Norman’s wisdom

With the onset of spring, Tulkinghorn has been feeling in a benevolent mood. In addition to a week of undercover sleuthing-cum-self-indulgent pampering at Champneys, Mrs Tulkinghorn was recently treated to a shopping trip to Paris. This gave the accompanying Tulkinghorn the opportunity to pay a visit to a few old friends in the legal market – an experience he found most agreeable.

Unlike the boastful City offices of many UK firms, with their oversized atriums and distasteful modern architecture, most of the French practitioners work out of elaborate Haussmanian-era buildings – all gilt-and-plaster cornices, with mirrors everywhere.

JeantetAssociés wins the prize for best lift – a little cage with amusing (but, as they don’t seem to lock, slightly disconcerting) swing doors. Hammonds Hausmann has the most gilt on its impressively high ceilings.

But not everyone has the fortune to spend their working lives amid 19th-century splendour. De Pardieu Brocas Maffei is housed in a spectacularly ugly concrete building within sight of the Arc de Triomphe, also the Paris headquarters of the World Bank. This means the firm gets airport-level security laid on, with a stern security guard waiting to sweep every visitor for concealed objects, the need to leave a piece of identity at reception in return for a visitor’s pass and barriers outside in case of protestors.

But this was the exception rather than the rule. After all, you don’t ever expect to encounter a dog as the public face of any major commercial law firm – but that is exactly what greets visitors to Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier. Charming.

And to the delight of both Tulkinghorn and his lady wife, luncheon on the final day of the trip was shared with none other than French screen goddess Catherine Deneuve. Well, admittedly she was on the next table, but still…