‘Iberian giant’ Garrigues traces its history back to 1941, when two small law firms run by brothers Joaquín and Antonio Garrigues Díaz-Cañabate merged. Over the next 50 years the firm grew in size, launching a New York office in 1973 and a Brussels office the following decade. Garrigues was arguably the first Spanish law firm to really begin to internationalise. It created a global network known as the Club de Abogados (Lawyers’ Club) in the 1980s to give it access
‘Iberian giant’ Garrigues traces its history back to 1941, when two small law firms run by brothers Joaquín and Antonio Garrigues Díaz-Cañabate merged. Over the next 50 years the firm grew in size, launching a New York office in 1973 and a Brussels office the following decade.
Garrigues was arguably the first Spanish law firm to really begin to internationalise. It created a global network known as the Club de Abogados (Lawyers’ Club) in the 1980s to give it access to like-minded firms in other countries.
The major turning point for Garrigues came in 1997 when it merged with the Spanish tax and legal arm of audit company Arthur Andersen. The merger was successful with headcount doubling and turnover rising 130 per cent in just five years.
In 2002 Garrigues was forced to cut its ties with Andersen after the collapse of Enron. Andersen provided audit services to the doomed group and was found guilty of criminal charges relating to its work for the company; as a result it collapsed. Garrigues’ partners voted shortly after Andersen was charged to split off from the audit firm and become independent once more.
The Andersen legacy lives on in the sense that Garrigues has a strong tax practice to this day and the firm was a founder member of tax network Taxand.
After regaining its independence, Garrigues continued its international expansion, opening in cities including Shanghai, São Paulo, Casablanca and Warsaw and in 2005 merging with Portuguese law firm Leónidas Matos & Associados. However, it has since pulled back from some of this expansion, for instance shutting in Bucharest in 2011 to consolidate Eastern Europe in Warsaw.
In 2013 Garrigues pulled out of the Latin American network it had founded in 2004 and since then has been steadily opening offices on the continent. By the end of 2017 it was present in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru and has plans for further launches.
Garrigues is currently the largest law firm in Continental Europe by turnover, and the second-largest in terms of headcount.
Corporate, including real estate, and finance, including tax, both contribute around a third of Garrigues’ revenue. It picks up its fair share of large deals, although rivals Cuatrecasas and Uría Menéndez win a higher proportion of top-end work.
Spain remains Garrigues’ largest jurisdiction with 18 offices, although this number has shrunk in recent years with some of the smaller regional offices shutting down.
In 2011 the firm made up 152 new equity partners as part of a shift towards a more all-equity structure. At the last count, almost 95 per cent of the partnership were equity partners on a modified lockstep.
In 1954 Antonio Garrigues Díaz-Cañabate’s son Antonio Garrigues Walker joined the firm. He became chairman in 1962, when his father was named Spanish ambassador to the US, and remained in the role for an astonishing 52 years, retiring in 2014 at the age of 80. The firm’s partners named him honorary chairman on his retirement.
Current executive chairman Fernando Vives was head of corporate and commercial at the firm between 2001 and 2009, when he was named joint managing partner alongside tax partner Ricardo Gómez-Barreda.
Vives and Gómez-Barreda took over from José María Alonso and Miguel Gordillo, who ran the firm between 2000 and 2009.
In 2011 Garrigues restructured its leadership. Vives became sole managing partner and Gómez-Barreda was appointed as senior partner. When Antonio Garrigues retired, Vives added ‘executive chairman’ to his title and Gómez-Barreda was re-elected as senior partner.
Vives was re-elected for a further five years in January 2017.