Partner departures force Proskauer Rose to abandon full-service model

The firm’s construction department was hit by the departure of litigation partners Christophe Lapp and Philippe Goossens and five associates, who left to start an independent firm with partners from Salans and Reed Smith at the ­beginning of November (The­, 13 November).

The move was shortly ­followed by banking and PPP specialist Jean L’Homme’s defection to DLA Piper (TheLawyer. com, 16 November).

“Both moves were ­directly related,” said Guillaume Kellner, head of corporate at Proskauer Rose’s Paris office. “Christophe is mainly focused on construction law and litigation, and the plan was to build a practice around his team and from there to also build a PFI practice – that’s why Jean joined the firm, because he was an expert in projects.

“So the plan was for them to work together, but when Christophe left to set up his own firm, this clearly affected Jean. When Christophe left Jean had to leave to have a platform for his PFI work. He didn’t join Christophe’s new firm, I think, because it’s dedicated to litigation.”

L’Homme confirmed Kellner’s suspicions that the moves were related.

“When Christophe left Proskauer to set up a boutique it wasn’t possible for me to develop the projects work without a public law group,” he said. “So I was looking for a new platform and that’s why I joined DLA Piper.”

It is not the first time that DLA Piper has raided Proskauer for talent. In January 2008 DLA’s Paris office recruited seven lawyers from Proskauer, including two partners from litigation and another from tax.

But, according to Kellner, Proskauer Rose has no desire to rebuild after its ­latest round of departures.

“We don’t want to be a full-service firm with many kinds of experts,” he said. “The plan is to focus on our key practices, which are corporate M&A, private equity and litigation – but very ­different litigation from the kind Christophe did. We’re focusing on litigation in relation to corporate ­agreements, shareholder agreements etc.”

The firm showed its ­commitment to the corporate department by hiring corporate counsel Caroline Chabrerie from SJ Berwin in September. And more may follow.

“We’re not ready to make an announcement but we’ll probably hire more in the coming months too,” ­Kellner added.

The Paris office was Proskauer Rose’s first outside the US, opening in 1991. The firm made its first significant hires in 2002, expanding its employment practice, and Kellner joined from Rambaud Martel in 2005 – the same time as Lapp and Goossens.

“We aim to be a serious player in France,” added Kellner. “The next step is to develop our global strategy with other offices.”