Latham overtakes global rivals in France

Latham & Watkins has surpassed Clifford Chance and Linklaters to become the biggest international firm in Paris, with an ­estimated turnover of e95.6m (£83.7m) for the last financial year.

Figures newly released by French legal publication Juristes Associés show the US firm as the sixth biggest firm in France just ahead of Clifford Chance, which ­posted turnover of e95m.

A static year for Link­laters, which recorded e90m for its Paris office in the 2010-11 financial year, left it in eighth place.

Latham, which has a relatively small Paris operation, is also top of the revenue per lawyer table, with each of its 81 lawyers producing e1.2m of turnover.

Only two other firms, according to Juristes Associés, exceeded the e1m per lawyer figure: Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, which produced a revenue of e22.3m with 22 lawyers, and Lyon firm Ribeyre David & Associés.

The figures show that more than half of the lawyers in France’s biggest 100 firms work in two types of firm. Over a third (37.6 per cent) are employed by international firms in Paris. ­Another 26.5 per cent are employed by the firms linked to the Big Four accountancy practices. Of these, former KLegal ­member Fidal remains by far the biggest, with almost 1,500 lawyers.Ernst & Young Société d’Avocats and PricewaterhouseCooper’s Landwell & Associés both employ almost 500 lawyers, while Deloitte Touche Tomatsu member firm Taj has a workforce of 320.

In comparison, independent French firms in Paris collectively employ 27.8 per cent of lawyers in the top 100. Gide Loyrette Nouel is the biggest, closely followed by CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre (BFL).

Revenue figures show CMS BFL overtook Gide last year with e145.9m of turnover compared with e143.2m, although this is only revenue derived from France. Gide brought in another e67m from its international offices in 2010.

Very few regional firms feature in the top 50 firms ranked by turnover. The biggest, Barthélémy & Associés, which is headquartered in Clermont-Ferrand in ­central France, turned over e22m in 2010, up just e200,000 from 2009.

The general mood in the Paris market was one of optimism, with a significant majority of firms responding to the question of whether 2011 would be an improvement on the previous year by saying they expected performance to be equal or better.

An increased level of activity and deal flow in France has led to an unsurpassed amount of lateral hiring throughout 2011. Well over 70 partners have moved firms during the first three-quarters of the year, predominantly from and to UK and US outfits in Paris.

Among the big recruiters have been McDermott Will & Emery and Olswang, both of which opened in Paris during the course of the year, along with Reed Smith.