Winston discreetly builds Paris presence

Winston & Strawn is not a firm with a huge profile in Paris, but it has been quietly growing in the decade since its French office was established. Indeed, with another batch of lateral hires in June, the US firm now has 18 partners and an additional 25 associates, making it as big as some independent French firms.

The expansion has been down to managing partner Vincent Sol. He is pursuing a growth strategy that gives Winston a profile that is much closer to his Gallic rivals’ than most other Anglo-Saxon firms’ profiles.

The latest hires, of three partners, one of counsel and four associates from French giant Fidal give Winston a tax capability to add to its existing corporate and litigation expertise. The team joins Winston as the firm beds down earlier hires from Salans, Shearman & Sterling and the French government.

Sol has also overseen the firm’s move into new offices, which give it more space. The firm has plumped for premises in the 16th arrondissement, close to many of the French firms but slightly apart from the majority of other US players, which tend to locate themselves in the 8th arrondissement to the north.

Winston is not the only US firm choosing to structure itself more like its French competitors rather than Anglo-Saxon firms, where partners tend to be more specialist and less generalist. Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson set out its stall in November when it started an association with bankruptcy litigation boutique Lantourne Duret & Associés.

At the time, managing partner Eric Cafritz told The Lawyer that his aim was to take on French powerhouses such as Bredin Prat. His dream came a step closer in June when Lantourne formally merged with Fried Frank after six months of the association.

Of course, success for any firm choosing to take on the established players in a market is never guaranteed. But both Sol and Cafritz have aggression and determination on their side, and may well, over time, make some inroads.