Fidal makes double hire amid accountancy-tied firm exodus

The announcement last week that French giant Fidal had reappointed Jean-Louis Paul as managing partner and scooped tax partner Hervé Bidaud from rival EY Law comes as a turbulent year draws to an end for former accountancy-tied firms in Paris.

Fidal has not suffered too badly, but a slew of partners have left EY Law and Landwell over the course of 2004, starting with the defection of Philippe de Saint-Bauzel from EY to Hammonds in January.

In total, 13 partners quit EY in the first 10 months of this year, 12 from the firm’s Paris office and one from Lyon. Landwell has lost six partners, with the largest loss the departure of Marc Crette and three others to Fidal in March.

The global heads of EY, Landwell and Fidal’s former network KLegal – Patrick Bignon, Gérard Nicolai and Robert Glennie respectively – also stepped down in March, ending the international hopes of the accountancy networks.

The firms have also suffered financially. As reported in The Lawyer in September, EY and Landwell both recorded significant drops in revenue last year, with turnover down 11.1 per cent and 23.8 per cent respectively.

The crux for the accountancy-tied firms came when France introduced the Loi sur la Securité Financière – its version of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act – in August 2003. With the firms no longer able to rely on legal work introduced by accountants, radical changes in strategy were required. The firms announced cuts in numbers of partners, particularly tax specialists.