Steadying the ship

The opening of Pinsent Masons’ Madrid office two years ago resulted in a fierce court battle with fellow Madrid firm Ramón y Cajal, but, since then, the firm has resolved its problems and registered some impressive growth

It seems the dust is starting to settle at Pinsent Masons. When an international law firm opens an office in Madrid it always causes a stir, but Pinsent Masons unsettled the market more than most when it launched in Spain two years ago. Indeed, the firm’s debut in the Spanish market resulted in it becoming embroiled in a hotly contested legal dispute. The story goes like this: Pinsent Masons hired four partners from Ramón y Cajal to open its Madrid office after talks about a merger were unsuccessful. The partners who made the move were Diego Lozano (pictured), Antonio Sánchez Montero, Inma Castello and Idoya Arteagabeitia from Ramón y Cajal. However, upset at the poaching of the four partners, Ramón y Cajal sued Pinsent Masons, claiming that the hiring of the partners was in breach of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that contained a “non-hiring clause”, as well as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that included a “no solicitation” clause. However, in a defence filed at the UK’s High Court, Pinsent Masons claimed it had not signed the MOU. In addition, Pinsent Masons case was founded on the assertion that the partners that it recruited from Ramón y Cajal following the collapse of the proposed merger – were not solicited but instead contacted Pinsent Masons independently with a proposal to become the founding members of the UK firm’s new Madrid office. Although the dispute with his former Ramón y Cajal partners marred the launch of the office in Spain, Pinsent Masons Madrid managing partner Diego Lozano says the matter has been put to rest for the benefit of all involved. “We took the most reasonable decision, which was to reach an agreement to settle our differences and be able to focus completely on the development of our businesses.” However, it was certainly a long, drawn-out affair, with the dispute only being resolved in the autumn of last year. The spat with Ramón y Cajal does not appear to have stunted the growth of the firm’s Madrid operation. Since the opening in May 2017, the partner count has more than doubled. “When we opened in 2017, the headcount was five partners and ten lawyers, and we’re now 11 partners and 29 lawyers,” says Lozano. He adds that the recruitment drive is part of a five-year strategy that aims to take the firm up to the 60-70 lawyer mark. “In order to compete with other Madrid-based international players for the most interesting work, every firm requires a credible structure and a certain size,” he explains. “There is no magic headcount, but we believe the optimum is between 60 and 70.”


Lozano says the firm has managed to grow all the practice areas it focuses on, namely corporate and M&A, dispute resolution, finance, public law and technology. “Corporate and M&A was at the core of the firm when we launched in 2017, and it remains the largest team,” he explains. “Since then, we have added litigation and finance partners, as well as building public law and technology teams.” Former PérezLlorca partner José Luis García Manso, who joined the firm in January 2019 to lead its real estate department, is one of the most high-profile recent hires the firm has made. “We´re in the process of building a team which completes the structure of our real estate practice – this is one of our main objectives for the coming months,” says Lozano. Other recent arrivals include Paloma Bru (who joined from Jones Day) and Paula Fernández Longoria (formerly of Bird & Bird ), who co-head the TMT practice, and Pablo Dorronsoro (ex-Baker McKenzie), who leads the infrastructure and energy team. Although lateral hires have played a key role in the expansion of Pinsent Masons in Madrid, Lozano believes that nurturing talent on the inside is essential for the future development of the firm. “We have a pool of young lawyers who have enormous potential and we believe that they are key to our future success,” he says. “We will continue to make lateral hires, partners who in some cases will bring their teams with them, but we also want young lawyers to know that Pinsent Masons values and welcomes their talent.” The firm recently showed it was true to its word when it announced the promotion of Madrid-based corporate lawyer Borja Martín Ariza to partner in April this year – it was the Madrid office’s first ever internal partner promotion. 

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Juan fernandez