Barthélémy feud forces boss into forming Capstan

And you think you have stress. Imagine being at the helm of one of your country’s most successful firms only to have the founding partner come out of retirement and cause a civil war.

That is what happened to Barthélémy et Associés ex-managing partner Pascal Lagoutte. His firm split in two at the beginning of the year.

Most partners stayed with Lagoutte, founding a new firm called Capstan, while the remaining lawyers went off with 74-year-old founding partner Jacques Barthélémy.

Lagoutte said: “We had a discussion about the way we manage the money and there was a dispute for about a year within the firm. As soon as I realised it wasn’t possible to keep the firm together we decided to split.”

Barthélémy’s passion for his firm was not dulled by 10 years of retirement, which caused problems for the partners who did not share his views.

“The firm was like his son and sometimes your son doesn’t recognise you. I think it was difficult to accept,” said Lagoutte.

International focus was part of the dispute, with Barthélémy less willing to make multinational work part of the firm’s strategy.

Under Lagoutte, Barthélémy et Associés became a leading member of the ius laboris alliance of employment firms, which has a presence in 34 countries.

Capstan is already the biggest French firm to specialise in employment and social law. It has 29 partners, more than 140 lawyers and employs 200 people.

Its nine offices in Paris, Lille, Nantes, Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Montpellier, Marseille, Toulouse and Sophia Antipolis will generate a turnover of around €35m (£23.1m).

Lagoutte said he wanted to add a tax and pensions practice to the firm and strengthen international ties with leading UK employment firms such as Lewis Silkin and Sacker & Partners.

Free of internal conflict, Capstan can now go on to expand its client base, while Lagoutte can breathe a sigh of relief and get back into his office after spending roughly a year locked in meeting rooms with disgruntled partners.

Veil Jourde re-emerges into Paris limelight
2007 is shaping up to be a comeback year for Paris boutique Veil Jourde. The firm has been in hiring mood, raiding White & Case for a three-lawyer team to launch a real estate practice.

Litigation partner Emmanuel Rosenfeld is leading the move to Veil Jourde, taking associate Christophe Bouchez and of counsel Véronique Prévôt-Leygonie, who joins as a partner.

Rosenfeld specialises in litigation advice to real estate clients. Prévôt-Leygonie’s practice focuses on real estate transactions, with Bouchez providing contentious banking, real estate and M&A expertise.

The firm has turned the tables on its US rivals in Paris. Veil Jourde is consistently targeted by foreign firms on a hiring spree and Rosenfeld’s defection from White & Case is a vote in favour of the domestic firm.

After hiring Rosenfeld, Jean Veil’s attention turned to his brother Pierre-Francois Veil, a name partner at Dubarry le Douarin Veil, who specialises in arbitration and restructuring work. Veil moves across with three associates and boosts partner numbers to nine at Veil Jourde.

And the firm does need the numbers. In 2006 a total of 13 lawyers defected to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw.

The twist is that Dubarry is the French representative of Field Fisher Waterhouse‘s European Legal Alliance (ELA).

Mark Abell, chairman of the ELA, said: “[Veil] is a nice guy; we get on very well. The family is very close and he left on good terms with everyone it seems.”

Abell said it was business as usual with Dubarry, despite the loss of Veil.

Stephensons bulks up with raid on White & Case
Rosenfeld is not the only one to leave White & Case’s Paris office in recent weeks, with senior associate Edward Campbell leaving to join Stephenson Harwood as a partner.

Campbell, a senior associate at White & Case, joins Stephensons as a partner, helping the burgeoning office develop its French law banking and finance practice.

Richard Pearson, managing partner of Stephensons’ Paris office, said: “Hiring [Campbell] works for two reasons: it gives us the opportunity to develop our French law practice as well as adding to our resources generally.”

Campbell’s practice focuses on aircraft leasing and finance matters and his clients include commercial banks, lessors and lessees.

Pearson said Stephensons would grow in Paris after moving to bigger offices last summer and that it will be hiring an associate into the French asset finance practice in February.

The firm grew its headcount by 31 per cent in the first six months of last year and is looking to sustain that growth. In fact the two-partner, €2m (£1.32m) office is blossoming to the extent that it will take on trainees for six-month seats for the first time this year.

The office is the last in Stephensons international network to be able to offer a position to trainees, with the other six in Greece and Asia already available to applicants.

Anyone interested should start brushing up on their language skills. Pearson said: “French is useful. It’s a clear advantage to be able to communicate with the clients in their own language.”

MBRM in pole position in French revenue stakes
Figures compiled by French magazine Decideurs show that partners at Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw are the most productive in France, bringing in almost €6m (£3.96m) worth of business each for the firm last year.

The firm made €23m (£15.18m), with each Paris partner making an average of €5.75m (£3.79m). The firm also has the fifth-largest revenue per lawyer (RPL) at €696,000 (£459,300).

The study showed that foreign firms are getting the most out of their Paris arms by keeping partner numbers down and associate numbers up.

The average partner at a top 30 firm in Paris, ranked by RPP, has a book of business worth €2.6m (£1.72m) and works with a team of around five associates.

The study exposed the differences between the Anglo-Saxon and French law firm models in France. Despite most of them banking higher turnovers, the major French firms do not have the same partner productivity levels as foreign firms.

Only eight French firms appear in the top 30 by RPP, with the magic circle and Wall Street heavyweights dominating the rest of the table.

France’s biggest firm, the €266m (£175.53m) Fidal, failed to make it into the table as its 278 partners bring in less than €1m (£659,900) each.

LeBoeuf feeds off Freshfields
US firm LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae has targeted Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for partners across its network, and Paris is no exception.

Corporate star Yves Huyghé de Mahenge became a consultant at Freshfields on 1 November after taking advantage of the changes to the firm’s pension scheme, but took just a month to make the move to LeBoeuf.

He rejoins former colleague Eric Schwartz, who left for LeBoeuf last September.

Freshfields Paris managing partner Jean-Claude Cotoni said De Mahenge had agreed with the firm to work part time as a consultant before “choosing another life”.

And as it turns out, the other life he has chosen involves becoming managing partner of LeBoeuf’s France office.

Ex-Freshfields partners now make up around 25 per cent of LeBeouf’s Paris office as De Mahenge’s hire brought the number of partners in the firm’s French office to eight.

With De Mahenge at the helm, that percentage could increase further in 2007.