Fidal bucks ex-accountancy firm trend to maintain French top spot

Former KLegal member Fidal has maintained its status as the largest French law firm, but other former accountancy-tied firms continue to suffer.

According to league tables for the calendar year 2004, released recently by French legal publication Juristes Associés, the accountancy firms struggled in an otherwise good year for the French legal market.

Ermst & Young Societé d’Avocats’ (E&Y) (formerly EY Law) turnover dropped 35 per cent to €114m (£78.6m). The firm has been shedding lawyers since the introduction of the Loi sur la Securité Financière – the French Sarbanes-Oxley Act – and now has 593 fee-earners compared with 1,075 two years ago.

Landwell & Associés and Taj (previously Deloitte) also had drops in income, and like E&Y fell a place in the table. Landwell lost 75 lawyers, while turnover fell €14m (£9.7m), or 12.5 per cent. The headcount at Taj remained static, but revenue dropped 10 per cent to €63.9m (£44.1m). The firm has just 29 partners and 270 fee-earners, creating a high revenue per partner (RPP) figure of more than €2m (£1.4m).

Gide Loyrette Nouel was more successful. The French firm is growing internationally. It recorded an 8 per cent rise in revenues to leapfrog E&Y into second place in the table.

Managing partner Xavier de Kergommeaux said corporate work, EU and public law performed best in 2004. He added: “Our full-services strategy in France and our international position, confirmed by our move to London in 2003, were highly successful in 2004 and in the first semester of 2005.”

CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre also had a good year, with turnover breaking the €100m (£69m) barrier. With 324 lawyers, the firm is now France’s fourth-largest by headcount and figures, but its revenue per lawyer (RPL) and RPP figures lag behind most of the top 10.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to be the biggest Anglo-Saxon firm in France, but only by a whisker. The firm’s Paris office brought in €89.1m (£61.5m) in 2004, down nearly €2m (£1.4m) from the previous year. The drop means Clifford Chance is snapping at Freshfields’ heels, having made €89m (£61.4m) last year, up 4 per cent. Along with Linklaters, the UK firms have the highest RPL and RPP figures in the top 10.

The French independent firms continue to dominate the revenue per fee-earner tables. Darrois Villey Maillot & Brochier leads the way, making more than €1m (£690,000) per lawyer, or €2.6m (£1.8m) per partner. Bredin Prat is close behind, bringing in €904,000 (£624,000) per lawyer, or €1.9m (£1.3m) per partner.