Paul Hastings has appointed Olivier Vermeulen as chair of its Paris office.
Vermeulen, a French lawyer, joined the firm three years ago as partner and head of the French finance department after working at Latham & Watkins and SJ Berwin. He opened Latham’s office in Qatar.
Paul Hastings has 45 lawyers in its Paris office, which places it among the top tier of law firms in France. Vermeulen said he is planning to expand the office and has Latham in his sights in terms of its size and presence. “I know where I’m aiming,” he said.
Vermeulen noted that there is growing competition in the French market, as law firms have been attracted by financing activity.
“Paris is a very active place,” he said, pointing out that it’s home to a large number of important companies and has seen strong growth in alternative financing, such as private equity.
His own expertise is leveraged finance and fund finance, and his practice includes representing private equity sponsors, debt funds, financial institutions and companies in finance transactions.
France has also benefited from being a predictable profitable place to do business compared to other regions, Vermeulen said. “South America is complicated. Opportunities in Africa are very limited. You don’t start [your international expansion] there and you have geopolitical risk. In Asia, growth is not as strong as it was.”
Paris also has advantages over other European locations, he said.
“In Germany, you have a lot of local players,” he explained. “While northern European countries like Sweden and Denmark are good to do business, firms based there tend to be limited to local markets.”
While the U.K. continues to be a large market, Brexit has had an impact and increased uncertainty. “In the U.K., you don’t know what the pound is going to be worth,” he said.
By contrast, France’s reputation has benefited from changes introduced by President Emmanuel Macron. “France was seen as a communist country,” Vermeulen says.
Ronan O’Sullivan, one of Paul Hastings’ managing partners, said in a statement: “We are confident that Olivier’s appointment shall help us continue the financial and strategic progress that we have made in Paris and that his leadership shall enable us to accelerate our growth in such an important market for the firm.”
Vermeulen succeeds Olivier Deren, who had served as chair of the Paris office since 2012.
Paul Hastings’ gross revenue rose 9.1 percent to $1.22 billion in 2018. Profits per equity partner jumped 12 percent to $3.25 million last year, marking a nearly 25 percent increase over the past two years.