Many independent French law firms last the lifespans of their founders before breaking up, with partners joining rivals or founding boutiques.
Desfilis & McGowan is a little different. Although it bears the name of two current partners, José Desfilis and Aline McGowan, it can trace its history back to 1920. It was in that year that a Mr Jennequin, general counsel for Renault, set up Rennequin, advising individuals and entrepreneurs – a client base it still relies on.
In 1936 Jennequin was joined by a Mr Jay and for the next four decades the firm did reasonably well. But by the time Desfilis joined what was now known as Parlier & Clément in 1986 there were just three lawyers. Desfilis made it his mission to broaden the client base to high-net-worth individuals while retaining the original focus.
The firm’s growth accelerated in 2006, when Desfilis merged the firm with Mandel & McGowan. Restructuring partner Frédéric Mandel and litigator McGowan brought a new dimension to the firm, which was further enhanced last year with the arrival of former judge Michel Jeol.
The firm is now looking to add private equity to its list of capabilities following the hire of former Ashurst France managing partner Frédéric Pinet.
“We aim to continue to be in trusting relationships with clients, especially family-owned businesses,” says Pinet. “There’s a demand for that type of service.”
Desfilis says the firm expects to continue its rapid turnover growth, even if its size – it currently employs 15 lawyers – is likely to rise more slowly. In the past three years the firm has increased turnover by at least 15 per cent annually, he reveals.
With a solid client base, including French household names as well as individuals, Desfilis & McGowan looks well set for the future, whether working on its own or in collaboration with other firms.
Number of partners: Seven
Number of lawyers: 15
Number of fee-earners: 15
Number of offices: One
Main practice areas:Commercial, corporate, finance, private equity, litigation/arbitration
Key clients: Air Europa, Apem, Deloitte, Octapharma, Open, Rhodia, Sical, Sonara, Total