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Is the French legal market past its best?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 18/10/13

For Francophone lawyers, the boulevards of Paris have always exercised a substantial appeal - the city of romance is also known as one of Europe's legal hubs and that's without even mentioning the freshly-baked bread, the coffee and the air of effortless superiority afflicting the residents.

However, the market is changing, with larger firms struggling to do good business as a growing number of boutique companies spring up, reports the Lawyer.

"I'm not surprised at this trend and it's quite a good thing. It means we have entrepreneurial lawyers who believe in the future of the profession," said Bredin Prat corporate partner Patrick Dziewolski.

Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, Gide Loyrette Nouel, Hogan Lovells and Sullivan & Cromwell all bade farewell to partners in the French capital over the last 12 months as they struck out on their own.

Daniel Villey, the son of the Darois founder, was one lawyer who decided to move on and launch his own smaller firm.

He suggested that market conditions played as much of a role in his decision as itchy feet.

"We believe, especially in the financial crisis we've been living through in recent years, that clients want a strong personal relationship with their lawyers. We thought it’s probably easier to deliver that kind of service if you’re a smaller team," explained Mr Villey.

While major firms retain a strong presence in Paris, this shift towards smaller-scale organisations is intriguing, highlighting the emphasis European firms are now placing on accountability and efficiency as they attempt to cut costs across the board.

Given that many lawyers feel capable of doing the same kind of work they were doing when with larger companies, the model appears to be proving a success, at least in Paris.

So not only is the French capital now known for its boutique boulangeries, it's offering boutique legal services now too.