An ally and not a burden. This is what a legal department should be, according to Pilar López Carracedo’s vision. After eight years in the Barcelona office of Garrigues, the lawyer joined the Spanish hotel group Hesperia in September 2013 as director of legal advisory services, in 2015 she became general manager of the property and business area and since 2018 she has been the group’s chief corporate & assets officer.
The legal department she leads is not a problem for the company, she explains to Iberian Lawyer, but an essential element for the creation of value. A value that the company is now looking for with great determination after two years of pandemic, which first due to home confinement and then to mobility restrictions, have curtailed the activity of the tourism industry. The group’s management is currently engaged in various financial operations aimed at mitigating the impact of the downturn in business and adapting to new market trends. The legal department also plays an important role in this, forming part of the skeleton of the company.
As a general rule, a solid company must have three strong and structured areas: the business area – which fuels the company – and the financial and legal areas – which help to manage what comes from the business area. The better the communication and interaction between these three areas, the more smoothly everything flows. And this is beneficial in the short, medium and long term. It is essential that the legal department is perceived as an ally on which to rely to carry out initiatives. The point is that the legal department should be seen as a support and not as a stop-gap in the work from the perspective of the rest of the areas.
How would you define the Hesperia legal department?
After years of work, we are recognised in the group as a good support. The department is made up of professionals with great technical expertise. We were initially trained in law firms and with in-depth knowledge of the hotel industry, which we have acquired once we have joined the company. We are a very agile department in resolving issues and perseverant in following up on them. These two skills are fundamental to achieve everything we handle.
Why can it be considered a strategic business line within the company?
The legal thinking behind the business, if it is well done – and this requires a thorough understanding of what the colleagues in the other areas are asking for – is what sets the boundaries, brings order, structure and coherence. Any initiative that is well defined from the very beginning has already gained a lot. And this applies to all the issues we handle in-house: corporate, contracts, banking and finance and M&A. In short, a powerful in-house legal department should be seen as a small law firm hyper-specialised in the business, but with the general knowledge base that any law firm could have.