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This Special Report covers 38 practice areas.

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France In Brief

France’s economy continued to perform well in 2018 and is predicted to grow again in 2019, by 1.6 per cent. Emmanuel Macron’s election in May 2017 has led to significant policy changes over the past year, such as eased tax rates on investment income and changes to the country’s labour laws. Some key focus points of Macron, going in to his presidency, were to boost investment and create a “new growth model” in order to improve social mobility and help the environment. While the economy performed well last year, it did not flourish to the levels predicted by the government at the start of 2018. Positive developments include a decline in unemployment and an increase in wage growth. Despite the violent “gilet jaunes” protests, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies found that French GDP rose by 0.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2018. These protests first began last November as a demonstration against Macron’s fuel tax rise and have continued in the first part of 2019. Tax cuts and a sympathetic financing environment are expected to increase business investment further.

Many practitioners we interviewed highlighted an increase in complex disputes over the past year. France maintains its position as a hub of arbitration, with practitioners predicting even more arbitration proceedings will take place in France after Brexit. One significant trend observed was the increased control of public policy by the French courts. For instance, In January 2018 the ICC award in MK Group v Onix was set aside by the Paris Court of Appeal on international public policy grounds. This ruling was made on the basis that the award had given legal protection to a fraudulent investment. The act of a French court taking control of an arbitrator’s decision where allegations of fraud were involved has sparked a debate between practitioners and scholars, with some welcoming the increased control of public policy by the courts while others expressed scepticism towards this development.

The Achmea judgment remains a hot topic, with practitioners noting it still remains “very difficult to see the potential consequences of the decision”. Lawyers in the region are observing the increasing importance of enforcement, with some seeing cases reopen as a result of the decision.  One practitioner told us that they see “more and more enforcement out of Europe where EU disputes are seated in the US”. In addition, mediation is expected to gain traction in coming years, as one interviewee commented: “We see the number of court-ordered mediations grow significantly in France – whether from the first circuit or the Court of Appeal.” This is partly due to “increasing formalisation of mediation by the courts in France”.

The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), France’s data protection office, in an unprecedented move, instigated proceedings in which it found Google guilty of violating the GDPR. As a result, Google was fined €50 million and became the first large US tech company to be so punished under the new EU privacy regulation. Cybersecurity and privacy researcher Lukasz Olejnik, quoted in the Financial Times, remarked: “The first decisions and fines will be very important because they will define how GDPR is actually understood and enforced in practice.” This case came after the CNIL had provided guidance in December 2018 on sharing data with third parties for marketing purposes. Whether other similar cases will follow remains to be seen.

Developments and issues surrounding technology were raised by practitioners working in several and varied fields in our research. On the insurtech side, one practitioner commented that they are “seeing a lot of insurers partnering up with start-ups or tech companies not already in the insurance market, for the offering of added-value services”. One example is the partnership of AXA and the French carpooling app BlaBlaCar. Clyde & Co, in their 2019 annual report into the insurance market, commented, “French (re)insurers are increasingly eyeing opportunities in the technology sector as they seek access to new distribution channels, either by taking an equity stake or developing a strategic partnership with a start-up.”

The competition law space has also seen significant developments over the past year. One respondent remarks: “It’s fair to say that after a certain period of transition when the new president of the French Competition Authority (FCA) was appointed, it was quieter, but now we’re back to full speed with more cases than before.” Competition lawyers were extremely busy in 2018, and experienced “very intense” competition for work in the field. Interviewees highlighted several trends in the space, particularly as a result of the FCA being “very active and creative at the moment”. One practitioner comments that there is a “real trend for criminalisation of antitrust matters – the FCA has now initiated dawn raids with assistance of a criminal judge, which is a very new development”. More than one of the lawyers we spoke to noticed an “important increase in settlements”. One practitioner highlighted, “In the past you would defend a company, avoid the fine, but if you were imposed a fine you would go before the courts, whereas now if you settle there is no court case and administrative proceedings are quicker.”

The French legal market, meanwhile, remains extremely competitive, and “the pool of cases has not grown, making competition even fiercer”. One practitioner commented that “some very prominent practitioners have retired or are expected to retire, and so a generation change is ongoing at the moment”. With fiercer competition, “Parisian firms are trying to look abroad, often to Africa, which is now the playground of French arbitrators.” Respondents continue to see a “steep rise in cases relating to Africa”, a trend noted previously in our research. One interviewee remarked that “more and more cases are going to arbitration in Africa”, which was not necessarily the case before. It seems highly likely that Macron’s presidency will certainly lead to more changes and developments to the country’s administration, which will naturally impact legal activity next year.

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Analysis: France

France: Administrative Litigation 2019

In this chapter we highlight 22 practitioners who have been selected for their expertise representing and advising clients in public contract matters, project financing, PPP efforts and a range of regulatory issues.

France: Arbitration 2019

In this chapter, we highlight the 103 foremost arbitration specialists in France. They have been selected for their expertise and experience in a large variety of disputes across myriad sectors, operating under major institutional rules or on an ad hoc basis.

France: Arbitration Expert Witnesses 2019

In this chapter we highlight 20 expert witnesses who stand out for their experience and expertise providing damages valuation, forensic accounting and economic analysis across a broad range of sectors in arbitration proceedings.

France: Asset Recovery 2019

This year’s research into the French asset recovery market sees eight individuals highlighted for their impressive work in the field.

France: Aviation 2019

Here we cover 23 impressive practitioners who draw praise from sources for their work across contentious, regulatory and transactional matters in aviation.

France: Banking 2019

We highlight 16 standout practitioners in this chapter, recognising them for their excellent work handling financial, regulatory and contentious matters across the banking sector.

France: Business Crime Defence & Investigations 2019

Our research into the French business crime defence and investigations spaces sees 40 individuals highlighted this year. The practitioners stand out for their excellence in matters ranging from compliance issues to international investigations and fraud and corruption matters.

France: Capital Markets 2019

We highlight 15 individuals in this chapter who are renowned for their expertise in transactional and regulatory matters in the capital markets field.

France: Commercial Litigation 2019

We recognise 30 individuals in this chapter for their work in the field of commercial litigation. The practitioners stand out for their expertise on issues ranging from white-collar crime to product liability disputes.

France: Competition 2019

In this chapter we recognise 47 lawyers for their exceptional work advising clients on regulatory and criminal investigations as well as assisting with merger filings, abuse of dominance cases, state aid and cartel matters.

France: Competition Economists 2019

In this chapter we recognise 15 economists who stand out for their leading work providing expert knowledge and testimony in complex antitrust matters and competition economics.  

France: Construction 2019

In this chapter we identify 18 construction lawyers who have been selected for their experience and expertise in advising clients in a range of dispute resolution proceedings across various industries, as well as for their pre-dispute practice and advisory service in the construction space.

France: Corporate Tax 2019

Here we highlight 53 lawyers who draw praise for their outstanding expertise in issues such as transfer pricing, international disputes and corporate restructuring.

France: Corporate Tax Expert Witnesses 2019

This year we highlight five experts known for their excellent work providing expert evidence complex valuation analysis on a range of corporate tax issues.

France: Data 2019

In this chapter we highlight 58 data lawyers for their exceptional work representing domestic and international clients in IP, trademark and copyright litigation in the digital sector, advising on privacy and data regulations, as well as providing guidance on cybersecurity and e-commerce matters.

France: Energy 2019

In this chapter we highlight 39 practitioners for their outstanding work on both transactional and contentious matters in the energy sector, with their work covering regions across the globe.

France: Environment 2019

In this chapter we recognise 28 individuals for their exceptional work in the environmental sector, on matters ranging from carbon markets to waste management.

France: Franchise 2019

In this year’s research into the franchise legal market 11 outstanding lawyers are identified for their ability to assist franchisors and franchisees in matters such as system structuring, disputes, and franchise agreements.

France: Government Contracts 2019

Over the course of our research this year, we have identified 16 practitioners who stand out for their impressive public procurement work and ability in complex bidding and tender proceedings.

France: Insurance & Reinsurance 2019

In this chapter we recognise 25 lawyers for their leading work representing insurance underwriters, reinsurers, intermediaries and corporate insurers in contentious, contractual, regulatory and transactional matters.

France: Investigations Forensic Experts 2019

In this chapter we recognise six experts for their leading work on forensic accounting, e-discovery, computer forensics, and data recovery and analysis.

France: Labour & Employment 2019

Our research into the French labour and employment market sees 44 individuals highlighted for their excellent work on advisory and contentious matters ranging from collective litigation to restructuring and pensions issues.

France: Life Sciences 2019

This year’s research into the French life sciences market sees 44 individuals highlighted for their performance on transactional and contentious matters across all sections of the life sciences space.

France: M&A and Governance 2019

In this chapter we recognise 17 standout lawyers for their exceptional work handling a range of M&A transactions and corporate governance issues.

France: Mediation 2019

In this chapter we recognise 15 leading individuals who stand out for their excellent work handling a range of complex commercial disputes.

France: Mining 2019

Here we identify 12 leading mining experts who stand out for their exceptional work advising companies on regulatory and transactional issues as well as disputes.

France: Patent Attorneys 2019

This year 18 patent attorneys are recognised for their excellence in preparing, filing and prosecuting patent applications.

France: Patents 2019

In this chapter we identify 33 excellent patents lawyers who are recognised for their outstanding work relating to matters such as licensing, portfolio management, and litigation.

France: Private Client 2019

In this chapter we identify 18 practitioners for their expertise in wealth management, estate planning and succession advice for individuals and companies on an international scale.

France: Private Funds 2019

Here we highlight 13 lawyers who stand out for their excellent work handling sophisticated fund formation, regulation and management.

France: Product Liability Defence 2019

In this chapter we recognise 27 lawyers who have been selected for their outstanding expertise and experience in domestic and international product liability disputes across a broad range of industry sectors.

France: Project Finance 2019

Here we recognise 15 lawyers as outstanding figures in the French project finance market. Their expertise covers issues ranging from capital markets transactions to PPPs and joint ventures.

France: Real Estate 2019

Our research into the French real estate space sees 32 individuals listed this year for their impressive work on a range of matters, from transactions and financing arrangements to complex domestic and international disputes.

France: Restructuring & Insolvency 2019

In this year’s research into the restructuring and insolvency market, 21 lawyers are recognised for their excellent work in the field.

France: Shipping 2019

In this chapter we recognise 12 lawyers for their unrivalled handling of shipping matters, where they expertly act for clients on issues that range from disputes to financing.

France: Sports & Entertainment 2019

In this chapter, we recognise 13 highly esteemed sports and entertainment specialists who have been identified for their expertise in a range of IP, contractual, data protection and financing matters in the sector.

France: Trade & Customs 2019

In this chapter we highlight six trade and customs lawyers for their work assisting domestic and international clients on trade, export controls and customs issues.

France: Trademarks 2019

In this chapter we recognise 31 lawyers who stand out for their impressive work on trademarks matters ranging from prosecution and licensing to unfair competition disputes.

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Firm Profiles: France

France 2019: Leading Firms

This year’s edition of WWL: France features over 300 firms, from boutique offerings through to full-service outfits. However over a fifth of total listings this year come from eight prominent firms, which we profile here.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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