Paris Bar takes up arms over adverts

THE PARIS Bar has hit out at multi-disciplinary practice Arthur Andersen claiming a recent advertising campaign by the organisation's French consultancy contravenes the legal profession's regulations.

In recent notices in the French press, Paris Bar president Jean-Rene Farthouat said the advertisements for Andersen Consulting, placed in the electronic and print media, had breached Bar rules by offering services to consumers which could involve legal work.

Farthouat maintained that as part of the three-tiered Arthur Andersen organisation – which has incorporated law and tax entity Archibald Andersen since the group's 1992 merger with leading French law firm SG Archibald – Andersen Consulting was barred from advertising.

But the Hauts-de-Seine Bar, which includes Archibald Andersen's lawyers among its members, has issued a statement disagreeing with Farthouat's opinion.

The statement says the advertisements, which offer assistance with the reorganisation of companies, promote a separate part of the Andersen group and are unrelated to the organisation's legal department.

Hauts-de-Seine president Pascal Mayeur says there is no reason for the controversy and it is impossible to prevent “closely-related” structures which are not regulated from advertising.

“The advertising by Andersen Consulting is in no event advertising by lawyers,” says Mayeur. “I do not, therefore, see how it can be found to be reprehensible, unless this is an accusation based solely on presumed intentions.”

However, Bernard Du Granrut, a member of the Paris Bar Council, says the Bar should have been notified of plans to place the “ambiguous” adverts.

“The publicity for Andersen Consulting, which says it is offering services to reorganise companies, is contrary to the rules for lawyers,” says Du Granrut.

“Andersen Consulting is making an advertisement to present services which imply legal activities.

“As in many countries the role of an advocat includes giving opinions and advice, writing papers and representing clients. These advertisements imply legal assistance but legal activities by advocats in France are strictly regulated.

“The advertisements are totally ambiguous and the Bar has not been informed of the publicity, which it should have been.”