Latham & Watkins, France

Latham & Watkins, France” />Politics matters in France, even for a US-headquartered firm as big as Latham & Watkins. It is, then, with no small interest that Latham’s France managing partner Olivier Delattre is watching the French presidential and parliamentary elections.

“When there’s a large election you tend to get a slowdown in activity,” explains Delattre. “In the French economy, you still have a lot of decisions that are made on a governmental or ministerial level.”

More than most, Delattre has a keen sense of politics. He was managing partner of Stibbe when the 80-lawyer French arm of the firm merged with Latham five years ago this month. There were defections, notably tax partner Eric Ginter, but on the whole integration went “extremely well” according to Delattre. “A lot of our lawyers have trained in the US or the UK and therefore there wasn’t a great culture shock,” he says.

That said, reading down the list of partner names at the office, the vast majority are French, following the merger with Stibbe Simont Monahan Duhot. In this respect, Latham’s Parisian office differs from its London offering, where there are more US partners installed.

London and Paris work closely together. Delattre says around 30 per cent of the office’s activity is generated by another office, but the rest is work for Parisian clients and multinationals with a French presence. Its most notable big-ticket transaction was on France’s largest private equity deal to date, advising AXA Private Equity on its £3.3bn acquisition of a majority stake in telecoms company TDF.

The deal is indicative of Latham’s strength in private equity in France. The firm netted private equity rainmaker Thomas Forschbach from Ashurst in 2004. Latham historically acted for US-based funds, such as Carlyle, but Forschbach brought with him key European clients, such as Apax and Sagard, and six lawyers from his team.

Latham also scored technology, media and telecoms star Patrick Dunand in 2004, but since then there have been few lateral partner hires, and the office made up only two associates this year. Indeed, there are gaps to be filled in the office. Capital markets partner Roberto Cristofolino took an associate with him to Norton Rose in July and is yet to be replaced.

“We’re looking to grow in capital markets, real estate, international arbitration and project finance,” says Delattre. “We’ve got a lot on our plate.”

Given that Parisian partners are full equity and can enjoy an average profit per equity partner of £915,000, attracting the top French partners Delattre wants should be easier than predicting who will be the new French president.

Latham & Watkins, France
Managing partner: Olivier Delattre
Global turnover: $1.41bn (£750m) (no individual office figure available).
Total number of lawyers: 119
Total number of partners: 35 (6 women, 29 men)
Main practice areas: private equity, capital markets
Key clients: Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, AXA, LVMH
Offices: One
Locations: Paris