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Legal market overview
As clients’ needs change and become more sophisticated and more demanding of added value, many leading law firms in France are abandoning the full-service and departmental business model to focus on core practices. This has benefited local medium-sized and niche firms with dedicated expertise. Real estate is the latest example of this market trend, with high-profile teams leaving Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Clifford Chance and Salans in 2012.
With French banks keeping a low profile, many firms have also downsized banking and finance teams as a result of a reduced workflow from French banks, with Linklaters LLP, for example, reconfiguring by reducing its total numbers while boosting its expertise in complex banking issues.
Competition and other regulatory practices, as well as litigation, are becoming a key drivers of work and 2012 saw law firms hiring many experts, including former ministers and public sector officers, to address this new trend in the energy, banking, public law and data protection fields. Employment, tax and restructuring expertise is also in high demand, with an ‘unseen rise’ in tax litigation in 2012 as well as ‘an exceptional rise’ in insolvency cases.
Europe’s sluggish economy has prompted numerous firms to pursue growth opportunities internationally. Numerous firms have established offices in Africa and the Middle East – among them are Ashurst LLP, K&L Gates LLP, Norton Rose LLP, and Stephenson Harwood – andsome others have opened African desks in Paris.
France’s top echelon of law firms include various French firms Bredin Prat, Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, De Pardieu Brocas Maffei A.A.R.P.I and Gide Loyrette Nouel A.A.R.P.I., as well as UK firms Allen & Overy LLP, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Linklaters LLP, and US firms Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Weil, Gotshal & Manges and White & Case LLP.
The mid-market legal sector is also very dynamic and increasingly popular with major corporations. Aramis, Bichot & Associés, Cotty Vivant Marchisio & Lauzeral, De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés, Franklin and Viguié Schmidt Peltier Juvigny all have excellent reputations.
DLA Piper also deserves mention for its intense recruitment efforts. In the past two years, the firm has lured major experts in a broad range of fields, including IP, IT, litigation, tax and employment, and merged with leading private equity boutique Frieh Bouhénic. K&L Gates LLP and King & Spalding LLP have also recruited heavily.