Reboul & Associés celebrated 15 years in existence in 2020. The partners of the boutique firm, each of whom has spent time at English-language law firms, assist top companies with their commercial operations. Guillaume Reboul talks about the success of the firm through the lens of client satisfaction.
Leaders League. Tell us a bit about your firm.
We are a boutique outfit, which facilitates communication with the client and speeds up the decision-making process. We currently have three partners, Olivier Mourain, who oversees M&A and private equity matters, Julie Bouchard, who handles labor law. I am in charge of financing and also work with Olivier on M&A and private equity. As we grow as a firm, we intend to recruit partners in M&A, private equity and tax.
What type of client do you typically attract?
We have a varied clientele, encompassing SMEs and startups – especially in the tech and healthcare categories – and listed companies. Longstanding clients include Dassault Systèmes, Babilou and Efeso Consulting. We know and represent many players in the software sector, as well as in the service industry or in healthcare. We also work on matters with a renewable energy aspect. In general, we attract clients by word of mouth.
Olivier Mourain has successfully developed the M&A practice, and has helped raise significant funds in the biotech, greentech and enertech sectors. He recently advised Fineheart in a funding round that attracted both French and American investors.
What advantage is there for a firm like yours, which has worked with large groups such as Michelin, to focus on representing startups.
Our relationship with startups is based on intuitu personae. When we feel that a young startup has real potential, whether it be because of the services they provide or the caliber of people running it, we don’t hesitate to make a full commitment. We become partners with clients that, over time, can become considerably larger than they were at the moment we got involved. To give you an idea of our way of operating, take Babilou. We got involved in their initial fundraising round back in 2008 and subsequently helped them to grow their business in France and, on occasion, abroad (Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the United States). Today, Babilou has become a true global player, and we are proud of the part we’ve played in their success.
"When we feel that a young startup has real potential, whether it be because of the services they provide or the caliber of people running it, we don’t hesitate to make a full commitment"
What services do you provide a company starting out, such as the aforementioned Babilou?
We strive to continually adapt our service to the needs of the client. It is difficult, but it keeps the work interesting. A startupper does not have the same needs as a managing partner in a family company or a senior legal advisor in a listed company.
When it comes to representing the founders, we pay special attention to details such as the structuring and financing of operations: we take care to hammer out the particulars of investment deals in person, we go to meet fund representatives in person, get confidentiality agreements drawn up, ensure that the capita is not too diluted… basically help them avoid the many pitfalls young entrepreneurs can fall into.
The advice we provide those running small family-owned businesses focuses on subjects such as payroll management and restructuring. As regards large companies, these have more complicated, wide-ranging needs which require us to be responsive and resourceful.
The question of lawyers’ remuneration has been a hot topic of late. How do you approach this?
We appreciate that legal costs are under the microscope like never before. Our size allows us to be somewhat flexible in this regard, which means we can give the client good value for money.
The advice we provide is made to measure and proposals are made on a case-by-case basis. Our mindset is to treat all clients like long-term partners, and that applies to legal fees as much as anything else.
Do you have a best-friends network of partners?
We work with other firms on certain issues, such as IP and real estate law. Additionally, we have a network of foreign firms we can call upon. We worked with firms in our network when representing Dassault Systèmes and Babilou, for example, on their acquisitions in Belgium and Germany respectively. On some occasions, our clients insist upon the fact that we apply the same stipulations as in France. We also act alongside foreign firms carrying out deals on behalf of their clients in France. We recently acted for a Belgian company during a French acquisition of theirs.
What impact has the Covid-19 crisis had on market?
Whenever there is uncertainty about the future, this changes the way people behave, and the paralysis we saw in the market in March and April of last year had an impact on how we approached negotiations. Many buyers became a little gun-shy, others became more aggressive on price. While some sellers were anxious to conclude their deals, others were unwilling to accept a reduced offer because of the situation in the market. The positions adopted varied from company to company and sector to sector, but the general trend was not a surprise.
From our point of view, the main thing when assessing a client is to look at the facts (reduction in activity, level of debt, use of state guaranteed loans, staffing measures, cancelled contracts etc.) and arrive at a valuation accordingly.