Cool Gide turns up the heat

Grand old Paris firm takes radical action to reboot dwindling partner line-up

Sometimes the bitten turns biter. More than any other firm in Paris, Gide Loyrette Nouel has suffered from high-level departures. In March a trio of corporate partners – Antoine Bonnasse, Youssef Djehane and Jean-Emmanuel Skovron – left to launch boutique BDGS. The same month corporate partners Serge Tatar and Renaud Rossa left for Lacourte Balas Raquin, which was rebranded as Lacourte Balas  Tatar.

The Lawyer revealed in April that Gide had been in exploratory talks to merge with Veil Jourde, which would have added 17 partners. Such a step was significant; defensive it may have been, but the French firm’s tacit admission that its partner reserves were depleted has clearly led it to consider dramatic remedies.

And nothing was so dramatic as the news last week that Gide, the arch-conservative firm that rarely hires laterals, had carried out a mass raid on Morgan Lewis’s Paris office. The haul netted no fewer than nine partners and a total of 19 lawyers, five of them corporate partners. Paris observers speculate that Morgan Lewis’s lack of interest in domestic corporate work and unwillingness to grow led to the rift. Certainly, Morgan Lewis’s statement hinted as much. “The practices of the departing partners, although well respected in Paris, were not consistent with the needs of our clients and our firm’s global focus,” it read.

In the local market, lateral traffic has almost invariably been from Franco-French firms to boutiques or US outfits. Does Gide’s new-found aggression signal a resurgence of Paris’ most venerable firm?