Julien Martinet this week hit the headlines for leaving Hogan Lovells, one of the biggest law firms in the world, to start his own specialist litigator, Swift Litigation – and taking his entire team of lawyers with him.
Martinet’s departure from Hogan Lovell’s came after former Boies Schiller Flexner partner Natasha Harrison left the New York litigator to start her own “modern” law firm, Pallas Partners, taking 27 of 33 lawyers with her.
Speaking exclusively to City A.M., Martinet said he sees his decision to leave Hogan Lovells and start his own firm as simply the “logical continuation” of his career as a lawyer.
“In large firms, you can acquire the techniques necessary to succeed in this business,” Martinet says. “But after 20 years, I have acquired the experience and I now have the ambition to fly under my own wings and do things in my own way.”
Martinet adds that as a specialist law firm, Swift Litigation will be able to offer clients a more personalised service.
“With an independent law firm, you can concentrate on exactly what your clients want.”Julien Martinet
Nonetheless, Martinet says that working at big firms can be an “enriching experience, in monetary terms too.”
After graduating with a master’s from Oxford University and completing his legal studies in Paris, the Frenchman joined New York litigator Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, where he spent the first 15 year of his career, before joining French firm Jeantat, and jumping to Hogan Lovells two years later.
Martinet says that as a child he spent eight years living in Djibouti, where both his parents worked as lawyers, before moving to Lyons to study at university.
He notes that he still enjoys working in Africa, even though the bulk of his clients are from Europe.
Battle for talent
Martinet’s decision to launch Swift Litigation attracted attention in the press for the fact the lawyer will be taking the entirety of his six-lawyer strong team with him.
In launching his new venture, Martinet says he will also continue to work with his clients – including major banks and financial institutions – as he explains that he brought his clients to Hogan Lovells and will be taking his clients with him in starting up Swift.
In starting a law firm, Martinet says that it is vitally important to have a “good relationship” with the “lawyers in your team.” As such, he was adamant that he would take his entire team with him.
Martinet was also clear that he needed the right people. “Our clients expect us to bring high level expertise,” the lawyer said, as he explained that the work he does is highly complex and requires highly-skilled professionals.
However, the French lawyers says that in seeking to poach his team, he was not necessarily able to offer his lawyers better salaries.
“At Hogan Lovells they were already paid very well, so I am not paying them any more than they would be paid at that sort of firm, but we kept the renumeration the same.”Julien Martinet
Martinet could however offer his team more time, freedom, and independence.
“People are not only driven by money,” Martinet says. “They appreciate the independence.”
The lawyer says that due to the specialist nature of his new firm, lawyers are able to take more time with their work and take a more a “considered” approach to working.
The comments come after US law firm Milbank last month sparked a fresh bidding war for legal talent, after offering newly qualified lawyers $215,000 (£160,000) a year salaries.
The eye-wateringly high salaries provoked criticism from senior lawyers, who warned that the expectations being put on young lawyers will see them burnout before they are 30.
Looking forwards, Martinet says that he hopes to make more lateral hires and that he also plans to recruit some juniors.