CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre (CMS BFL) has taken a 12-strong team in France from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) boosting its real estate capability.

The newly merged CMS has taken on cohort of HSF’s Paris real estate office led by the former head of real estate Pierre Popesco and Florence Chérel. They will join CMS as partners alongside HSF counsel Benjamin Bill.

Popesco joined the Paris office at HSF in 2005, while Chérel was became a partner in 2009.

Other lawyers leaving HSF include counsel Jean-Marc Peyron, along with eight other lawyers. They will work alongside the existing real estate team at CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre led by Aline Divo, Philippe Riglet, Jean-Luc Tixier and Christophe Blondeau.

The losses leave HSF with only one real estate partner in Paris, David Lacaze, whom the firm hired from Paul Hastings in October last year.

A spokesperson for HSF said: We can confirm that Pierre and Florence have retired from the partnership. We thank them for their contribution to the firm and wish them well for the future. Last year, we recruited David Lacaze to drive forward the growth of our Paris real estate practice. He and his team are delivering on this strategy further strengthening our client relationships.”

CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre chairman Pierre-Sébastien Thill said: “We are very pleased today with the arrival of this first-class team within our real estate department, giving us unrivalled resources in all aspects of real estate law, both on a national and international level.”

The news will increase CMS’ real estate headcount in France to more than 40 lawyers, and take the firm’s headcount to 420 lawyers, including 108 partners.

The team will focus on mergers and acquisitions, leases and management of real estate assets, construction, real estate development, disputes, real estate financing, planning, environment and real estate public law.

The expansion of the French practice continues CMS’ expansion drive. In May this year, the firm completed the largest-ever merger in legal history with Nabarro and Olswang, which increased the number of real estate lawyers at CMS to 800.

CMS allied with CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre in 2001, giving the firm a presence in France for the first time.

At the time, the French outfit had 72 partners who were known for their work in tax, M&A, banking and finance, commercial property, project finance and telecoms.