Plan for Portugal outpost sees Gómez-Acebo forge ahead with global ambition

Spanish independent firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo is planning to launch its first office in Portugal as it ­pushes an expansion plan across the firm.

A ;spokesperson ;for Gómez-Acebo confirmed that it was looking to open an office of between 25 and 30 lawyers in Portugal in the first half of 2009.

The ;move ;is ;part of Gómez-Acebo’s new ­strategy to develop into a larger and more international operation, follow-ing a 2006 review by ­management ­consultancy ­Accenture.

The change in direction prompted Gómez-Acebo and its Portuguese ally Vieira de Almeida to split in June 2007.

Vieira said that it wanted to pursue best-friend ­relationships with other firms in Spain, while Gómez-Acebo began planning its own office launch in Portugal.

Gómez-Acebo is also ­celebrating its first full year in London, having grown the office from three to six lawyers in the past few months, with two hires and a secondment.

The ;London ;office opened in September 2007 and was the firm’s second overseas ;office ;after ­Brussels.

London managing partner Fermin Garbayo told The Lawyer that the original plan to open a representative office had changed and that the firm was now ­working on Spanish law deals in London.

“It’s changing now to a hybrid between a rep office and a transaction firm,” he explained. “My idea is to do as much transaction work as possible.”

Garbayo added that the office was busier than ­projected in its first year, despite the turmoil in the financial markets.

The office has helped Gómez-Acebo ;develop ­deeper relationships with UK firms including Addleshaw Goddard, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Taylor Wessing and Watson Farley & Williams.

Garbayo said that he ­welcomed the strategic changes at the firm, adding that he looked forward to a greater emphasis on ­international work.

“Both from an internal and external point of view the firm will make a push in international markets,” he said.

Gómez-Acebo ;has reaped ;the ;financial ­benefits of its strategic review, breaking the e50m (£39.27m) turnover barrier for the first time earlier
this year.

The firm posted a turnover ;of ;e54.6m (£42.89m) for 2007, a near 15 per cent increase on 2006’s e47.6m (£37.39m). The performance showed a gradual return to form for one of Spain’s largest ­independent firms, which in 2005 grew by only 6 per cent.

At the time Gómez-Acebo managing partner Manuel Martín said: “In 2007 we implemented a number of actions defined in our strategic plan and we plan to implement further actions during 2008.” (The Lawyer, 4 February).

Spanish firms in portugal

Most of the big Spanish firms have substantial offices in Portugal. Gómez-Acebo & Pombo has plans for an office of around 30 lawyers, which would make for a strong base but would still be ­smaller than its rivals’ outposts.

Uría Menéndez merged with local firm Vasconcelos F Sá Carneiro Fontes & Associados in 2004, giving the firm a total of 60 lawyers in Portugal.

Garrigues opened in Lisbon in 2005 and now has 105 lawyers in Portugal, while Cuatrecasas landed in Portugal in 2000 with an alliance with Goncalves Pereira Castelo Branco & Associados and currently boasts 170 lawyers.