Insurance specialist Kennedys is entering into a full merger with Spanish associate firm Araúz de Robles Y Vélez Abogados (ARV) in the firm's first step towards international expansion.
Senior partner Nick Thomas said the October merger with ARV could be followed in the future by tie-ups with some of Kennedys' other associate offices, which include relationships with firms in Paris, Moscow and New York.
ARV partners Jesús Vélez and José-María Araúz will lead the new Kennedys office in Madrid, supported by three associates, including dual-qualified Kennedys solicitor Alex Guillamont.
Kennedys and ARV entered into an association in 2000, two years after the Spanish firm's foundation. ARV also has a best friends relationship with Portuguese firm Albuquerque & Associates.
The office will advise on insurance, reinsurance, commercial, shipping and international trade law in a similar practice profile to UK competitor Davies Arnold Cooper (DAC), which opened in Madrid a decade ago. The five-partner DAC office has been successful in Spain and advises both Spanish and international insurance clients.
Thomas said: "Madrid has been a particularly successful association. Over the five years we've referred a lot to them and worked hand-in-hand with them."
He added that the office would act as Kennedys' gateway into Latin America, where ARV has a network of contacts. Thomas said he expected the office to expand in size. He told The Lawyer: "The plan is to take advantage of these opportunities our clients are telling us are there."
Kennedys has other international offices in its own right in Auckland and Hong Kong, but its network of associated firms covers Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas.
The associated firms are small but offer clients on-the-ground advice in those jurisdictions. Thomas explained that mergers are "always on the cards" when the firm forms an association with a foreign firm, and that further tie-ups would increase significantly the size of Kennedys' 84-partner practice.