France's Mermoz Avocats doubles lawyer headcount following merger with local PE boutique

Combination with HPML sees Mermoz reach 50 fee earners - twice that of its January launch

Parisian boutique Mermoz Avocats has doubled its lawyer headcount within six months of launching following a merger with local firm HPML. 

The deal sees the two private equity and M&A-focused firms join forces to create a shop with 50 lawyers – twice the number Mermoz had when it was opened in January by a group of senior French lawyers to take advantage of the country’s mid-market PE and M&A deal-making boom. 

Mermoz described HPML as a ‘key player’ in the PE and M&A segment, with the firm completing more than 50 deals per year, most of them in the mid-cap category. 

The merger with HPML brings Mermoz an office in Lyon and five more partners along with four counsel and ten associates. The partner count of the combined firm, known as Mermoz Avocats, currently stands at 15. 

The firm is led by managing partners Nada Sbaï, previously an M&A partner at HPML, and Catherine Nahmias-Ferrandini, an employment law specialist who co-founded Mermoz as managing partner. 

Fellow Mermoz co-founders Gilles Roux and Tristan Segonds commented on the merger: “Our teams have crossed paths on several cases and knew each other by name. It was while working as opposing counsels that we were able to assess our respective working methods, know-how and interpersonal skills, before deciding to move forward together to make Mermoz Avocats a key player in the French market.

The combined teams have been involved in more than 15 transactions since Mermoz’s launch, including the January management buyout of French real estate advisory business Oryx group, Gerflor's takeover of an industrial part of the 3M group and the leveraged buyout of VT Logistics.  

Sbaï and Thomas Hermetet, also previously an M&A partner at HPML, said: “Combining our teams with those of Mermoz seems to us an obvious choice to fuel our growth and to propel us to greater heights,” adding that the merger enabled them to “provide a larger palette of services to our clients.”

Mermoz offers services in tax, financing, commercial contracts, data privacy, business litigation, restructuring and employment law alongside its focus on PE and M&A. In February the firm also added partners Jean-Louis Fourgoux and Leyla Djavadi and their team of three associates from French rival Fidal to open an antitrust and competition practice, gaining a presence in Brussels in the process. 

Mermoz is one of a number of firms to have been launched in Paris over the past few years by partners who left large firms to go their own way. Most of Mermoz's eight founding partners – including Nahmias-Ferrandini, Roux and Segonds – brought Big Law experience, with Segonds and Nahmias-Ferrandini spending time at Hogan Lovells and Roux working for eight years at Paul Hastings. 

In January, two Dentons practice heads, Barton Legum and Jean-Christophe Honlet departed the firm to set up their own international arbitration-focused boutique, Honlet Legum Arbitration.

The year before, Linklaters’ former co-head of arbitration, Pierre Duprey, set up his own Paris boutique and renowned arbitration lawyer Emmanuel Gaillard launched Gailliard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes along with seven other partners drawn from Shearman & Sterling.   

And toward the end of 2020, four disputes partners who had previously worked at firms including Linklaters, K&L Gates and Debevoise & Plimpton launched Medici Law Firm

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