SJ Berwin plunders leading Spanish firm for new office

SJ Berwin has raided a Spanish law firm to establish its own Madrid office and strengthen its Brussels team.

The City firm has taken on two teams from B Cremades y Asociados in Madrid, one of Spain's largest law firms.

In Madrid, senior corporate partner Carlos Pazos will bring two assistants with him to set up the office of SJ Berwin, Pazos, Gallardo & Asociados, which will concentrate on M&A, private equity and related tax work.

And in Brussels, Pazos' colleague Ramon Gallardo will also bring his team of two to SJ Berwin's existing office.

Their departure from Cremades leaves the Spanish firm without a Brussels presence.

Pazos has worked on an informal basis with SJ Berwin for several years and when he heard that the firm was looking to set up a Spanish operation, he made an approach.

“There is a clear situation in Spain where firms have to take a challenge,” he explains. “The market is asking for a new approach to legal services, with more clients demanding that firms adopt the Anglo Saxon model of availability, added value and tailoring the service to clients' needs.”

His clients in Madrid include Banco Santander, Beta Capital and Deutsche Telekom. Within the next six months, Pazos hopes to build the office up to 20 to 25 Spanish lawyers.

SJ Berwin senior partner, David Harrel, says that bringing Pazos on board was a better solution for the Spanish market than a full-scale merger with Cremados.

“There is no single answer for any particular country. Everything we do is driven by people rather than institutions and firms. We went for individuals that we thought were the right individuals and ones that we would want to take on as partners in London. In taking on a firm, it is very difficult to find one in which every element fits.”

Last year SJ Berwin formed an association with German firm Knopf Tulloch & Partner, a multi-disciplinary practice with which it hopes to merge as soon as regulations allow. The firm is currently in merger negotiations with Paris practices, which have taken longer than hoped.

Harrel also says an Italian firm recently approached SJ Berwin, but no decision on that move has been made.