Garrigues sets out expansion plans and bags International Firm of the Year award

Spanish firm Garrigues was crowned International Firm of the Year at the The Lawyer Awards two weeks ago – the first non-US firm to win the prize.

With revenue of €334.3m (£273.6m) for 2008-09 the firm topped the table of Continental European law firms by revenue for the second year running after experiencing growth of 12.6 per cent.

Co-managing partner Fernando Vives, who took over the helm alongside Ricardo Gómez-Barreda last ­September, said Garrigues has come through a difficult Spanish market with a newfound sense of solidarity. “We’ve faced a difficult year due to the crisis, but have been able to go through it and this collective effort has generated a very positive atmosphere in the firm,” said Vives. “We’re not as concerned with rainmakers but more with teams that enable us to offer the best service.”

In a series of major deals over the year, the firm worked on the mergers of Iberia and British ­Airways, and Liberty and Grupo Prisa, the €800m acquisition of part of Gas Natural SDG by Galp Energía and Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, and the strategic alliance between Telefonica and China Unicom.

The firm also advised on more than 50 per cent of all the securitisations and restructurings of banks in Spain over 2009.

The firm relies heavily on its Spanish roots, earning 95 per cent of its revenue from its 27 offices in the country. Elsewhere the firm has an office in Portugal and also earns revenues from its small worldwide offices in locations such as Warsaw, Bucharest and Tangiers.

With a financial year that ends on 31 August, last year’s overall turnover figure does not take into account difficult trading ­conditions in Iberia in the second half of 2009, although Vives believes the firm will weather the adverse conditions well.

“It was a successful year for the firm. We strengthened our ­position in very difficult circumstances,” said Vives.

Vives and Gómez are embarking on their four-year term with a mandate to consolidate Garrigues’s position in Iberia, and reinforce expansion in Latin America and China, with the aim of acting as a bridge between the two regions.

March last year saw Brazilian firm Barbosa Müssnich & Aragão exit Garrigues’s Latin American alliance Affinitas, but the region remains of key strategic importance to the firm, especially with a depressed Iberian market.

“We’re going to consolidate our position in Iberia, increase our relationship with Latin America and become more international,” said Viva. “We consider Brazil a strategic market, and will ­continue to focus on that market and foster our connections with China.”

The Affinitas network ­encompasses Barros & Errázuriz (Chile), Bruchou Fernandez Madero & Lombardi (Argentina), Gómez Pinzón Zuleta (Colombia), Miranda & Amado (Peru) and Mijares Angoitia Cortés y Fuentes (Mexico). Vivas said the firm is considering its options in Brazil but that it was still a strategic country.

Last year Garrigues became the first large Iberian firm to publish a corporate responsibility report. It also progressed a gender equality plan, launched in 2008, which allows male and female parents to elect to work up to 40 per cent of their time from home during the first year after their child’s birth.