Baker & McKenzie has merged with Spanish law firm Briones Alonso y Martín to create the largest independent law firm in Spain.
The merger, which took effect on 1 January, comes shortly after Madrid-based Briones' decision to break its three-year alliance with French firm Bureau Francis Lefebvre.
Baker & McKenzie already has 16 partners based in its Madrid and Barcelona offices and the acquisition will add six more. Madrid partner José Arcila says the merger will provide a base for further expansion. "We have more business than we can handle, and critical mass is very important," he says.
Briones is strong in tax, securities and financial institutions but it has only a small labour and employment capability and does not cover civil or commercial litigation. Baker & McKenzie, on the other hand, specialises in M&A, labour, intellectual property (IP), IT and telecommunications law.
"They have the bread and we have the butter, and now we have a sandwich," says Arcila. "We're an international firm and Briones is a national firm providing advice to large Spanish conglomerates."
Arcila says that a strong international tax capability is important in order to service international clients. "Growth of a Spanish company is no longer national expansion. Companies need to expand into Europe and the US and tax is vital because their international growth is dictated by tax regulations in Spain," he says.
Briones partner Luis Briones says that Baker & McKenzie's attraction is its local strength in Spain and its Latin American presence. It is only recently that law firms in Spain have started to adapt to the demands of globalisation, which has caused traditional Spanish firms to lose out to international operations.
The largest firm in Spain is Carrigues, part of the Andersen Legal network.
In the last two years Linklaters & Alliance, SJ Berwin and Simmons & Simmons have all invested heavily in Spain.