International report: Veil Jourde

Firm name:

Veil Jourde
Offices: Paris
Managing partner: Jean Veil
Partners: Eight
Total lawyers: 37
Turnover for 2004: €16m (£10.8m)
Key practice areas: Corporate, litigation, tax
Key clients: Apax, Axia, Lazard, L’Oréal and Publicis

Veil Jourde is one of a decreasing number of small, traditional French firms fighting for survival against the continuing invasion from the US and the UK. But despite partner losses earlier this year, managing partner Jean Veil is optimistic for the future – for both his firm and its competitors.

Veil, in collaboration with George Jourde, founded Veil Jourde as Veil Armfelt Jourde La Garanderie in 1990. He came to the firm after several years in practice at Gide Loyrette Nouel, followed by eight years working alongside Jean-Michel Darrois (now of Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier), although not in partnership with Darrois.

Veil’s and Jourde’s aim was to set up a quality independent firm specialising in two core areas: corporate and tax. The firm also does litigation, arbitration and some white-collar crime and regulatory work.

“Today we offer an alternative to firms such as Bredin Prat and Darrois Villey,” says Veil, referring to the two French corporate heavyweights. Veil Jourde’s client base reflects this aim, with organisations such as Lazard, Publicis, L’Oréal, Apax and Axia all having instructed the firm recently.

Veil Jourde is slightly smaller than its competitors with 37 lawyers, including eight partners, bringing in around €16m (£10.8m) a year. It has bounced back from a poor six months, which saw two teams leave: in July 2004 name partners Marie-Alice Jourde and Dominique de la Garanderie took their employment team to independent rival Ginestié Paley-Vincent & Associés (now Ginestié Magellan Paley-Vincent). Those departures were followed by the loss of corporate partner Patrick Jaïs along with a team to Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson in January 2005.

Veil is philosophical about the losses. “The problem was more psychological than fundamental,” he says. However, he acknowledges that having so many high-profile partners quitting the firm did affect the remaining lawyers negatively.

But Veil has since recruited at assistant level, adding seven lawyers since January. New partners are on the way too, with the forthcoming promotions of Marie-Charlotte Trebuchet and Pierre de Valle, the latter a recent recruit from Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

The firm itself has been busy. It recently acted for Logica on its €930m (£626.9m) takeover of IT company Unilog and it is carrying out litigation for oil giant Total. Veil thinks the firm offers the best combination of a traditional French firm with a close relationship with clients and working methods taken from Anglo-Saxon competitors.

“Our knowledge of the market is still better than our Anglo-Saxon competitors,” says Veil. “But French firms have to give lawyers the chance to express themselves as well as working together.”

He thinks the future of Veil Jourde lies in recruiting young, talented lawyers who can succeed today’s partners. Veil Jourde has no global aspirations, preferring to work with foreign firms such as Macfarlanes, which operate in similar ways.