Norton Rose Paris office nabs Sokolow’s corporate practice

Norton Rose Paris office nabs Sokolow’s corporate practice” />Norton Rose is beefing up its corporate capability in Paris with the hire of a five-partner, 11-lawyer team from Sokolow Dunaud Mercadier & Carreras. The lawyers, including M&A specialist Jean-Francois Mercadier, will join the firm in January.

Meanwhile, Norton Rose has managed to hang on to part of the team of litigators which was due to quit with three partners – Christian Bouckaert, Pascal Ormen
and Remi Passemard – who resigned in July.

Rebuilding the litigation team has been a key focus for Norton Rose Paris since the summer, so the news that five assistants have opted to stay will be a relief. The Paris disputes capability will be further strengthened by the arrival of the Sokolow team. One of the new partners, Alex Brabant, is also an arbitration specialist.

The shoring up of its M&A capability in Paris has also been a target for Norton Rose for some time. As one London partner put it: “We’ve been seriously undergunned in corporate finance for a while.” This was not helped by the departure in June of corporate partner Bertrand Pellet to the Paris office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

The new team is not exclusively focused on M&A, although that is the major strength. It also has strengths in project finance, telecoms, biotech and private equity. Clients include British American Tobacco, Orange and Emap. Three of the new team – Mercadier, M&A specialist Herve Castelnau and biotech-focused Pascale Gallien – will join as full equity partners, with the other two joining as salaried partners.

Quizzed on his reasons for leaving Sokolow, Mercadier said there had been “some disagreement” on strategy and future development. It was “more and more difficult” for his team to adequately service its increasingly international clientele in a French-based firm with a small number of overseas offices and a best friends network, he said.

Mercadier added that his team’s experience in “Anglo-Saxon firms” (the bulk of the team were formerly at Coudert Brothers) would make integrating into the Norton Rose culture “easy”.

Cultural issues are tricky for any internationally expanding firm, and Norton Rose suffered as much fallout as any – witness the departure of its litigation team of Christian Bouckaert, Pascal Ormen and Remi Passemard, plus corporate partner Bertrand Pellet.

Integration was always a problem with the litigation team. Managing partner Peter Martyr, in a 16 July memo to all partners seen by The Lawyer, admitted as much when he said the firm has been “working hard to try to get all the teams working together… in Paris and we have not been greatly successful”.

This time it is taking it seriously. A 25-page integration document has been prepared to assist in easing in the new arrivals from 5 January. Head of corporate Tim Marsden said: “Hopefully we’ll have learnt from the past.” It was not clear whether he was knocking on a table at the time, but if he was, let’s hope it was made of wood.