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France to set up English-style financial disputes court and ‘hire people with experience in common law’

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Paris eyes London’s legal crown

France has revealed ambitious plans to set up its own “special” English court to hear commercial law disputes post-Brexit.

In a move many will see as an attempt to snatch London’s legal crown, finance minister Bruno Le Maire said:

We will create a special court to handle disputes relating to financial contracts governed by English law once the UK leaves the EU. All proceedings will take place in English.

This may well be a smart move on Le Maire’s part: many loan and derivative contracts in Europe are based on English law principles, and uncertainty about their enforceability after Brexit remains. But do lawyers think it is a good idea? We asked Nigel Jones, a QC at Hardwicke, what he made of Le Maire’s revelations. He told us:

This is an interesting development and shows how competitive the market is for dispute resolution services. If existing contracts already provide for both English law and English court jurisdiction then the French initiative is likely to prove irrelevant to such contracts. If this is an attempt to create a new, neutral and elective jurisdiction for the resolution of disputes post Brexit then its success will depend on the quality of the tribunals and their procedures.

It’s also worth noting that elsewhere in his speech, Le Maire, speaking at a banking conference at the Economic Club of New York, said:

We will hire people with experience in common law, regardless of where they come from.

It’s a sentence that could be lost in Le Maire’s lengthy speech, but it signals a clear nod to English commercial lawyers. The English legal system is very uncharacteristic in its adoption of common law; France — as well as Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and many more — is a civil law country. The only other common law countries in Europe outside of the UK are Ireland and Cyprus.

Later Le Maire, referencing Greek mythology, described himself as the Hermes to President Emmanuel Macron’s Jupiter. Indeed, this English court revelation seems characteristic of the pro-business approach adopted by France’s former investment banker leader. Take a look at these other snippets from Le Maire’s address:

“France, and Paris as its main financial centre, will be open, open-mined, open to all talent, open to innovation, open to each and every one of you.”

“In Paris you will also find a complete financial ecosystem, the whole range of financial activities is present… In the future, we will continue to build on our strengths. Paris is already a great place to do business and we are going to make it even better.”

These points lead seamlessly to the pivotal question: “is Paris the new London?” The French capital is certainly far closer in size to its other new-London competitors, such as Dublin and Luxembourg, leading to much speculation about its ability to cash in from Brexit.

Unfortunately like so many Brexit-related questions, the answer at this stage must be “we’re not sure yet” — but Le Maire’s recent revelations seem an early indication of Paris’ intentions.

Watch Le Maire’s speech here (starts at 48 minutes):

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34 Comments

24601

Monsieur Le Maire (clearly a Les Mis fan) will be powerless in the face of the Brexit negotiating team’s charm and guile, this will go nowhere once Dave Davies gets involved!

I look forward to having my cake and eating it at a later date.

(8)(3)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Is David Davis Javert, in this metaphor, then? I must say I can believe he would be utterly outclassed, shown that the entirety of his belief system was gravely mistaken, though even I wouldn’t want him to hurl himself into the Seine.

(0)(4)

Dennis Bergkamp

David Davis will be made to look a complete fool… because he is a complete fool. The UK is embarrassing.

(4)(1)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Oh, I thought we were going to carry on doing Les Mis bits. Bit sad that Mr. Bergkamp has vetoed it, but he is the Master of the House.

(0)(2)

Dennis Bergkamp

Yeah, do as I say.

(1)(0)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Alright, but only for One Day More.

(3)(2)

Dennis Bergkamp

I could have a lot of fun with you for that day.

(0)(0)

Maggie from Co-op

You naughty boy Dennis.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

I think in the end I’d Look Down on you, possibly from my Castle On A Cloud.

Anonymous

Well it’s anecdotal but the French and continental law firms I have come across in practice – except those which are the offices of the better international firms – are hopelessly noncommercial and I often find them producing overly long quasi-academic advice at inflated prices. So I’m not sure that the leading common law legal centres have much to worry about, even if they do nab some of our lawyers to provide some sort of bolt-on disputes offering.

(24)(0)

Anonymous

Couldn’t agree more, I work in-house for a major UK brand, I find that the French law firms that I have had dealings with are rather useless and not practical in any form.

(9)(0)

Larry

The French are always the most arrogant, rude, useless and slowest people to deal with. The country is good for food and wine but not for business.

(9)(1)

US BIGLAW ASSOCIATE

Hear hear. US/UK law firms dominate with ease, even if just looking at the rankings based on revenues.

The closest large law firm not HQed in UK/US is some obscure French shop called ‘Fidal’ (sounds like a brand of tennis rackets if you ask me) and they’re entire annual revenue is equivalent to a decent quarter at my shop.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

*Their

(1)(0)

US BIGLAW ASSOCIATE

MY APOLOGIES, TOO MUCH CAFFEINE!!!

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Quite alright dear boy.

(0)(0)

Does not know Katie King

Lots and lots of questions begged here.

Hiring people with experience of common law. OK. But what exactly will they be doing, assuming they’re in a judicial role – or will they be part of a special bar, a la Cour de Cassation, or just used in an advocate-general-type role, or sit on panels with French judges? Will this be just yet another arbitration institution, or an English-speaking division of an existing court that just applies English law a lot and devolves much of the legal heavy lifting to experts? If the latter, what will make that more attractive than getting the job done in London? Will it adopt an English or continental approach to disclosure? What court will hear appeals, if this isn’t arbitration?

Etc etc etc. Interesting, but you wonder how much legs this has – and whether it would survive a constitutional challenge, which I expect would be absolutely inevitable.

(8)(0)

Me too

I also don’t know Katie King, but I would like to. Even just as friends, but ideally as more – as a sort of casual thing.

(5)(0)

The Dream

I imagine Katie King is the kind of girl who would enjoy a private boat ride on a nice yacht along the coast of some exotic shores. Stop off on shore and treat her to a nice dinner, perhaps some fresh seafood. Check into a swanky hotel and indulge in the luxury together.

(2)(1)

Dennis

Or just go out far at sea. The implication.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I’m not sure how these sorts of comments are acceptable. Disgusting, and pretty creepy.

(5)(4)

Janice

I’m inclined to disagree, I think everything said is quite mild and nothing that would seem out of place in a conversation at the pub or the coffee area in the office.

I don’t think any of the above is creepy, I think if somebody regularly finds chat like that creepy they are in danger of coming across as paranoid.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

You’d be in no danger.

(0)(0)

Antitrust

French law firms may well be “useless” but US and UK law firms which already dominate the market in Paris are certainly not. And this is amazing news for them and for litigators in London who are considering to move on.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Suspect they’ll just bus in the UK-based big dogs as and when.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Surely, post Brexit, Dublin would be a more obvious choice rather than some quasi common law court/tribunal in a civil law jurisdiction?

(3)(0)

Truth

Perhaps, but I’d rather move to Paris. It would be great to be able to leave this sinking ship of a country. Brexit is a disaster and London will fall.

(6)(4)

Anonymous

Dublin will never be able to take off after London is diminished – it has an even worse housing situation than London which puts a lot of people off moving there (even Irish people like me), a relatively poor public transport network and a distinct lack of good quality office space to meet the demand some people foresee. It has some good law firms, although I question whether they have the niche experience that will be necessary, but the rest of the service industry is miles off the pace.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

What kind of niche experience is it missing? Is it a lacking of counsel or solicitors, or both?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

It’s missing the narrow experience in very technical areas of financial law.

(0)(0)

Logic

What a horrible piece of work reporting that guy to the SRA for “catfishing”. It sounds like he barely did anything wrong – inaccurate photo and changing is name, the latter of which is probably advisable in generally when using these platforms at least at early stages.

It is a bit ridiculous that people expect solicitors to adhere to some of the stupid, archaic rules in the code, and that it should cover their personal lives. Somebodies Tinder shenanigans has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to do their job and deliver to clients.

(3)(0)

Johnny English

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing the French should be allowed to host is an invasion.

(10)(0)

Nibbles

They put on a pretty good can-can show too. Yum yum yum.

(2)(0)

Johnny English Reborn

I think I’d rather have my bottom impaled on a giant cactus

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.