Bar president says French must adapt

The president of the French Bar Council last week demanded legislative change to enable French law firms to compete on the international stage.

In his keynote speech at the annual French bar conference, Michel Bénichou said French lawyers had to develop and change the way they worked in response to the pressures of modern business and competition. He said that current legislative barriers were preventing his country’s law firms from developing.

“We cannot contribute to the advancement and the appeal of French law and Roman-Germanic law, and the export of French lawyers abroad, if at the same time tax law prevents us from doing so,” said Bénichou.

He also spoke out against state interference in the work of lawyers. In particular he referred to European money laundering directives, saying that a lawyer should never inform on a client.

Bénichou told the conference: “The independence of lawyers must be guaranteed by the state, not because it’s a privilege, but because it’s the artery which nourishes the impartiality, legitimacy and credibility of justice.”

Continuing on the theme of modernity, Bénichou said that French lawyers have to be more business-focused. He believes that young French assistants should be given opportunities to develop their own client bases instead of relying on the contacts of older partners.

“The world has changed and lawyers must change,” Bénichou concluded.