As the Eurozone’s fourth largest economy, Spain is home to two of Europe’s legal giants; Garrigues and Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, who between them have more lawyers worldwide than Linklaters and dwarf almost all of their local competition.
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Spanish firms push Iberian boundaries

Posted by: Stephanie Greaves 20/10/16
Ever dominant in their home market, Spanish law firms have now begun to expand across the globe and bolster the international reputation of the domestic legal market. As the Eurozone’s fourth largest economy, Spain is home to two of Europe’s legal giants; Garrigues and Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, who between them have more lawyers worldwide than Linklaters and dwarf almost all of their local competition.

Madrid based Garrigues has 34 offices worldwide and as of July 2015 was the second largest law firm in continental Europe while, its Barcelonan counterpart Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira has 25 offices in 11 countries. Both have benefited from increased economic stability and steady GDP growth, which expanded by 0.8% in the second quarter of the year and 3.2% compared to the same period last year. Many commentators remain optimistic about both the short and long term outlook of the market, even despite a backdrop of political uncertainty with the spectre of a third election looming, following two inconclusive votes in December and June. This sustained economic growth coupled with an uplift in foreign investments has led to further activity in the transactional market.

Increasingly the battle between leading Spanish firms is taking place outside of their domestic legal market, with Spain’s third largest firm Uría Menéndez attributing half of its growth to its Portugal office, despite only having 90 lawyers, 16% of its total headcount, based there. South America is also hotspot for Spanish legal firms, with Garrigues and Uría both targeting Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Spain’s new standardised lawyer training course, the five-year máster de acceso, has now replaced the previous three year training degree, leading law firms to alter their recruitment and induction processes, with the new course including a mandatory six month traineeship. Legal recruitment in Spain has gained a greater sense of stability with the transition to the five year course now complete, and many firms are renewing their focus on graduate recruitment. While average billing rates have remained largely flat in recent years, remuneration, particularly within international practices, has increased slightly.

Even despite the presence of international firms, including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters, and the Big Four accountancy firms, independent firms continue to secure substantive roles in major domestic and international transactions. Growth also remains strong for Spain’s top firms, with Garrigues seeing revenues grow by 1% to ‎€339m, while Cuatrecasas’ bottom line grew by 4% to‎ €265m.

Spain’s growing economy and thriving legal market, as well as its strong work life balance, may prove to be increasingly attractive for ambitious legal professionals looking for a new role in Europe.
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