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This Special Report covers 37 practice areas.

This will search all specialists in France.

France In Brief

France’s economy performed well in 2017 compared to previous years, with GDP exceeding expectations by reaching 1.6 per cent. This was a significant increase from the 1.1 per cent growth of 2016 and has been driven largely by private investment. Although France is still below the eurozone average of 2.5 per cent, its GDP growth is expected to continue and is predicted to reach 1.7 per cent in 2018. Lawyers reported a significant uptick in transactions, which is expected to contribute to this growth, and predict a busy year for practitioners in France.

Market Overview

Interviewees reported “a slow start” to 2017 in the run-up to the country’s general elections. However, following Emmanuel Macron’s election as president in May, “the market has really picked up” and there has been a significant uptick in merger and acquisition transactions. As one source told us, “This is a very positive trend and we already see some very interesting transactions in the pipeline for 2018. It is sure to be a very strong year for transactional work.” Part of this is attributed to President Macron being “very business-focused and someone who understands the commercial market very well”. This has renewed French clients’ confidence, given them “a great deal of optimism for the coming years” and contributed to the uptick in transactional activity. 

Elsewhere, fortunes have varied in financial-oriented practice areas A source told us “The finance market is suffering, but we have a lot of activity on the general banking side.” Meanwhile, capital markets lawyers have been “very active with restructurings” and described hybrid capital transactions as “a hot topic” for upcoming years. Similarly, in the private funds space, “France is back on track after a few nightmare years” and has seen large players, including tech funds, return to the market.

Francophone Africa continues to be a fruitful source of work, with sources telling us that “business on the [African] continent is growing and growing”. In response, “practically every major law firm in Paris has introduced an Africa desk, and there are a lot of strong competitors”. In particular, PPP projects, although not especially common in France, are an area of high activity across Africa and Asia. Energy projects in Africa are a very active area, ranging from solar and electricity plants to mining and deep-sea gas discovery. The rise in activity in the region has also meant that it is “a key region for growth” in international arbitration, with practitioners highlighting an increased use of African seats compared to 10 years ago, when most tribunals sat in Europe.

Compliance

According to sources, compliance is currently “the hot topic for clients” across a broad range of practice areas. On 9 December 2016 “Sapin II” No. 2016-1691 was enacted, with the aim of enhancing transparency and combating corruption in the French economy. The act introduces a duty for corporations to prevent corruption and makes compliance programmes mandatory for French companies and industrial and commercial establishments with over 500 employees and an annual turnover of €100 million. It also imposes penalties for failure to comply. These increased safeguarding requirements have led to “a significant number of clients seeking to strengthen their compliance structure” over the past 12 months. Business crime defence lawyers have witnessed strong activity in the area, most notably in the construction space but also across an array of other industries.

Compliance has also been an area of notable importance in the private client space. “Given the global context of the Panama Papers, there is an increased drive to gather information on taxpayers to determine the control of tax structures”, said  one lawyer in the area, who added that, “As the authorities are being more heavy-handed, clients are spending more time ensuring compliance.” Similarly, in the corporate tax arena, the use of digital accounting has given rise to an elevated number of compliance issues in the face of “a bombardment of EU and domestic litigation”. GDPR enters into force on 25 May 2018, and data protection lawyers are active in assisting companies to prepare and ensure adherence to the new regime.

Increased media pressure on healthcare product manufacturers and authorities has resulted in authorities adopting “an extremely strict stance” with manufacturers to avoid potential liability. Lawyers stated that “this has significantly altered how clients interact with authorities” and resulted in a great deal of compliance and regulatory advice. Environmental and social governance (ESG) is a “huge trend” in the market, and companies are placing emphasis on ensuring products and services are procured from jurisdictions which meet high environmental standards. This has resulted in high volumes of due diligence work for environmental lawyers.

The volume of compliance work in competition law “has been particularly high in 2017”, continuing an existing trend in this aspect of competition lawyers’ practice. There has been a significant uptick in private enforcement actions, with “victims extremely keen to initiate such claims”. EU Directive 2014/104/EU has facilitated this and set down rules governing national law actions for damages. As one market source said, “This is really something which French companies have integrated into their strategy. They are not hesitating to bring such claims.”

Legal Market Competition

The French legal market is “very dynamic and is characterised by the coexistence of international firms and very strong independent French firms”, according to sources. This remains true across the full range of practice areas, where domestic and international firms compete fiercely among themselves and each other. Practitioners have observed an uptick in US and UK firms entering the market with one noting, “This is in line with client needs – as business becomes increasingly international, working with firms with a global reach can be advantageous.” Domestic firms remain very strong, however, and “the most high-profile transactions often go to independent firms”. One competition lawyer noted, “French firms have historically been, and continue to be, at the top of the market” for antitrust and merger control work.

The legal market is growing and “it has been an incredibly busy year all round”, according to interviewees. In the arbitration space, sources observed the “fracturing of larger practices” across continental Europe, as practitioners move towards smaller firms with fewer conflict issues. Competition lawyers also reported numerous lateral moves, with some practice groups being almost totally overhauled. At the same time, a generational change, where “new faces are appearing, and older practitioners are stepping aside” has led to “a very open market with lots of opportunities”.

The life sciences market accommodated multiple new entrants over the past year, and small and large firms alike have placed emphasis on developing their practices in the area. According to respondents, “Size doesn’t impact the quality of services” so competition between players of various sizes is fierce, yet collegial. For IP matters, the market is home to many “highly competitive and successful” boutique firms, while in environmental law, small and medium-sized law firms perform well. In this market, “clients seek highly specialised advice from lawyers who are also involved in developing and making the law.” Economists and tax advisers observed that the entry of the Big Four accounting firms has “caused a big shift in the market”. Competition for capital markets work is fierce as France is home to “numerous quality firms and very talented lawyers”. One restructuring lawyer stressed the importance of “the human factor” and gaining work based on recommendations and visibility, particularly considering strict advertising constraints in France.

In keeping with the global trend, clients in France are  increasingly cost-sensitive, “with every year seeing a reduction in the amount of fees they are willing to pay”. The ability to compete in terms of fees “is certainly linked to the agility of firms”, said one lawyer, who added that independent firms are often more competitive in terms of fee arrangements.

Conclusion

As the French markets shifts, “law firms have to adapt to the changes”. As one lawyer put it, “We need to be as reactive and proactive as our clients are.” In this competitive legal market, it is essential for law firms to remain versatile in order to meet client demands and keep up with ongoing regulatory and market developments. However, it is clear from the economic and regulatory landscape that lawyers will continue to have much work to do in the coming year.

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Analysis: France

France: Administrative Litigation 2018

This chapter identifies 20 of the top French litigators who focus on administrative law matters and related disputes between entities and government authorities. 

France: Arbitration 2018

In this chapter we highlight 97 of the leading arbitration counsel and arbitrators in the French market.

France: Arbitration Expert Witnesses 2018

This year we feature 16 standout individuals who are recognised for their excellent work providing written and oral testimony in complex domestic and international arbitrations.

France: Asset Recovery 2018

Seven lawyers are recommended in this chapter for their exceptional work assisting clients in tracing and recovering lost or stolen assets in relation to disclosure, freezing and seizure orders and recovery claims.

France: Banking 2018

In this chapter, 16 leading lawyers are highlighted for their expertise handing regulatory and transactional work in the banking sector.

France: Business Crime Defence & Investigations 2018

This year we highlight 38 leading practitioners for their work in fraud, white-collar crime and investigations. This includes both civil and criminal matters, forensic issues and disputes in France and overseas jurisdictions.

France: Capital Markets 2018

This year’s research features 18 highly regarded lawyers with expertise spanning the full gamut of capital markets transactions, compliance and regulation.

France: Commercial Litigation 2018

This year we recognise 28 leading advocates for their excellent work handling commercial disputes across a range of sectors.

France: Competition 2018

This year we highlight 43 competition law experts who stand out for their excellent work advising prominent French and international clients on a wide range of competition law matters, including merger control, state aid and cartels.

France: Competition Economists 2018

In this section, we highlight 16 standout competition economists who are widely recognised thanks to their extensive experience providing expert advice and testimony on a range of complex matters relating to competition law.

France: Construction 2018

This year we identify 18 construction lawyers for their excellent work handling leasing, procurement and regulatory matters and their formidable experience in construction disputes.

France: Corporate Tax 2018

This year we highlight 56 individuals for their work in the contentious and advisory corporate tax spaces, acting for clients in both domestic and international tax matters.

France: Corporate Tax Expert Witnesses 2018

In this chapter we recognise five expert witnesses in the French market for their excellent work handling tax litigation and providing expert witness testimony on a wide variety of issues such as acceptable tax practices and transfer pricing valuations.

France: Data 2018

In this chapter, 60 leading lights are recognised for their work handling both contentious and non-contentious data-related legal matters including information technology, telecoms and media and data protection and security.

France: Energy 2018

In this chapter we highlight 41 leading energy lawyers. The individuals listed here are the most highly recommended practitioners in the market for transactional and project-related matters, as well as disputes and sophisticated regulatory advice.

France: Environment 2018

Here we highlight 27 esteemed environmental law practitioners with expertise encompassing compliance, risk management, regulatory matters and disputes.

France: Franchise 2018

This year we recognise eight individuals for their expertise in franchising law and their experience assisting clients in the establishment, maintenance and growth of their franchise businesses.

France: Government Contracts 2018

This year we highlight 16 practitioners for their exceptional work in the public procurement space, handling contracts, as well as reviews and disputes arising from the tender process.

France: Insurance & Reinsurance 2018

This year we highlight 25 leading lawyers who stand out for their abilities in insurance and reinsurance advisory matters and disputes both in the French market and internationally.

France: Investigations Forensic Experts 2018

We highlight three forensic experts this year who stand out for their expertise handling the collection, preservation and analysis of large amounts of data to assist clients in internal and external investigations.

France: Labour & Employment 2018

This year’s research has identified 42 highly regarded labour and employment lawyers, who have been recognised by peers and clients alike for their outstanding expertise in employment matters relating to M&A and corporate reorganisation, strategic HR planning, and employee relations.

France: Life Sciences 2018

In our life sciences chapter we highlight 41 market-leading lawyers who stand out for their excellent work advising and representing some of the world’s biggest life sciences companies.

France: M&A and Governance 2018

In this chapter we recognise 19 leading practitioners who stand out for their impressive handling of public and private M&A transactions and joint ventures, as well as corporate governance matters.

France: Mediation 2018

This year we highlight 15 individuals for their exceptional work as mediators in commercial proceedings across a range of different industries. 

France: Mining 2018

In this chapter we highlight 11 lawyers who stand out for their impressive work advising and representing players across the mining sector on a wide array of matters including exploration, mine financing and leasing.

France: Patent Attorneys 2018

In this chapter we highlight 19 leading patent attorneys who impress with their expertise when it comes to drafting, prosecution, portfolio management and patent disputes for clients from a broad range of industry sectors.

France: Patents 2018

In this section, we recognise 30 leading patent lawyers who are widely regarded as experts at handling complex patent disputes across a range of industry sectors.

France: Private Client 2018

This year we highlight 16 practitioners in the French market who stand out for their excellent work advising high-net-worth individuals and families on estate planning, trusts, transactions and wills.

France: Private Funds 2018

Twelve leading names are recognised in this chapter for their expertise in funds structuring, management and closure including both the private equity and hedge space.

France: Product Liability Defence 2018

This year’s research shines the spotlight on 23 esteemed product liability lawyers. The practitioners listed here have been highly recommended for their vast experience advising and defending corporates, financial institutions and insurance companies in disputes and regulatory matters.

France: Project Finance 2018

This year’s research features 25 outstanding project finance lawyers who have been recommended by the market as the leading names in France. Their expertise spans a broad range of matters pertaining to major public and private projects in a range of sectors.

France: Real Estate 2018

In this chapter, 29 leading lawyers have been singled out for their expertise in a broad range of domestic and international real estate services, including real estate financing, development projects and single asset and portfolio transactions.

France: Restructuring and Insolvency 2018

Here we feature 20 outstanding restructuring and insolvency experts. This year’s research has identified these individuals as the leading lawyers for strategic advice, restructuring transactions and related disputes.

France: Sports 2018

In this chapter we feature five impressive lawyers who stand out for their excellent work representing clients in the sports industry.  

France: Trade & Customs 2018

In this chapter, five standout practitioners are recognised for their strong track record handling international trade, export control and customs law issues.

France: Trademarks 2018

Thirty-four outstanding lawyers and trademark attorneys have been selected for inclusion in this chapter. Those featured are internationally renowned for their expertise and experience representing and advising companies across a broad range of industry sectors.

France: Transport 2018

In this chapter we recognise 42 transport specialists who stand out for their excellent work in aviation and shipping law including financing, logistics, transactions, insurance and crisis management.

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Firm Profiles: France

2018: Leading Firms

This year’s edition of WWL: France features almost 300 firms, from boutique offerings through to full-service outfits. However over a quarter of total listings this year come from 10 standout firms that we profile below.

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