Paris is an exciting and vibrant city recognised the world over as offering an unrivalled lifestyle and culture. It is one of the largest of Europe’s legal centres.
Much European cross-border trade and finance involves a French aspect, making it an essential business jurisdiction. Much of the commercial legal work is exciting and cutting edge and most of it is in English. While French language skills will be helpful to an ex-pat recruit, it is not essential to the practice of law. That said, most firms require some ability to converse in French.
The international firms, principally English and American ones, lead the way and have been in the French market for decades. There are a number of very good French firms, however, who have offices abroad as well. Although there are some resident expat partners in the Paris offices, the majority of partners and fee earners will be French advocates.
Principal Areas of Demand
The most significant areas of demand are in finance and international arbitration. Other practice groups tend to be dominated by local lawyers.
The key finance groups are banking, capital markets, structured finance, project finance, asset finance and securitisation.
Income in Paris for ex-pat lawyers tends to follow London rates closely. There is a general tendency perhaps for rates to be slightly lower, but after taking into account the cost of living (around 30% less than London), the financial package is very attractive.
Law firms will take on lawyers either as employees or as independent contractors. ‘Employees’ are more expensive for the firms because there is an ongoing liability on the part of the firm to pay additional taxes and social security contributions. On an independent contractor basis, the lawyer picks up the tab on these expenses and is usually paid a higher rate as a result.
Once lawyers have taken the Paris Bar and become locally qualified, there would be an expectation of moving to the status of independent contractor, which is really the norm across continental Europe. Independent contractors are able to claim many expenses against their taxable income, thereby reducing their tax bill.