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Norton Rose has set up a competition practice in its Paris office after making three lateral hires from Coudert Frères in Paris.
The firm scored a major coup in recruiting highly-rated competition lawyer Jean-Patrice de La Laurencie.
Laurencie's assistant Laure Givry and US and French dual qualified corporate partner Eric Laplante are joining him. Laplante has crossborder transaction experience with a number of French investment banks. The new recruits are intended to bring the Paris office closer to the Brussels and London practices, which already have competition departments.
Before joining Couderts, Laurencie was the deputy director general of the French Competition and Consumer Affairs and Anti-Fraud department. He has also helped draft French competition law and the European Union merger regulations of 1989.
Martin Coleman, Norton Rose's London-based competition department head, hopes that the moves will increase the firm's market share of cross-border corporate business.
He says: "Jean-Patrice's practice reads like a who's who of the top-50 companies. His list of clients is absolutely incredible."
Laurencie's client list is believed to include Coca Cola, Rhone-Poulenc and Elf Atochem.
Coudert Frères is reeling from the shock of the departures, which come as it is focusing on building up its competition practice. Former director of PricewaterhouseCoopers' European law department Alastair Gorrie joined Coudert Frères in November 1999 to head the London competition practice.
Coudert Frères corporate partner Jacques Buhart says that Laurencie's clients will not follow him and plays down the departures.
He says: "I do not think the moves will have a significant impact on our practice because we still have four corporate partners. Our corporate finance and M&A practices have seen a 25 per cent increase in activity."
Norton Rose's Paris managing partner Alain Sanchez also hints that the firm intends to expand its corporate and banking practice by adding a tax and asset finance partner to the team in the near future.
Sanchez says: "We will now have a good capability on corporate transactions and have created the right synergies."
According to Sanchez, Norton Rose's Paris corporate practice has seen a 50 per cent growth for two years running and is largely based on M&A and investigatory work.
He adds: "We have doubled the size of the practice and have seen the fastest growth during the last three years."
Norton Rose's Paris office has eight equity partners and last year had a turnover of FFr75m (£7.12m).