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Dozen 'Stolen' Taylor Wessing Partners Headed to Nixon PeabodyThe feud between Taylor Wessing's French office and Nixon Peabody is getting nastier. As first reported by The Am Law Daily, Taylor Wessing's 55-lawyer Paris outpost sued Nixon, claiming the U.S.-based firm violated a 2007 agreement not to recruit Taylor Wessing attorneys if merger talks between the two firms fell apart. Those talks ended in November. Now, in an attempt to halt a dozen lawyers' departures, Taylor Wessing has filed a new motion and is also asking the Paris Bar Association to step in.
The American Lawyer2008-08-20 12:00:00 AM
The feud between Taylor Wessing's French office and Nixon Peabody is getting nastier. As first reported by The Am Law Daily two weeks ago, Taylor Wessing's 55-lawyer Paris outpost has sued Nixon, claiming the U.S.-based firm violated a 2007 agreement not to recruit Taylor Wessing attorneys if merger talks between the two firms fell apart. Those talks ended in November.
Taylor Wessing's suit also names former Paris managing partner Arnaud de Senilhes, claiming he breached his fiduciary duty to the firm by "surreptitiously" negotiating with Taylor Wessing partners about a move to Nixon after the merger talks ended.
Nixon fired back, filing a request for a preliminary injunction in New York trial court in Monroe County (the firm has an office in Rochester). It claims the end of the merger talks voided prior agreements on recruiting between the firms. Nixon has asked a judge to block Taylor's lawsuit so they can finalize the hiring lawyers and proceed with plans to open a Paris office.
As of last week, a dozen of those lawyers, all non-equity partners, gave notice at Taylor Wessing, hoping they will launch Nixon's Paris office, according to a motion filed this week by Taylor's legal team. The motion opposes Nixon's request for a preliminary injunction. Taylor Wessing also is attempting to stop the partner moves by asking the Paris Bar Association to step in, according to the filing.
In court papers, Nixon says any delay in the hiring process might drive the partners elsewhere. Taylor Wessing's motion disputes this argument, saying that, under French law, the partners must keep working for Taylor Wessing for at least three months before defecting.
Other documents filed in the matter provide additional insight into why the merger talks fell apart. In his declaration, Gilles Amsallem, one of five equity partners in Taylor Wessing's Paris office, says the merger collapsed when "it became clear Nixon was not prepared to provide us with the sort of financial terms we were seeking."
But it wasn't only money. The firm's 15 non-equity partners, who felt they were kept in the dark about the possible merger, simply did not want to work for an American firm.
"It was their view that law firms in the United States had significant hourly billing requirements, something that French firms do not, which made the non-equity partners exceedingly uncomfortable," Tuesday's motion says.
The cases filed in Manhattan and Monroe are pending.