European Awards: Meet the Iberian heavyweights

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Whether it is expansion into new territories such as Latin America or amplifying current network relationships, moving into larger offices to implement collaborative and flexible working, or overhauling management, this year’s contenders for The Lawyer‘s Iberian Law Firm of the Year show they have an appetite for innovation to help them win the big prize.

Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira

Head offices: Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon

Number of offices: 26 worldwide

Total number of lawyers: 970, including 207 equity partners

Total number of staff: 461 staff and 84 paralegals

Turnover: €265.7m (2015)

Year on year growth: 4 per cent

Last year, Iberian firm Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira moved its headquarters in Barcelona to a new open-plan space with more communal “collaboration spaces” – from 2.5 per cent of the total floor space to 28.9 per cent.

The firm also changed its board of directors, formerly appointing Maria Joao to lead Portugal, appointing partner Antonio Baena to lead the firm’s international strategy, and tasking Javier Villasante with the role of corporate head in London and office coordinator in Mexico. In Madrid, Fernando Barnad has taken over as head of the Madrid office with plans to make it into a “bridge to Latin America”.

In 2016 Cuatrecasas launched in Mexico prompted by its long-standing relationship with Mexican state-owned oil company Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos), which asked the firm to support it during its privatisation process.

The office has three partners, including recently incorporated M&A lawyer Santiago Ferrer and advises on corporate and commercial matters including M&A, joint ventures and other strategic alliances, financing (corporate, acquisition and project) and energy law. 

In Colombia, the firm has established a strategic alliance with local firm Posse Herrera Ruiz. Under the brand name Posse Herrera Ruiz & Cuatrecasas, and it has a legal team in Bogotá that provides legal advice on all areas of business law but in particular M&As, financing businesses and projects, international arbitration, infrastructures, tax, and energy and natural resources law.

In Europe, the firm has strengthened its relationships and increased referral work within its network firms, which include Chiomenti in Italy, Gide Loyrete Nouel in France and Gleiss Lutz in Germany. In 2015, the total registered referrals increased by 277 per cent over 2013 from 227 to 1,288.

Internally Cuatrecasas has implemented a diversity plan in its 2016-2020 strategic plan, which includes implementing flexible working and creating a ‘female talent team’ to identify access problems for women seeking to get into partnership. In 2015, women in management positions increased by 20 per cent, with 12 more women in positions of power compared to 2014.

Garrigues: 2016 winner of Iberian Law Firm of the Year


Head office: Madrid

Number of offices: 34 (22 in Spain and ­Portugal)

Total number of lawyers: 1,410

Total number of staff: 1,974

Turnover: €339m

Year on year growth: 1 per cent

Garrigues’ Latin America strategy launched in 2013 has begun to bear fruit. In just three years, it has built a team of 120 professionals in the region (28 of whom are partners) with offices in Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

As a result, the number of clients from the Americas has grown by 64.8 per cent over the past 12 months.

The firm closed a deal in March 2016 to acquire local Chilean firm Avendaño Merino, adding 30 lawyers to Garrigues, five of whom became partners. The firm subsequently hired two new partners: litigation and arbitration lawyer Mónica Van der Schraft and financial law specialist Pedro García Morales.

In January 2016, the firm bolstered its Mexico practice with the hire of local firm KSA lawyer Gerardo Lemus and EY tax partner Santiago Chacón. So far this year, the firm has also added Ritch Mueller partner Mario Juárez and lawyer David Jiménez, who specialise in banking and finance and energy and infrastructure respectively. In Peru, the firm hired Víctor Baca as of counsel.

In Europe, the firm hired its first London-based partner, Joe Tirado, to co-head the global arbitration practice.

The firm has designed a set of digital conversion initiatives aimed at improving full-cycle ­client relationship management and implementing new technologies that contribute to greater efficiency.

Gómez Acebo & Pombo

Head office: Madrid

Number of offices: nine (Barcelona, ­Bilbao, Madrid, Valencia Vigo, Brussels, Lisbon, London and New York)

Total number of lawyers: 281

Total number of staff: 422

Turnover: €60.2m

Year on year growth: 2.1 per cent

The past year has seen the election of a new generation of leadership at Gómez Acebo, and a firm-wide transition towards more specialist and client-focused expertise, resulting in new client wins, higher revenues and profitability over 2015/16.

The firm elected new managing partner Carlos Rueda, following former head Manuel Martin’s decision to step down after 14 years (now senior partner).

In addition, Gómez Acebo elected a new six-member board of directors and nine-member business development committee – half of its management team is under 40.

Despite the moribund domestic economy this past year, the firm’s revenues rose 2.1 per cent to €60.2m. Contributing to its success was a revamp of the firm’s processes and day-to-day financial practices, and adapting pricing and billing models to better match clients’ cost, quality and strategic goals. It has launched a key client orientation programme to help those clients develop their own technical legal and management expertise, including project management, performance, and efficiency training to help in-house teams play a more strategic role in their businesses.

Last year, the firm’s ‘special situations’ group generated revenues of €3.6m in 2015, while its New York, London and Brussels office contributes 10 per cent of the firm’s turnover. In the US, 50 per cent of the New York office clients are new and the firm’s US clientele now represents more than 20 per cent of global turnover.

To maximise associates’ exposure to international practice the firm now operates an office rotation system so they are exposed to wider learning and client-facing opportunities

Over the last two years Gómez Acebo has begun to reap the dividends of expanding its niche London-based practice beyond its core focus on distressed investment and restructuring, into a broader international corporate and M&A deal hub. In January 2015, corporate partner Mónica Weimann assumed management of the office, following the return of finance partner Miguel Lamo de Espinosa to Madrid. The firm says the London office remains “consistently profitable”, with over 90 per cent of the legal work being for clients won in London, while 40 per cent of the work won is fed back to Spain.

Pérez Llorca

Head office: Madrid

Number of offices: four

Total number of lawyers: 160 (including 30 partners)

Total number of staff: 230

Turnover: not disclosed

Year on year growth: 10.4 per cent

In the past year, Pérez Llorca hired 22 lawyers, including a third partner for its tax practice from one of the Big Four accountancies.

Work during the year included acting on the biggest cross-border merger in Europe, when three Coca-Cola bottlers merged to create Coca-Cola European Partners. Pérez Llorca advised Coca-Cola Enterprises on Spanish law. The firm later acted for Coca-Cola European Partners when it debuted on the Spanish stock exchange.

Pérez Llorca is also acting on behalf of BBVA in the European Court of Justice in an estimated €5.8bn case over the reimbursement of many Spanish banks on the minimum interest rate applicable to mortgage loans. 

Pérez-Llorca’s plan for the future is to consolidate its international offices in London and New York, and continue to focus on its most important assets – its lawyers and its clients.


Head office: Lisbon

Number of offices: eight (three in Portugal, one in Angola, one in Mozambique, one in China, one in Switzerland and one in the UK)

Total number of lawyers: 292

Total number of staff: 115

Turnover: not disclosed

Year on year growth: not disclosed

In the past 12 months the firm has continued its lateral hiring policy, with 21 lawyers joining PLMJ from other firms and three more to start in the next few weeks. Hires include former Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira managing partner Diogo Perestrelo and his team of four senior associates and one associate to PLMJ’s corporate and M&A team. Other important lateral hires include a banking and finance partner from Garrigues, and two tax experts from Cuatrecasas and Garrigues.

The firm has also made an important change to its professional structure. The firm has created the managing associate position, in which senior associates who are on track for partner can be better coached and mentored in preparation for partnership.

PLMJ is a founding member of Dentons’ Nextlaw Global Referral Network. International clients now represent 40 per cent of the firm’s revenue and it expects that to continue growing. In 2016, PLMJ created a Brexit team, a multidisciplinary team to respond to all questions about Brexit, focused on UK clients or clients with a presence in the UK.

With regards to diversity, the firm’s fee-earner base is 51 per cent female, and 22 per cent of its total partnership is female.

SRS Advogados

Head office: Lisbon

Number of offices: two (Funchal and Oporto). SRS Global: Angola and Mozambique; in association with Veirano (Brazil, MA (Macau) and MAMO TCV (Malta)

Total number of lawyers: 120

Total number of staff: 32

Turnover: Not disclosed

Year on year growth: 12.5 per cent

Following a record 2015, SRS Advogados’ real estate practice has continued to see significant growth. Although the firm, which is too small to appear in the Euro 100, has confirmed that its year on year growth is 12.5 per cent, it has not disclosed its revenue figures for 2016.

In 2016 the firm acquired the IP office of João Barros. Additionally, SRS took over IP consultancy firm RCF in 2017. In 2016, the firm implemented a new management structure, replacing the managing partner post with a three-person management committee (that reports quarterly to a representative board).

In response to the significant number of high net worth individual clients that SRS advised in 2015 and 2016, it created a wealth management group drawing together lawyers with expertise in immigration, real estate, succession and tax.

At SRS Advogados 52 per cent of all lawyers (including partners) are female, while 35 per cent of partners are female.

Uría Menéndez

Head office: Madrid

Number of offices: 17

Total number of lawyers: 555 (as of
31 December 2015)

Total number of staff: 356 (December 2015)

Turnover: €210m

Year on year growth: 9.3 per cent

2015 was a record year for Uría Menéndez. The firm achieved its highest ever turnover, €210m: a 9.3 per cent annual increase. In a mature market, this was a remarkable performance, unparalleled among the large independent law firms in Iberia and among the highest across Europe.

In January 2016, Uría Menéndez’s expansion in Latin America continued with an office opening in Peru. This was formed by the addition of two leading Peruvian law firms to the PPU alliance, Ferrero Abogados and Delmar Ugarte, both of which have recognised prestige in the Peruvian market. PPU now has 44 partners and 319 lawyers in Latin America, including its own offices in Bogota and Barranquilla (Colombia), Santiago (Chile) and Lima (Peru). This follows a successful first year of operation – in which the firm experienced growth of 15 per cent in the region.

Uría Menéndez recently appointed Argentina’s national director of disputes Gabriel Bottini as a partner in the Madrid office.

Vieira de Almeida

Head office: Lisbon

Number of offices: three (Lisbon, Oporto, Timor-Leste) plus the firm’s integrated network of law firms in Angola, Cape Verde, Congo, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sao Tome and Principe

Turnover 2016: from €44.3m (estimated)

Total number of lawyers: 230

Total number of staff: 113

Total number of collaborators: 343

Vieira de Almeida has posted an average of 11.6 per cent revenue growth over the past five years. Last year, the firm is estimated to have posted revenue growth of 25 per cent, with gross profit margin growing by 50 per cent. The Lawyer estimates that international revenue represented 19.5 per cent of total revenue.

Last year, Vieira de Almeida boosted its international footprint to 11 jurisdictions, changing its strategy completely thanks to about 30 partners and associates joining from Africa specialist boutique Miranda in late 2015. In one year, this repositioned VdA as both a longstanding incumbent in the Portuguese market but also as the new main challenger in lusophone and francophone Africa. 

The firm launched its oil and gas practice on the back of these hires, increased its client base and gained new sectors and products. It also integrated a team that represented 10 per cent of its total headcount by developing an “onboarding system” called 100 Days Integration, which measured individual targets and professional development.

When breaking down VdA’s turnover, the share of the international business increased from 3 per cent to 20 per cent last year, while the number of international clients increased by 10 in the period. The firm’s oil and gas-heavy client base includes ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total, BP, Eni, Statoil, Anadarko, Baker Hughes, GE Oil & Gas, Galp, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Repsol, Technip, Tidewater, ABB Oil&Gas, Maersk Oil & Gas, Air Liquide, KCA Deutag, DOF Subsea, Subsea 7, Heerema, Gyrodata, Ophir Energy, Saipem, Seadrill, Mitsubishi, Trafigura, Harris, Expro, and Wood Group CGG.

Among its deals last year, VdA was selected by the Angolan government to draft the country’s space policy, including the launching of a communication satellite in 2017 to place Angola in a prominent position in the continental and international space arena.

VdA also launched an e-billing system, which is currently in pilot phase.

The post European Awards: Meet the Iberian heavyweights appeared first on The Lawyer | Legal News and Jobs | Advancing the business of law.

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