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Gibson deals body blow to Ashurst’s European business as four-partner Paris team quits

Ashurst’s hopes of stabilising its European practice have been dealt a body blow with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher today (8 June) recruiting a four-partner team from its Paris arm. The move – which comes just months after a five-partner corporate team quit Ashurst’s Paris outpost for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer  – sees a team led by litigation and restructuring partner Jean-Pierre Farges decamp to the US-based giant.

The new team will launch a French litigation and finance practice for Gibson Dunn. Farges is joined by fellow disputes partners Pierre-Emmanuel Fender and Eric Bouffard, corporate partner Bertrand Delaunay and finance counsel Amanda Bevan. The move leaves Ashurst with 10 partners in the French capital.

Ashurst’s French practice had billed roughly £25m in recent years, a figure that looks set to be substantially depleted by this year’s run of departures. The team that quit for Freshfields in February was believed to control around £8m a year in business.

Following the Freshfields exits, Ashurst recruited Linklaters’ leveraged finance senior associate Pierre Roux in Paris, promoting him to partner. Paris-based employment lawyer Nataline Fleury was also made up to partner in the firm’s promotion round this year. The departures come after a troubled period for Ashurst, which has been hit by internal discord and falling profits after a punishing 2015/16 financial year.

Ashurst managing partner Paul Jenkins told Legal Business that the firm is currently in the process of appointing another lateral to the office: ‘We are in the middle of a rebuild process for the office. This move has been expected for some time and we still have a very strong office led by Philippe None, who has been actively out in the market helping me with this process. We’ve already hired Pierre Roux from Linklaters and we’ve also brought through an internal candidate, with another announcement to be made shortly.’

Gibson Dunn in January added a four-lawyer French team from Allen & Overy led by partner Ahmed Baladi, who advises information technology, outsourcing, data privacy and cybersecurity.

Gibson Dunn chair and managing partner Ken Doran said the latest team recruitment was a ‘transformational step in the development of our Paris office by adding strong litigation, arbitration, restructuring and finance capabilities.’

Gibson Dunn Paris head Bernard Grinspan commented: ‘For about six years we’ve been looking to expand in litigation because that is our main strength in the US. We spoke to quite a few teams, we seriously spoke to three or four, and this was far the best. They’re very good, they have the added interest of wanting to combine restructuring and litigation, and they also have a superb finance lawyer [in] Amanda. We’re killing two birds with one stone.’

The top 20 US law firm also opened its Frankfurt office in June last year with the hire of corporate partners Dirk Oberbracht and Wilhelm Reinhardt from Latham & Watkins.

For more on the Ashurst’s Paris practice click here