Allen & Overy is moving the head of its Prague and Bratislava offices to Madrid in an attempt to expand in Spain.
Graham Donnell is moving to Spain in May. He will be replaced by Stephen Pollard, who is moving to Prague from the London office next month.
A&O, which merged with Madrid firm Satrustegui & Asociados last October, will have five partners in its Madrid office when Donnell arrives.
Donnell will help set up a management board consisting of himself, partner Alfonso Lopez-Ibor, who ran A&O's office before the merger, and Satrustegui & Asociados founder Fernando Satrustegui.
Stephen Denyer, A&O's European regional managing partner, says the addition of Donnell to the team should give the office a more significant presence in the Spanish market.
“We grew quite steadily in central and eastern Europe in the 1990s. Spain has in the past been small,” says Denyer.
“Spain is an important step for us to become a truly pan-European firm. It is one of the top five European jurisdictions.
“We have done Dutch and Italian mergers and have grown in France and Germany. It is now logical to grow in Spain.”
He says the office is set for further expansion by promoting assistants to partners and laterally hiring lawyers from other firms.
But no further Spanish mergers are on the agenda, says Denyer. “The immediate aim is to consolidate our team.”
A&O faces competition in Madrid from Clifford Chance, which has a 12-partner office in the city.
But Denyer says that Spanish firms are also vying for the same work.
“We are now seeking to attract more Spanish clients,” he says. “We opened the Spanish office to act for international banks doing things in Spain. With the merger we concluded last year we added a substantial corporate litigation practice.
“Now we have a pretty even split between clients originating from Spain and elsewhere.”
Donnell worked in A&O's Hong Kong, Tokyo and Warsaw offices before moving to Prague in 1995. He has led teams in M&A deals and is a specialist in project finance and ICM transactions.