What Money Can't Buy: Accelerating Growth in the Paris Legal Market


Coined a melting pot with good reason, international firms are increasingly looking to set up shop in Paris. US firms quickly made a name for themselves in London some 10 years ago, but Paris’ current buzz of lateral partner activity must be navigated with a more nuanced approach and international firms will need to establish a level of cultural appreciation for the way the smaller market works.


Where US firms found that investing heavily in key growth areas led to success in the London market, firms looking to lure talent in Paris must be more creative. Famed for its history of intellectual enlightenment, it is perhaps not a surprise that the concept of ‘a beautiful project’ has emerged in the Paris legal market as a key motivating factor behind moves.


Whilst activity in the London market is driven by many different factors, compensation often has the heaviest bargaining power. In Paris, compensation may be the icing on the cake that closes a deal, but partners are looking for a foundation of unique opportunities. Offerings of leadership, stimulation and growth - perhaps the chance to lead cross-border projects or take the lead in a new office opening – will inevitably shout louder than money in Paris.


This desire to be part of a growth story or take charge of an intellectually challenging project has certainly been amplified by the pandemic, which led workers to reassess their priorities and may now be expecting more than simply a large pay-packet to jump ship.


In conjunction with new firms looking to open up in Paris, there are also a number of established firms who are experiencing start-up style growth. This start-up feel has proved enticing to partners looking for more than a lockstep ascension through the ranks. Increasingly, a Paris state of mind is emerging that leads talent to question a firm’s narrative of expansion, merit and ambition.


Partners want to know how high up Paris sits on the agenda of an international firm, whether it will be fully integrated into the wider international network or treated like a satellite project, and where they as individuals fit into this plan of progression.


A culturally rich milieu provides the perfect backdrop for an accelerating lateral market in Paris. Any firms looking to infiltrate this attractive market, where deals are high-end, must understand that while compensation is part of the conversation, a clear mandate for individual and practice development will often have the final say.


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