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K&L Gates said “bonjour” to Paris yesterday, opening the firm’s 24th office in the City of Lights.

Two partners of 30-attorney Kahn & Associés, Diane Hedary and Olivia Lê Horovitz, are the start of what the firm said would be “rapid” expansion in Paris.

Hedary is a member of the Paris and New York bars, and focuses her practices on real estate, corporate and mergers and acquisitions transactions. Lê Horovitz handles private equity, mergers and acquisitions, corporate and environmental law.

The Paris office follows a year behind the opening of a Berlin office that started with about 15 attorneys. K&L Gates now has 30 attorneys in Berlin. With its recent merger with Texas-based Hughes & Luce, K&L Gates has more than 1,500 lawyers in 24 offices across the United States, Europe and Asia.

“The opening of our Paris office is another important step in our build-out in Europe,” K&L Gates’ Chairman Peter J. Kalis said in a statement. “We plan to grow this office at a rapid pace to be able fully to serve the requirements of clients that need legal resources on the ground in France.”

In an interview yesterday, Kalis said he anticipates that rapid growth to translate into a 10- or 12-lawyer office by the end of 2008 and a 30- to 50-attorney office within three years.

The Paris office will have a “decidedly transactional bent” but will also include employment law, which Kalis said is vital to companies doing business in France.

K&L Gates’ move into France is part of the firm’s strategy to configure itself in the same way as its clients, Kalis said.

The firm has offices in Europe’s first and second largest economies – Germany and England, respectively – and has now moved into Europe’s third-largest economic center with the office in France, Kalis said.

K&L Gates is investigating opportunities in other European locations, but Kalis said nothing was imminent.

Only some of the largest firms with offices in Pennsylvania also have Paris locations. Dechert opened a Paris office in 1995 and now has 42 attorneys there. Reed Smith opened its Paris office in late 2005 and now has 31 attorneys.

DLA Piper has 40 attorneys in the city, Jones Day has more than 80 and Morgan Lewis & Bockius has almost 20 attorneys in Paris.

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