The jump in transactions benefits business lawyers

What are the best law firms in France? As every year, Décideurs Juridiques draws up the quantified balance sheet of the business bar which totals in 2021 a turnover of more than 4.5 billion euros just by bringing together the first 100 law firms.

Mega deals in a booming year

Their level of productivity has never been so high: with more than 450,000 euros in turnover on average per lawyer, law firms are emerging winners from the health crisis, the number of financial transactions having exploded month. Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, at the head of the Décideurs 100 for more than ten years, Bredin Prat, BDGS Associés…

The French have nothing to envy to the high-end American firms (Weil Gotshal, Paul Hastings, Mayer Brown or even Skadden and Quinn Emanuel) nor to those of the Magic Circle (which are Freshfields, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters) . The activity of the brands present alongside the bosses of the CAC40 and the major investment funds was flourishing throughout a year marked by mega-deals.

Within the finest brands, M&A professionals and those in financing, securities law and restructuring were extremely busy. This outbreak of operations, they had anticipated; they therefore carried out very few layoffs. The reason ? In 2020, when the courts were closed and other freedom-restricting measures hit companies as a result of the health crisis, they retained only the best lawyers: the first instinct of all prudent structures was to on the one hand to cut in the remuneration of the partners and to review the bonuses of the collaborators, and on the other hand to oust the lawyers who show little solidarity in the financial turmoil and to thank those who invoiced the least.

Results: the teams corporate/M&A have been maintained in full, the idea being that it is better to tighten your belt during the few months when deals are suspended and thus avoid recruiting in an emergency. A relevant idea because transactions resumed very early in 2020 and continued throughout 2021.

Revenues collected per head of pipe soar

With an immediate effect: a general and unprecedented increase in the financial results of the best firms in France. Never has the cumulative turnover of the top 100 business law firms been so high (it reached 4.5 billion, or 5.4% more in one year), never has the level of profitability of the number one has exceeded the 1.2 million euro mark per “fee-earners”the Anglo-Saxon name of these professionals who invoice.

In other words, the firms have done better with fewer productive staff, the average turnover per lawyer having increased by 9.55% when the workforce within the business bar has fallen by 8.92%. In total, only five structures suffered a loss of turnover between 2020 and 2021. Nothing abnormal that, in this context, the receipts collected per head of pipe soar, particularly among the partners: at Skadden , the average turnover is 7 million euros when, with the best-placed French company, Vogel & Vogel, it reaches 5.4 million. Bredin Prat and Darrois also posted results in excess of 3 million euros per partner. It must be said that the firms of French origin are doing well this year: all have seen their earnings increase, which had never happened in the past.

Find the full 2022 edition of the Décideurs 100 of business law firms on the website

Article written by


Pascale D’Amore

A lawyer by training, Pascale is a specialist in business law and the regulation of economic activities. She began her career as a journalist as a freelancer for various legal journals.

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