Business law: who are the best lawyers in France?

Every year, in mid-March, legal practitioners eagerly await the Chambers & Partners benchmark ranking. Produced by this London-based organization based on client feedback, this list is a valuable tool for legal directors and general managers looking for the best lawyers.

The guide is particularly selective and only includes firms recognized as the best in their field of activity. It categorizes firms into “band 1”, “band 2”, and “band 3”, with “band 1” being the highest rated category. It also distinguishes certain individual lawyers. Some are ‘stars’, their clients having given exceptionally glowing recommendations about them; others appear in a “band 1”, while others are recognized as “Senior Statesperson”. In this case, they are experienced lawyers, and therefore much older.

This guide includes several branches of law. “Les Echos” has decided to focus on five sectors in the spotlight: business law and mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, compliance and investigations, international arbitration and legal business criminals.

1. Business law

2021 has been an excellent vintage for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) advisory with the frenzy of takeovers and other corporate marriages in France and around the world.

Enough to feed specialized lawyers. Among the latter, the hierarchy has not changed much. Firms Bredin Prat, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier still top the rankings. All of them were notably advisers to Suez or Veolia in the context of the merger between the two groups.

In the following ranks, BDGS Associés – of which one of its founders, Antoine Gosset-Grainville, will become chairman of the board of AXA in April 2022 – is no longer the only French structure facing the Anglo-Saxons. Gide Loyrette Nouel ranks fourth, just behind Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Weil Gotshal & Manges.

Pierre-Yves Chabert (Clear Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton) is singled out. He won the title of star while four associates of Bredin Prat – Benjamin Kanovitch, Olivier Assant, Patrick Dziewolski and Sébastien Prat – monopolized the first rank again with Bertrand Cardi (Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier), Dominique Bompoint (cabinet Bompoint) and Olivier Diaz (Gide). Dominique Bompoint advised Vivendi on numerous transactions in 2021.

Tutelary figures of the business bar, Didier Martin (Bredin Prat), Jean-Pierre Martel (Orrick Rambaud Martel), Alain Maillot and Jean-Michel Darrois (Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier) stand out as “Senior Statesperson”.

2. Capital markets

For capital markets equity trading, Cleary Gottlieb and White & Case stand out. White & Case has been very active in SPAC’s IPOs in Europe. Linklaters, with Allen & Overy, come second. Philippe Herbelin of White & Case stands out as an eminent practitioner.

For debt transactions, Clifford Chance, Gide, White & Case, and Allen & Overy take the lead. Hervé Ekué (Allen & Overy), is recognized as star of the year. He advised Groupama on its €500 million subordinated green bond issue.

3. Business criminal law

Eric Dezeuze (Bredin Prat), who pleaded in January for Ernest Antoine Seillière in a trial for tax evasion, and Hervé Temime (Temime) who defended UBS, are described as “stars”. This is the third consecutive year for Eric Dezeuze, and the second for Hervé Temime.

Denis Chemla (Allen & Overy), Kiril Bougartchev (Bougartchev Moyne Associés) and Thierry Marembert (Kiejman & Marembert) are classified in the first category.

Julia Minkowski (Temime) who defended Bernard Tapie, joined with Leon del Forno (Temime), Benjamin Grundler (Visconti & Grundler) and Hippolyte Marquetty (Allen & Overy), in the category of “newcomers”.

4. Compliance and Investigations

Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Norton Rose Fulbright rank first.

5. International Arbitration

As in 2021, Dechert and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan – which welcomed former National Financial Prosecutor Eric Russo in October 2020 – share first place with White & Case.

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