Kennedys Spain

Kennedys had such a good relationship with Spanish firm Araúz de Robles Y Vélez Abogados (ARV) that it decided to take it over in October 2005 after a five-year formal alliance.

<a class=Kennedys Spain” class=”inline_image inline_image_left” src=”/pictures/web/images/6586_15_kennedys.gif” />Turnover: €2m (£1.35m)
Managing partners: Jose Maria Araúz and Jesus Vélez
Total number of lawyers: Six
Total number of partners: Three
Main practice areas: Insurance, reinsurance, litigation, commercial, shipping
Clients: American International Group, Axa, Bouygues International, Generali Group, Lloyd’s syndicates, Winterthur
Offices: One
Location: Madrid

Kennedys had such a good relationship with Spanish firm Araúz de Robles Y Vélez Abogados (ARV) that it decided to take it over in October 2005 after a five-year formal alliance.

Dual-qualified partner Alex Guillamont was transferred from London to Madrid to help launch the Spanish offering, working with managing partners Jose Maria Araúz and Jesus Vélez.

“The association was going well,” says Guillamont. “After a while someone said, ’Hey Alex, you’re a Spaniard, go and open the Madrid office’.”

Kennedys uses the Madrid office more as a resource for international clients rather than as a springboard for a raid on the Spanish insurance market. Potential conflicts with established clients bar the office partners from jumping into the local market for new clients.

Instead the three Spanish partners rely on London partners Philip Hartley, Iain Morrison, Nick Thomas and Michael Walker to keep a flow of work coming from the firm’s key clients, which include Axa, American International Group (AIG) and Winterthur.

Guillamont says: “We’re not here to act for everyone, we want to be loyal to the people who helped. If AIG or Generali have a problem out here then they appoint us to the matter.”

The Madrid office also liaises with Latin American alliance firms to handle any legal matters across the pond.

So far the strategy has worked and the office has plans to double its six lawyers within a year.

“It would be nice to have more three to eight years’ PQE lawyers so the gearing is more rational,” says Guillamont.

At the moment the Madrid partners have to make do with one associate each, but the office recently brought in insurance litigation specialist Isidoro Ugena as a senior associate.

The partners are also looking to move into larger premises to accommodate the growth in numbers.

Financially the office has outperformed the expectations of Kennedys’ London management.

Guillamont says: “I think the people in London were expecting us to be making a loss, but we’re not. We’re happy not to be a burden and we just want to keep it that way.”

Going forward, Kennedys wants to focus on strengthening its presence in the growing economies in Latin America. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico attract the most attention from clients and so are high up on the list of priorities for the firm.

Although the Madrid office coordinates relationships with local firms, Guillamont says Latin lawyers prefer to conduct business face-to-face. According to Guillamont, this could lead to stronger ties and possibly new firms joining the Kennedys alliance.