Void ostentation in the offices of master Dominique de Villepin. Avenue Foch, certainly, but sober and fashionable. Is an elegance that the Prime Minister shared with old and new colleagues, all those who, like him, have decided to move from policy to the bar: stay relatively discreet to expose themselves to criticism on potential conflicts of interest...
Of course, the marriage between policy and counsel is not yesterday, but the phenomenon seems to have grown in recent years. There are now no less than 40 litigants on the banks of the Palais Bourbon, and the new converts tributary: there are those who find the bar point of Honourable fall after a political defeat, and more and more those who choose to become counsel presided. As Jean-François Copé (UMP), Pierre Lellouche (UMP), Noël Mamère (the Greens), or even Senator Philippe Marini (UMP), all became lawyers by the grace of a 1991 decree that allows almost direct access to the profession for the ancient Jurists, magistrates, senior officials or holders of some mandates. But doubt continues to soar on their deep motivations. And the controversy facing at least skid, real or supposed... It remembers the outcry raised year last by the arrival of Jean-François Copé, Chairman of the Group UMP in the Assembly, among Gide Loyrette Nouel. One of the most prestigious French business firms, but also and especially the Council of State in the GDF-Suez Merger.
A handle with caution
Inevitably, this mixture of genres eventually raise many questions: through politicians, are therefore looking for law firms What business entrusted How much are they paid What is their actual effectiveness Information taken, the politician is a legal instrument to handle with caution for a law firm. "For some cases, it can even act as a foil or make afraid", recognizes a member of the profession. Example, Dominique de Villepin: if they don't get involved in the "deals" franco-français, former Prime Minister is personally of two large national companies, Veolia and Alstom, for some international issues. Prior to give their interests, they certainly took care to call in the Elysee Palace to ensure that they froisseraient person... But why to deprive such support Dominique de Villepin "has to open the address book to make an appointment with Putin", observes a habitué of the business community. The type of service that pays dearly. A package of this nature is generally paid between 15,000 and 20,000 euros per month.
Yet, all the say in chorus: the address book is not the reason first of their recruitment! Or even... A former Socialist Minister tells happy after his departure from the Government, a luncheon was organized by a large law firm Paris. On this occasion, different offers in sectors corresponding to his previous duties he had been made, it had declined. The person has ever heard of this firm...
In reality, "we do not buy a raw work force or a simple book of addresses, but before any potential, corrects Olivier Debouzy. The lawyer knows whereof he speaks: his firm has recruited a former Minister of industry of the Government Jospin, Christian Pierret, Mayor of Saint-Dié PS - des - Vosges. In fact, everything is in the shade: through policy makers, the business law firms seek to "code-breakers" of the administrative and political mechanisms. They want to know "when or how fast an effective decision for the customer", explains Frédéric Salat-Baroux, Secretary General of the Elysee from 2005 to 2007, which joined last year a US firm. "When I am with an officer, I know where it wants to take me and I know where it wants to come," said Christian Pierret. "Do not exaggerate the importance of the address book, the France of the years 2000 is no longer that of the Almighty administration of the 1980s," relativizes Antoine Tchekhoff, whose cabinet was hosted for a long time the old guard of the seals Pascal Clément (who left him for Orrick Rambaud Martel, a large American Affairs firm).
Top firms range
If "address book sometimes allows the first contact, recognizes Frédéric Salat-Baroux, in the world economy, no one will take you as a lawyer if you are not good." This close to Jacques Chirac has left any political function for Weil, Gotshal & Menges. One of the most aggressive firms on the place of Paris and... one of the most expensive also. These firms range high business services are indeed their clientele: between 500 and 900 euros excluding tax time (1). Then, as to be effective. "I went on my territories: economic public law regulated sectors, telecoms, energy", says this enarque, Councillor of State. Christian Pierret starts, he, in public-private partnerships (PPP). Sectors that are not so far from their bases... With a flat, however: the law prohibits for five years to former civil servants become lawyers to conclude or to argue for or against the Governments to which they belonged.
That is important, is that the name attracting customers to cabinet: at Orrick Rambaud Martel, Pascal Clément, always MP, who made the last Conference on PPPs is... Indeed, better is worth staying on known, as is not improvised lawyer who wants to. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-1997) Hervé de Charette, who took the dress in 2001, learned its costs: end of 2004, he represented Otor, second French producer of packaging carton, after review of the President and the Director General of the society for abuse of social goods. Not convinced by his work, the new leaders of the company asked him last year to return the 450,000 euros in fees paid in the six months of proceedings. The dispute brought before the Court of appeal, who sentenced the former Minister to reverse 200,000 euros. Hervé de Charette appealed in cassation and attack for false testimony.
Problem with image, credibility... Rare are the "political" lawyers who plead An exception, however: recently, MP green Noël Mamère, who swore oath in May 2008, donned his dress to defend Olivier Besancenot against the Taser company before the 17th correctional Chamber of the tribunal de grande instance of Paris. He did there not go alone, his brother Antoine Conte accompanied him. Here again, precaution is required; the judges appreciate little, indeed, that is to take the Court for a political forum.
Above all, the code of ethics of advocates prohibits those "invested with a public mandate" to intervene "in any title to or against the State, its Government and its services, national societies, communities and public institutions. Clearly, it is not conceivable that parliamentarians in function, as Jean-François Copé, who is engaged in mediation to Gide, Philippe Marini, rapporteur of the commission of the Senate Finance, but also all those who were lawyers before becoming members and remained registered as Philippe Houillon (UMP MP, former President of the commission of the laws) or Tony Dreyfus (MP PS)can intervene in tax disputes or advice of a mixed economy society which would have come to consult them after their election. This inconsistency extends also to the whole of the cabinet if the lawyer in question is associated with. Therefore, we understand better that, in most cases, policies are not related but "off counsel... At Orrick Rambaud Martel, Pascal Clément, is, "senior adviser".
"A year limit.
In any event, this rule severely restricts the scope of the "prospects" for policy counsel and may, in some cases, pose problems in large offices where the system of remuneration is based on the number of clients. Jean-François Copé, which recognizes a "fluctuating" activity, says thus be paid "both" to the package and the hourly rate. An original system for records of mediation. But the names of its customers and its compensation are jealously kept secret, even if, in the corridors of the Palace, talking about 200,000 to 250,000 euros per year.
For all, "the exercise is the limit of the professional ethics of counsel and the parliamentary ethics", analysis André Vallini. Lawyer and member of PS, chose it not to participate in the activity of his Office.
But this view is not shared by everyone. "A policy, with a large client to lunch, it's prestigious, it absolve languages," recognizes a lawyer, adds with greed: "we have the same relationship as the aesthetes with artists with power: a mutual fascination...".