Garrigues out of sight of rivals as Spanish sector starts to feel the economic pinch

The Spanish legal market grew by 11 per cent ­during 2008, but the economic downturn has slowed its growth, which stood at 16 per cent in 2007.

Juan Carlos Machuca

Juan Carlos Machuca

Relatively high rates of growth were experienced at the largest Spanish firm Garrigues, which increased turnover by 15 per cent, from e258.6m (£223.4m) in 2007 to e296.8m in 2008.

Other firms that experienced double-digit growth included Baker & McKenzie, CMS Albiñana & Suárez de Lezo, Davies Arnold Cooper, Gomez-Acebo & Pombo and Lovells.

Slaughter and May’s best friend Uría Menéndez grew by 8 per cent to hit e174.8m. However, Juan Carlos Machuca, managing ­partner of the London office, said he anti­cipated lower growth rates across the peer group.

“Next year it will be a ­different picture,” he said. “The ranking doesn’t reflect the market today. There weren’t substantial variations [in Uría’s turn­over] in litigation, corporate and real estate between 2007 and 2008. That ­picture will change at the end of 2009.

“We’re used to double-digit growth ­figures, but it’s not real – you can’t be growing at that level every year.”

Nevertheless, Machuca said, due to Uría’s tight cost base (it has 103 partners and fewer than 500 lawyers), it has “not frozen salaries” and is “continuing recruitment”.

Gomez-Acebo, which brought in e61.1m, has also continued on a recruitment drive, having recently absorbed Nabarro’s best friend, the four-partner firm Rodes & Sala (TheLawyer. com, 30 June), giving the larger firm a substantial leg-up in the Catalan ­market.

Garrigues is exceptional among its peers in not only having nearly 2,000 lawyers, which is twice the amount of the next largest Spanish firm Cuatrecasas, but also in its number of offices: it has 28 across Iberia and a further eight outposts internationally.

But Garrigues managing partner Jose Maria Alonso said this unusually large cost base would “not necessarily” lead to job cuts at his firm.

“Our business model, based on geographical diversification, is very ­different to that of ­Cuatrecasas,” he added.

Garrigues uses a different accounting period to its rivals’, posting results for August 2007 to August 2008 rather than for the 2008 calendar year.