Small and mid-sized law firms in Lisbon are developing strong expertise in niche industries in an attempt to tap into markets that have been neglected by larger outfits, according to Paulo de Moura Marques, founding partner at Abecasis, Azoia, Moura Marques & Associados (AAMM).
“It is a second degree of expertise, apart from the traditional areas of legal practice we know, and I have no doubt that it will be one of the major drivers of change in the local legal market in the years to come,” says de Moura Marques. He adds that larger law firms are finding it difficult to continue with traditional systems of billing because clients are becoming more “results-oriented”.
De Moura Marques says: “Over the years, law firms have structured their departments so that they could bill per hour. Nowadays, clients are instead imposing a results-based arrangement.
“As a result we are seeing two things. Firstly, large law firms are struggling to maintain their per-hour billing system and are trying to retain their position by merging with other firms. Secondly, small and mid-sized firms with very specific industry expertise are doing rather well and are resisting bigger law firms’ offers to join them.”
De Moura Marques adds that the Portuguese market is “getting closer to the German model” with a wide range of mid-sized firms specialised in very specific industries.
Aside from the Lisbon market, de Moura Marques highlights the many opportunities available in other parts of the country. “The Algarve is a top destination for real estate investors wanting to get into the tourism and residential sectors,” he says. “On the other hand, there are many foreign investors in specific industries, such as aeronautic and manufacturing, wanting to set up facilities in different cities across the country.”