SJ Berwin seeks French merger partner in Paris

SJ Berwin is in preliminary merger talks with two-partner Paris firm Cabinet Bersay.

If the deal goes ahead it will mirror the firm's expansion policy in Spain, where it merged with highly-rated Madrid practice Pazos Gallardo y Associados, and built up the business organically.

SJ Berwin stresses the talks are at an early stage. It has also opened a line of communication with five other Paris firms and sent two partners to the French capital two weeks ago on a fact-finding mission.

The firm hopes to announce a link-up within the next six months.

Cabinet Bersay was formed by Jerome Bersay four years ago. Bersay was formerly at Paris firm Sales Vincent and has grown the firm from three lawyers to 15 within the last 18 months. His co-partner was formerly at Jeantet & Associes.

Cabinet Bersay specialises in commercial contract work, litigation, and corporate finance and is opening an IT/IP department. It refuses to comment on the merger talks, except to confirm that Bersay had met with SJ Berwin representatives.

“All talks are still in a preliminary stage at the moment,” explains SJ Berwin senior partner David Harrell. “The partners have reported back and their reports have not said that we should go with X or Y.

“We have not gone on to the second stage of talks with anyone as yet. In our last two link-ups [in Spain and Germany] we were lucky in that we were approached by suitable firms.

“I would not be surprised if we open in Milan and Copenhagen before we open in Paris. At the moment we are trying to work out a structure into which a number of interesting people that we have seen could come and join us. If we could find the right core practice then that would be ideal.”

SJ Berwin is currently holding preliminary stage talks in Italy, but Harrell says that it has met two Italian firms that have expressed an interest in forming a partnership.

“There are firms in England that have also spoken to a lot of the firms that we are speaking to. There is a lot of interest from continental firms at the moment and within the bounds of what we can economically do, we are pushing it pretty hard at the moment,” he says.