International report

Orsay Avocats Associés is a small firm, but it is quietly flourishing in the world of big deals.

Nearly two-thirds of Orsay’s ?5m (£3.5m) turnover comes from acting on leveraged buyouts, usually worth several million euros, for banking and investment clients such as 3i, Sofinnova and CEC. The rest is derived from traditional areas of French business law such as employment and tax, ensuring that Orsay can advise its clients on a wide range of issues.

“We’re quite well known in the small world of capital risk,” managing partner Frédéric Lerner says, “but we really try to answer 80 per cent of the needs of French companies.”

Orsay was established 30 years ago in Paris. In 2005 it opened an additional office in France’s second city of Lyon. Tax partner Jean-Pierre Chaux is based there, making the most of opportunities also glimpsed by Orsay’s French rivals such as Ginestié Magellan Paley-Vincent.

The rest of the firm’s six partners are all situated in Paris. Corporate partner Samira Friggeri co-founded Orsay alongside Lerner. Litigators Eric Haber and Yves Roux were both appointed as partners in 2000 and the team was joined in 2001 by corporate specialist Frédérique Milotic.

Lyon and Paris are likely to remain Orsay’s only offices, at least for the time being.

“We want to remain independent for the moment,” Lerner says, adding that he plans to grow Orsay to around 30 lawyers. That would nearly double the firm’s size from its current roster of 17. Orsay’s international strategy sees it collaborate with similar firms overseas, and this is also unlikely to change. Lerner wants to pay attention to Orsay’s growth plans and expand the firm in a controlled manner.

“We think firms like ours really have their place,” Lerner says. “We’re there in the market. We’re not scared of big firms because we’re on a different route.”

Indeed, far from being intimidated by larger outfits, Lerner cites a list of large Anglo-Saxon firms as Orsay’s main competitors: Jones Day, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Weil Gotshal & Manges and also French international Gide Loyrette Nouel. He thinks that Orsay has an advantage in being small as it can offer a competitive price to clients as well as a more personal service.

“If we’ve always got that, we’ll exist,” Lerner predicts.