The Big Question: getting to know you

Iberia´s in-house lawyers report that more than ever they want law firms to know their
businesses better, to be more proactive and to highlight issues they may not even know
they need help with.

Can law firms fulfil such desires, and if so how?

“I think the time of ‘passive’ advice – purely
on-demand – is over. Clients want to have
proactive advisors, identifying opportunities
and anticipating market trends. This is a
difficult task although those that have been
working closely with their clients are able to
know in advance what they may need and
therefore deliver according to expectations.”

Gonzalo Jimenez-Blanco, Ashurst

“Law firms were supposed to be
fulfilling such desires long before the
crisis hit, let alone now, at a time
when firms are tested every day for
the value they actually deliver. Some
law firms will meet expectations,
others won’t. Except this time the
underperformers will not get away as
easily as before.”

João Vieira de Almeida,
Vieira de Almeida & Associados

“Firms should have regular access to
industry reports and participate in company
life by working hand-in-hand with the inhouse
counsel, particularly in meetings in
which strategic decisions are taken. In this
manner, and with a minimum knowledge,
they will be in a position to become more
proactive and to better foresee problems or
difficulties that may arise in the future.”

Héctor Dí­az-Bastien,
Dí­az-Bastien & Truan Abogados

“Unless a law firm knows the business
of its clients, the market where they
operate and their cultural values, it will
never reach a position where it may
detect their legal needs and work out the
solutions they need. The legal profession,
like any other, is increasingly about
adding value. If a law firm adds no value,
in-house counsel will not need to use its
services. It is as simple as that.”

Miguel Teixeira de Abreu,
Abreu Advogados

“Firms that have
partners and lawyers
who have been ‘on the
other side of the fence’
will inevitably be more
up-to-speed on sector
issues. Moreover,
industry groups within
law firms help build a
deeper understanding
of the needs and
challenges clients face in
a specific industry. They can immediately plug
into the client, avoiding the learning curve.”

José M Balañá, Lovells

“At our firm we try to give value to the sectors we work
for by providing predictions on the evolution of regulation
and jurisprudence trends, but also by giving meticulous
analysis of the impact that such developments and the new
diverse criteria of political approaches may have on the
business of our clients. In these tasks we are very proactive.”

Lupo Rodrí­guez, Eversheds Lupicinio

“It is not enough now to simply be a good lawyer. What
separates the great from the good is the ability to get under
the clients’ skin. This means understanding not only the
client but the sector they work in. I encourage lawyers to
invest time listening to their clients and participating in
conferences and industry events.”

Manuel Castelo Branco, Cuatrecasas Goncalves Pereira

“In anticipation of these concerns, we have developed our ‘proximity’ policy – we
want to be as close to the specific needs of each client, in terms of better understanding
their day to day business, applicable regulations, economic constraints, corporate
projects and so on, thus often seconding lawyers to work part-time with them.

To further enhance this, we are developing an intranet program to interact and
share relevant information, documentation and model contracts. Finally, we are
practising a more flexible fees policy recognising that, particularly in times of crisis,
we must be prepared to share certain financial risks with our anchor clients or in
relation to new major investment projects.”

Luí­s Sáragga Leal, PLMJ