together make up 59 per cent of the top 100 by turnover, compared with 57 per cent last year. What is more, three UK firms – Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters – are now in the French top 10, ranked by turnover.
Because of their regional mass-market practices the big five dominate the revenue tables, representing 30 per cent of the total. Fidal-KLegal maintains its position at the head of the table with a turnover of £139m, although Ernst & Young may well leapfrog Fidal-KLegal next year following its recent takeover of Andersen Legal. With gross fees of £37.2m, Deloitte & Touche is the minnow of the group.
The French market is highly segmented; the big five (soon to be the big four) play in a very different league from transaction-orientated firms. In the fees per fee-earner tables, the big five are comprehensively outstripped by the international firms. Allen & Overy (A&O) partner Siamak Mostafavi said: “Every year, more and more international firms are going up in the tables.”
The best any of the big five can manage is 29th place, with Landwell's figure of £144,000 fees per fee-earner figure. HSD Ernst & Young manages £132,000, while Deloittes and KLegal trail with £120,000 and £107,000 respectively. One thing is clear: the accountancy-tied practices are not even on the radar for premium work.
Compare those results with the best-performing UK firm in Paris, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Its fees per fee-earner were £295,000, up from £276,000 last year. Freshfields Paris managing partner Jean-Luc Michaud notes that major deals such as Kingfisher-Castorama helped, but put the firm's performance down to its balance of practice areas. “We've been able to diversify quite nicely and we're probably less vulnerable,” he said.
Freshfields was not the only UK firm to record increases in productivity. Clifford Chance and A&O both had a fees per fee-earner figure of £232,000, up from last year's £219,000 for Clifford Chance and £210,000 for A&O. A&O's largely finance-focused office had a strong year, particularly on structured finance deals, many of them for US investment banks. Linklaters' productivity, though, slipped: its fees per fee-earner dropped to £226,000 from £248,000.
Perhaps the best performance came from a UK practice outside the magic circle. Despite turning over a mere £10m, the small but perfectly formed Watson Farley & Williams came eighth in the fees per fee-earner table, at £277,000 – up from £257,000 last year. Small wonder Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe considered it such a prize.
Other strong performers were a clutch of US firms, with Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Shearman & Sterling and White & Case all nestling below Bredin Prat in the top 10.
There are many lawyers in international firms who peddle the line that Franco-French firms are dead, but these figures contradict that assertion. Four of them make the top 10 in the fees per fee-earner table – Slaughter and May best friend Bredin Prat at a stellar £446,000, Jeantet & Associés and Veil Armfelt Jourde La Garanderie at £283,000, and Gide Loyrette Nouel at £239,000.
Outside the top 10 there is another cluster of independent Parisian firms posting strong results: August & Debouzy, De Pardieu Brocas Maffei & Leygonie, Franklin and Sokolow Dunaud Mercadier & Carreras. CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre, an ally of CMS Cameron McKenna, also performed well, with £207,000 fees per fee-earner figure, compared with £200,000 last year.
Some of the largest rises in turnover are due to increased headcounts. Lovells grew by 90 per cent following its merger with Simeon & Associés, with turnover leaping to £18.3m. Even more pleasingly, its fees per fee-earner figure rose from £133,000 to £151,000 following the merger, and the firm has worked on numerous deals involving key clients Canon, Fresenius and Motorola on corporate, as well as Société Générale on the debt side.
“The whole challenge now is to raise our market profile with French multinationals,” said Lovells Paris managing partner Robert Follie.
|Top 20 firms, ranked by turnover in France|
|Rank||Law firm||Turnover: €m||Turnover: £m|
|2||Landwell & Ass/Partners||147.0||92.3|
|3||HSD Ernst & Young J&F||120.3||75.5|
|5||Gide Loyrette Nouel||99.0||62.2|
|6||CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre||91.5||57.5|
|7||Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||89.4||56.1|
|9||Deloitte & Touche J&F||59.0||37.0|
|11||Shearman & Sterling||47.0||29.5|
|12||Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn||41.0||25.7|
|13||Allen & Overy||37.0||23.2|
|14||Baker & McKenzie||34.6||21.7|
|15||White & Case||34.1||21.4|
|16||Barthelemy & Associés||34.0||21.3|
|17||Willkie Farr & Gallagher||31.3||19.7|
|20||Jones Day Reavis & Pogue||28.5||17.9|
|Source: Source: Juristes Associés|
|Top 15 firms, ranked by fees per fee-earner in France|
|Rank||Law firm||Fees per fee-earner: €K||Fees per fee-earner: £K|
|2||Willkie Farr & Gallagher||560||352|
|3||Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||470||295|
|4||Shearman & Sterling||460||289|
|5=||White & Case||450||283|
|5=||Jeantet & Associés||450||283|
|5=||Veil Armfelt Jourde La Garanderie||450||283|
|8||Watson Farley & Williams||440||276|
|9||Gide Loyrette Nouel||380||239|
|10=||Allen & Overy||370||232|
|12=||Sokolow Dunaud Mercadier & Carreras||360||226|
|14||CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre||330||207|
|15||August & Debouzy||320||201|
|Source: Source: Juristes Associés|