As client demands change it increasingly makes sense for large law firms in Portugal to organise their lawyers into industry-focused teams rather than according to legal practice areas, says Maria João Ricou, managing partner of Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira in Portugal. “Clients are increasingly seeking skilled lawyers who have specialist knowledge of their particular business – as a result, our firm is moving away from organising its business just by legal practice areas”, she says.
This means that besides having departments such as corporate, finance, litigation or tax, the firm also has “skilled lawyers [organised] by industry sector in each department – this allows us to put in place multidisciplinary teams organised by specific sectors of activity,” says Ricou. She adds: “The concept is that, if there is, for instance, a real estate client that wants tax support or finance support, the firm has tax and finance lawyers with specific expertise in that particular sector.”
But while larger firms have an obvious advantage over smaller firms in terms of capacity and resources, implementing this strategy can be a huge undertaking. “The point of difference between us and a boutique firm is that we have many different areas of expertise,” Ricou explains. “At the end of the day, developing specialist skills that can be organised by economic activity requires critical mass, and managing knowledge in certain industry segments within the legal group and ensuring cross-practice collaboration is an ongoing challenge.” That said, Ricou says that Cuatrecasas is already responding to this trend by setting up “sector-centred practices that respond to the clients’ needs in an integrated manner”. The firm has established such groups for real estate, aviation, oil & gas, health and life sciences, energy and infrastructure, venture capital/start-ups, and wealth management.