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Amid mounting competition from globalized law firms based in the United States and London, France’s largest independent firm is making a push—though after some reluctance—into North America’s financial markets. Paris-based Gide Loyrette Nouel has hired its first two American lawyers to staff its New York office, one from Thelen Reid & Priest and another from Richmond, Va.-based Hunton & Williams. It hopes to bulk up its New York practice, which has served mainly as desk space for the firm with 500 attorneys and advisors, by adding as many as 15 U.S. attorneys in the next year to represent the likes of Credit Lyonnais, L’Oreal S.A., Peugeot and a variety of non-French clients. ‘Constant pressure’ The expansion may seem conservative compared to hulking U.S. firms whose one-stop-shopping mantra has spawned rapid proliferation into European and Asian markets. But the move by Gide—a firm that historically has eschewed U.S. expansion—indicates that globalization most likely is inevitable for even the most guarded firms, if they want to remain viable. “We were under constant pressure from the Anglo-Saxon firms,” said David Malamed, resident partner of Gide’s New York office. Until now, Gide has staffed its New York office with four or five Paris-based attorneys on a rotating basis. But with U.S. firms and those from the United Kingdom opening or enlarging their offices in Paris, Gide has needed to re-evaluate its growth philosophy, Malamed said. “The deals are becoming more and more international,” he said. In the past, Gide, which focuses on finance, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate law, referred some of its clients with New York matters to Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. But the arrangements no longer worked, Malamed said. “Those firms are so powerful. If we had a large transaction for us, it was a mid-cap transaction for them. The time and care from those firms was not exactly what we were looking for,” he said. Many U.S.-based firms have significant operations in Paris, and several have opened Paris practices in the last five years, including Latham & Watkins; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Washington-based Howrey (formerly Howrey Simon Arnold & White). Besides the presence of U.S. firms treading on Gide’s turf, several London-based firms also have moved into the market, including Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters. Gide also had referral arrangements with some of the European firms, but those deals changed once they opened Paris offices, Malamed said. The influx of U.S. firms into Paris has come largely from their desire to have an office in a major continental European city, as opposed to expansion based on a huge increase in the volume or kinds of work available in France, said Candace Beinecke, chairwoman of New York’s Hughes Hubbard & Reed. Hughes Hubbard, a 350-attorney firm, opened a Paris office in the mid-1960s. It now has 25 attorneys there who focus on mergers and acquisitions, labor law and international arbitration. “It’s a continental European powerhouse,” she said. Joining Gide is Marianne Rosenberg, a former partner in Thelen Reid & Priest’s New York office. Rosenberg, fluent in French, headed Thelen Reid’s international practice group. She also was a partner at White & Case for 11 years, where she co-headed its equipment and facility finance group. She was also managing partner of Linklater’s New York office. Also a new hire at Gide is Robert MacDonald, a former 11-year tax partner at Hunton & Williams and co-leader of its derivatives practice group. Founded 80 years ago, Gide in 1955 was the first French law firm to incorporate as a partnership, based on French law that previously had not allowed groups of attorneys to practice together. The firm, which has 18 offices in 15 countries, is France’s largest independent law firm. It is a member of Lex Mundi, the law firm referral network, and other informal referral groups. Gide’s strategy for expansion has been to develop practices in emerging markets of so-called civil law countries, including those in Eastern Europe, China, Algeria and Tunisia. From now on, however, it will add attorneys where there is a particular client need, Malamed said.

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