TEN France was established in the early 1990s, although the firm’s roots actually date back to the ’70s and ’80s, before the law changed in France to unify the separate professions of lawyer (avocat) and legal advisor (conseil juridique). Soon after the passage of the legislation, two formerly independent, but inter-related, firms merged, opening up the way to become one of France’s leading commercial practices.
According to Gaël Philippeau, one of TEN France’s partners and a member of its board of directors, since then, the firm has been making “constant progress”, extending the breadth of its expertise into complementary areas and leveraging its reputation to reach beyond its traditional markets thanks to client recommendations.
Today, the firm employs around 100 professionals, including lawyers, legal advisers and support staff, with its headquarters located in the historic university city of Poitiers. It also has offices in the major commercial hubs of Paris and Bordeaux, both of which lie less than 1.5 hours away.
“What makes us different from most of our competitors,” Philippeau insists, “is our pure specialisation in company law. All our lawyers are specialists in one or another aspect of commercial law and we work together in teams to ensure we offer truly comprehensive advice and services to clients.”
He says that the lion’s share of TEN France’s work is made up of commercial and taxation cases, although social (unemployment, pensions, and social security issues), administrative and construction law account for close to 40% of its total business. Intellectual property is among the fastest growing segments of its business.
“Most of our clients are medium-sized companies,” Philippeau says, “with between 50 and 500 employees, although we also work for everyone from artisans to larger companies with thousands on the payroll. While we are among the biggest firms in western France, we cover the entire country, from the capital to regional centres like Alsace and Lyon.”
As a partner of the University of Poitiers’ law faculty (DJCE) Masters’ programme, TEN France is committed to supporting the local legal profession. Its lawyers teach classes at the faculty and the firm hosts a handful of students every year for on-the-job training at its offices. It also sponsors a number of sports clubs in the area, including basketball and volley teams from Poitiers and a rugby club in La Rochelle.
A founding member of TEN, The European Network, TEN France has long understood the importance of cross-border cooperation. Philippeau says that many of the firm’s domestic clients have subsidiaries or sales operations in other EU nations, or are themselves French subsidiaries of foreign businesses. TEN’s recent expansion, to include firms in Switzerland and Slovenia, is something Philippeau is bullish about, as he sees significant scope for greater growth throughout the continent.
“TEN is all about trust,” Philippeau says. “It enables us put clients in contact with competent colleagues across Europe. It also helps us with positioning and our image at home. We deal with around 10 cases a year through TEN, especially involving neighbouring markets, such as Spain, Belgium, Italy and the UK.”
Originally from the Charente Maritime region, Philippeau has been with TEN France for almost a quarter of a century, joining the firm after completing his Masters’ degree at DJCE. He specialises in social law and social security matters, working closely with some of the firm’s biggest clients.
“What I like most about the job is helping set up and develop companies,” he says. “We aim to be useful to the corporate world, providing services that surpass our clients’ expectations and help them do business. It’s a great satisfaction when we receive a recommendation. We don’t do a lot of advertising and rely on the quality of our work as our best calling card.”
When not at work, Philippeau makes the most of Poitiers’s busy cultural life, enjoying concerts and the theatre. A level-3 CMAS scuba diver and instructor, he has been doing the sport for the last dozen years and gets away to France’s Atlantic coast to dive when he can.