Editorial Jan/Feb 09

Los titulares con los primeros
despidos de socios en algunos de los
más respetados bufetes de abogados
de Londres han tenido repercusión en
todo el mundo. En la Península Ibérica
existe una preocupación natural entre
los socios de las oficinas de Madrid,
Lisboa y Barcelona.
Si bien la necesidad de los
despidos ha sido provocada por el
descenso del trabajo, hay quien dice
que las empresas han tenido la
oportunidad de revisar sus modelos de
negocio. Más pequeña pero más
rentable, en línea con los EE.UU.,
parece ser el nuevo gmantrah de
Londres.
Y mientras el mundo de los
negocios, sin duda alguna, rinde
homenaje a las firmas londinenses por
la toma de medidas preventivas, a
pesar de todo, parece que los valores
de la profesión y de los socios siguen
siendo fuertes en toda la Península
Ibérica. De hecho, ahora puede ser el
momento para que los socios
directores vayan a la búsqueda en los
despachos internacionales – siempre
que, por supuesto, ¡sus objetivos
estén en la línea de aceptar una
práctica más amplia y salarios más
bajos!

The breaking news of partner-level redundancies at some of Londonfs
most respected law firms sent shock waves around the world. In our
Iberian region there is naturally concern amongst partners at
international offices in Madrid, Lisbon and Barcelona.

Rumours of global partner redundancies at Ashurst were almost
forgotten when Linklaters confirmed that up to 70 partner losses were being
considered. Just as the impact of that announcement was being absorbed,
Clifford Chance revealed it too was aiming to cut partners and it seems only
inevitable that Allen & Overy and Freshfields will follow any day.
While the need for redundancies has clearly been triggered by the sharp
reduction in work levels, some say the firms have taken the opportunity to
review their business models. Smaller but more profitable, along classic US
lines, appears to be the new London mantra.

While lawyer redundancies would be viewed in London as prudent
administration in difficult times, across Iberia law firms and clients tell me
that this action could be viewed as a result of bad management. Even in
London, one former managing partner and now consultant told me: gThis
shows that law firms are not a real partnership any more – higher profit is
now the priority over collegiality.h

It is interesting also to hear from London that some continental offices of
the Magic Circle, Madrid included, are more profitable than London – as
their costs are much lower. Now is when we find out whether the London
firms have a global approach to management or prioritise the jobs of their
London partners.

Those who remain face tough times ahead. In Iberia the fall in the value
of sterling has seen partner distributions at international firms reduced by
30% and there are some expectations that at least one Magic Circle will
introduce a lockstep payment coefficient for its overseas offices, which
could be set at 0.7 for Spain and 0.5 for Portugal.

Partners at local firms have been quick to say that they can live with
reduced earnings – after all money is only money – although some believe
that the culture in UK firms has been similar to that of their investment
banking clients, with high income being the benchmark for judging a
lawyerfs authority and external market value.

While the business world undoubtedly salutes the London firms for
taking preventative action, it would appear that, despite everything, the
values of partnership and profession are still strong across the Iberian
Peninsula. Indeed, now may be the moment for national managing partners
to go headhunting at the international firms – provided of course their
targets are prepared to accept a wider practice and lower pay!

Moray McLaren
Editor

Editorial Jan/Feb 09

Garcia-Sicilia

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