Herbert Smith Freehills opened its Spanish office 10 years ago. During this time, the international firm, which landed in Madrid in June 2009, has managed to establish itself among the top 20 firms in Spain, with a turnover of 38.3 million euros in 2018, and the highest revenue per lawyer in the market
In just a decade, Herbert Smith Freehills has experienced great growth, and has managed to consolidate itself as one of the largest law firms in the Spanish market. The firm currently has 115 professionals, including 13 partners, a turnover of €38.3 million (23.5% more than the previous year) and an income per lawyer of 517,000 euros. In 2009, in the midst of the economic crisis, the British firm decided to open the doors of its Madrid office with a team of around 15 lawyers from Linklaters. At that time the firm had a turnover of around €5 million. The partners who led this opening were Miguel Riaño (current managing partner of the firm), Ignacio Paz, Nicolás Martín and Álvaro Sainz. The first three are still linked to the firm today. Sainz, who retired last year, is a member of the advisory board. Later, in 2012, the firm merged globally with the Australian firm Freehills, creating a global giant with more than 3,000 lawyers and 27 offices spread across five continents.
Throughout these first 10 years, says Riaño, the office has grown in number of professionals and also in turnover “exponentially”. Today, he highlights, “we have a workforce of 115 professionals -including 13 partners and 11 of counsel- and revenues of €38.3 million, which represents an increase of 23.5% of the business over the previous year”. According to Riaño, today, the firm’s model is still very much geared towards accompanying Spanish companies in large projects outside Spain, and large funds in their investments here. “In Spain we are a reference in Energy and Infrastructures. From the Madrid office, we have advised, for example, the Spanish consortium that built the AVE from Medina to La Meca, a mega-project of more than €12,000 million”. Among the other practice areas that are currently showing great performance, in addition to Litigation and Arbitration (strengthened this year with the integration of the David Arias boutique), Riaño also highlights “corporate and venture capital, through which we advise the main international funds in Spain”. Without losing sight of these areas, for the future, says Riaño, “we want to continue consolidating our presence in Spain through our commitment to new sectors with high potential such as pharmaceuticals, technology or bankruptcy”. However, he adds, the goal is to grow in a coherent way, “our objective is not to grow a lot in the number of lawyers, but in a selective and sustained way, which allows us to continue being in the big operations”.
Riaño states that Herbert Smith Freehills is highly committed to the new social realities. “We are promoting a flexible management model both in terms of working conditions (facilitating work-life balance or teleworking) and in customer relations, taking advantage of the synergies offered by new technologies”, says Riaño, who also points out that “the commitment to diversity, multiculturalism and the promotion of women in management positions are already setting our agenda for the coming years”.
All this, says Riaño, within a legal sector that is increasingly competitive, marked by factors such as the arrival of new technologies, which have forced, he says, a readaptation of work. “Also, the new generations that are now joining the labour market, and that bring with them a new business culture, means that we as law firms, like any other organisation, must reinvent ourselves in order to attract and retain the best talent”. In addition, billing models have changed, “customers demand more flexible and attractive billing models”, explains Riaño. “Globalisation has also meant that, in addition to legal excellence, lawyers are required to work more and more transversally in order to gain real knowledge of the market or sector in which our clients operate”.
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