Paris bar pulls out of national bar association in governance spat

The Barreau de Paris (Paris Bar Association) has split from France’s national bar association in a public row over the future direction of the organisation.

In an open letter to the president of the Conseil National des Barreaux (CNB), Christian Charrière-Bournazel, earlier this week (21 May), Paris bar chair Christiane Féral-Schuhl, chair-elect Pierre-Olivier Sur and former chair Jean Castelain said the CNB was ignoring the opinions of Parisian lawyers and the reforms which had been supported through a Paris vote in late 2011.

The letter claimed that the agenda for the upcoming CNB AGM had ignored suggestions from the Paris bar with regard to reform of the profession.

“It is unacceptable that you have deliberately and unilaterally left the Paris Bar Association’s propositions off the agenda,” said the letter, arguing that the Paris bar represented some 45 per cent of all French lawyers.

The trio went on to say that the lack of unity in the profession put it at a competitive disadvantage compared to other regulated professions. As a result, the Paris bar was withdrawing from all activities of the CNB.

The letter concluded by calling for a vote on the future of the profession involving every lawyer in France.

On Wednesday Charrière-Bournazel hit back, publishing an open response to Féral-Schuhl, Sur and Castelain on the CNB website. He called their letter unacceptable, adding that the debate over the organisation of the profession had been open for months. He denied having deliberately ignored the Paris bar and pointed out that he had served on the association’s council and was reelected to it last year.

“I cannot let you denounce a supposed lack of unity at the same time as deciding to pull out of working with the CNB,” Charrière-Bournazel added.

He argued that the debate on the profession’s future could not be resolved in 24 hours or during the upcoming AGM. “Nothing allows you to say that the voice of the Paris bar will not be listened to,” he said.

“The CNB is a place of confrontation, of discussion and exchanges,” wrote Charrière-Bournazel. “Under my presidency it will not be an organisation destined to ratify the terms dictated by one or another of its members.”

He called upon the Paris bar to change its mind, before there was an “irreparable” fracture between Parus and the provinces.