Sullivan & Cromwell nabs senior partners from troubled Jeantet

French law firm Jeantet et Associés has suffered another blow as two senior partners are leaving to join US firm Sullivan & Cromwell.

The loss of top corporate partner Gerard Mazet and tax partner Jean-Pierre LeGall comes hot on the heals of the departure of intellectual property partner Pierre Lenoir and his two assistants, who left to join the Paris office of Andersen Legal, and the announcement that tax partner Pascal Coudin will join Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton early next year.

The news also comes shortly after merger talks with White & Case fell through and Jeantet announced its commitment to remaining an independent French firm.

The latest departures will add to concern in the Paris market that home-grown firms are losing out to UK and US invaders. Mazet, though, says that Jeantet’s decision to remain independent is the right one, although it has not prevented him from moving to an international firm.

“I’ve always been attracted by multicultural firms,” says Mazet. “So when the possibility of doing cross-border projects at Sullivan & Cromwell arose, I chose to go.”

There has been a steady stream of departures from Jeantet over the last 18 months: in March the firm lost employment specialist Benjamine Fiedler to Bird & Bird; last November competition partner Claude Lazarus left to join Herbert Smith; and last March CMS Cameron McKenna poached Francis Louvard and his team to set up the French wing of Camerons’ European alliance.

But Mazet says that Jeantet can turn itself around. “A number of large US firms were not sending Jeantet work because of the possibility that it might merge. But this will change now and the future looks good,” he says. He believes the firm’s profitability has increased because, although the number of partners has decreased, the turnover has continued to grow.

One source says that the loss of Jeantet’s father figures will make it a shadow of its former self. But on the positive side, he says there are still a number of good lawyers in the firm and he does not think that Mazet and LeGall will take too many clients with them. “Not all of Jeantets’ clients will be of interest to Sullivan & Cromwell because many of them won’t be able to pay the kind of costs generated in the Wall Street market,” he says.

Mazet is joining Sullivan & Cromwell’s M&A practice while LeGall will provide French tax expertise in M&A and capital markets.

Sullivan & Cromwell’s coordinator of European operations says: “Our strategy in Europe is to focus on high-value transactions, especially M&A. This was an opportunity to bring on board two outstanding lawyers.”

Richard Vilanova, a capital markets lawyer from Stibbe Simont Monahan Duhot, will also join Sullivan & Cromwell’s Paris office.