France

Shadbolt grows as arbitration comes into vogue

International arbitration is all the rage in Paris at present. The city is home to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) Court of Arbitration and is one of the three main global arbitration capitals.

During the past weeks several firms have been busy hiring or bolstering their Paris practices. Shadbolt & Co made one of the boldest moves by absorbing the whole of arbitration boutique Delvolvé Rouche into its small French office. Both partners of the firm, Jean-Louis Delvolvé and Jean Rouche, joined Shadbolt, bringing with them an associate. The hire of the trio is a boost for the firm’s French offering, which is heavily litigation-focused, and despite being seven years old has a low profile.

Dechert was the next firm to follow suit, taking on arbitration name Pierre Mayer. Mayer previously worked alongside the six partners who joined Dechert from Coudert Brothers earlier this year and is reunited with them nearly three years after he left Coudert for Clifford Chance.

Mayer is a bit of a scoop for Dechert. He has a big reputation in the arbitration market and brings years of experience to the firm.

Meanwhile, Herbert Smith and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are both indulging in a rebalancing exercise. Herbert Smith was the first to make its move, shifting London-based partner Michael Young to the French capital. Young will be in Paris for three years initially, continuing his London arbitration practice alongside Paris partner Charles Kaplan.

Freshfields is rebalancing the other way, sending Constantine Partasides back to London after the firm realised its City arbitration practice was lagging behind France’s. However, Freshfields still has six arbitration partners in Paris, making it a sizeable player in a busy market.

Veil Jourde rides out defections to rebuild corporate
Veil Jourde has endured a year of upheaval. In June the independent firm lost a five-strong team to Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw and in September Gibson Dunn & Crutcher took two partners and six associates to boost its French corporate team.

Rumours of the firm’s demise swiftly swept the market, but managing partner Jean Veil stood firm and set about the process of replacing those who had left.

First on the list was bankruptcy legend Gabriel Sonier. Sonier elected not to join his former partner Jean-Paul Poulain when the latter left their niche firm Sonier Poulain & Associés to associate with Denton Wilde Sapte earlier in 2006, instead setting up alone.

However, Veil soon gave a home to his former partner. The pair worked alongside each other in the 1980s, together with Jean-Michel Darrois (now name partner at Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier). Only the slight matter of a tunnel under the Channel got in the way. Veil is one of the lawyers advising Eurotunnel on its administration, while Sonier is representing one of the company’s creditors. So for the time being Sonier is operating behind a Chinese wall from Veil’s offices, awaiting the end of the administration.

The next step was to begin rebuilding the corporate team. Veil plumped for Gide Loyrette Nouel senior associate François de Navailles, who brought three other associates with him from France’s only international firm. De Navailles and his team provide a welcome injection of new blood for Veil Jourde, and will help to ensure the firm’s survival – for a little while longer, at least.

Norton Rose sees benefits of Paris restructuring
Norton Rose’s French office was really struggling just a few years ago, having lost several partners before managing partner George Paterson began a restructure of the office.

Paterson has made strenuous efforts to revitalise the firm’s Paris operation.

In two months Norton Rose brought in five partners in Paris – three who were partners at their former firms and two senior associates made up to partners on arrival. The first of these was Freshfields associate Erwan Hericotte, who previously worked at Norton Rose before exploring new pastures.

Next through Norton Rose’s door were Latham & Watkins capital markets partner Roberto Cristofolini and associate Marie-Aude Noury, who were welcomed with open arms by corporate finance head Jean-François Mercadier thanks to their complementary client list.

The finance theme kept going with the arrival of Allen & Overy asset finance partner Luc Rentmeesters, who also works for banks such as BNP Paribas and Calyon. And Norton Rose went back to its roots – which in France are still strong – with the appointment of Freshfields aviation specialist Glenn Matheson at the beginning of October.

Matheson’s arrival brings the number of partners in Norton Rose’s Paris office to 24, making it one of the 25 largest firms in Paris. Now Paterson and partners need to ensure that they pick up the big finance deals that are key to the practice.

Relationships pay off for Bredin Prat, Willkie
TWO Paris offices were celebrating new clients in October after Bredin Prat advised BAE Systems for the first time and Willkie Farr & Gallagher carried out its first piece of work for Sanofi-Aventis.

Bredin Prat’s instruction came off the back of this year’s merger with best friend Slaughter and May‘s Paris office. Partner Brigitte Leclerc, one of the former Slaughters team, came on board to support Slaughters corporate partner Nigel Boardman as BAE Systems disposed of its holding in Airbus.

Meanwhile, Laurent Faugérolas at Willkie picked up work from Sanofi two years after advising major shareholder Total on the merger between Sanofi-Synthélabo and Aventis in 2004.

That deal was one of the largest ever to hit France, and while the E183m (£122.7m) disposal of Sanofi’s stake in chemicals company Rhodia cannot compare, it is still a good example of the benefits of prior relationships.

Cotty Vivant has Japan in its sights
French firms are still notoriously shy of going international, with only Gide Loyrette Nouel having really succeeded. But the independent Cotty Vivant Marchisio & Lauzeral is bucking the trend by hiring former Gide partner Laurent Dubois to kick off a Japanese operation.

Cotty Vivant’s venture makes it the only French firm currently present in Japan. Gide closed its Tokyo operation in 1999, choosing to concentrate on other jurisdictions elsewhere in the world.

After this Dubois decided to go it alone, running a small independent operation as a joint venture with Japanese firm TMI Associates. He has the advantage of knowing the market and brings with him a team of trilingual associates.

Meanwhile in Paris, partner Fabrice Marchisio is launching a Japanese team in order to connect the two offices and Cotty Vivant hopes lawyers will be able to move between Paris and Tokyo.

Cotty Vivant’s move echoes that of fellow international trailblazer Bignon Lebray & Associés, which earlier this year hired Haarmann Hemmelrath Shanghai partner Bruno Léfebure to start a Paris-based Chinese team, while simultaneously starting a joint venture with Chinese firm Beacon.