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Linklaters' plan to create the world's largest legal federation has been throw into disarray by the refusal of leading French firm Jeantet & Associes to join.
The Lawyer understands that Linklaters and the executive of the Alliance of European lawyers have identified 55-lawyer full service Paris firm Rambaud Martel as the preferred replacement to Jeantet in its planned pan-European federation.
But the Alliance has always insisted to Linklaters that it is an "all or nothing deal" - if one member drops out, the rest do.
It is uncertain both whether Rambaud will agree to join and whether the partners of key members such as Oppenhoff & RAdler in Germany and Ur'a & Menendez in Spain will agree to losing Jeantet for the sake of Linklaters.
Linklaters is understood to be insisting on a decision by the beginning of July, when both Oppenhoff and Linklaters have partners meetings and before partners from Swedish member firm Lagerlof & Leman break for the summer.
Terence Kyle, Linklaters managing partner, who was expected to be chief executive of the board of the planned federation, feels that negotiations, which began late last year, have dragged on long enough.
If the early July window is missed the firms would not be able to make a decision until October when everyone is back from their holidays.
As The Lawyer revealed this spring, Jeantet approved of the link-up with Linklaters in principle at a vote in February, but voiced fears that it would be consumed by the City giant in France. These fears were not dispelled after three months of tough negotiations.
The plan was that firms retain separate profit structures in their own jurisdictions, and Linklaters' continental offices would be taken over by the respective local firms. But partners in Linklaters' Paris office had protested at the prospect of losing their Linklaters identity and their favourable tax breaks under UK/French tax rules.
Roel Nieuwdorp, chief negotiator for the Alliance and managing partner of Belgian member De Bandt van Hecke & Lagae, said: "It is certainly a fact that the Alliance and Jeantet have different views and that Jeantet had serious doubts."
He added: "I hope the Alliance is strong enough to survive the loss of Jeantet."