Leading UK firms in French capital take 5 per cent hit in turnover stakes

UK firms’ Paris offices endured a disappointing 2009-10, with SJ Berwin suffering the biggest drop in turnover among the top 50 highest-earning firms, falling by 25.8 per cent to e21m (£17.4m).

Research compiled by Juristes Associés revealed that among the 12 UK ­players (not including accountancy firms) to make the top 50, turnover fell on average by almost 5 per cent.

Other firms to suffer were Clifford Chance (e94m turnover), Norton Rose (e31.7m) and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (e87m), which suffered dips of 15.3 per cent, 14.1 per cent and 13.9 per cent respectively.

“The previous years had been exceptional for us in terms of growth, so basically 2009[-10] was the year we came back down to earth,” said George Pinkham, SJ Berwin’s Paris office senior partner. “But we never had the kinds of problems ­experienced by other firms and we didn’t make any redundancies beyond ­normal attritional losses.”

Not all UK firms saw ­negative growth. Taylor Wessing was flat and Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Bird & Bird, Herbert Smith and Lovells all increased turnover. Bird & Bird (e27.8m) and Herbert Smith (e48.6m) grew the most at 13.5 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively.

No figure was provided for Linklaters in 2009, but the firm did post the highest turnover of all the UK firms operating in France at e101m.

US firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom stood out, growing by 20 per cent, with turnover increasing from e22m to e26.4m.

On the whole, though, US firms suffered as much as the UK’s, in particular Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker and Mayer Brown, which saw their turnovers fall by 16.8 per cent and 16.7 per cent respectively.

Even the top three firms, Fidal, Gide Loyrette Nouel and CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre (CBFL), had to endure lower revenues.

But the CBFL figure is skewed, according to a spokesman for the firm, since in 2009-10 CBFL and CMS Hasche Sigle merged with the Moscow practice, with Moscow’s turnover consequently taken out of the 2009-10 ­figure. This made the drop in turnover for the latest ­financial year 2.5 per cent rather than 9.1 per cent.