Chambers Global Spain International Capabilities

Spain: International & Cross Border Capabilities

In the International & Cross Border Capabilities sections, Chambers highlights the law firms which are identified by clients as the best and most user-friendly to work with when matters involve international aspects that require the lawyers to consider, manage and advise on issues that are happening across different countries and jurisdictions.

All the firms listed in the Spain section offer strong capabilities to serve clients who are seeking a legal team with significant resources in Spain, but also the ability to excel in international work.

Frequently, the firms specified have been picked out by clients for their strengths in some or all of the following:

• co-ordinating advice on connected transactions, court procedures or regulatory issues in different countries as a lead counsel;
• providing global reach and giving clients access to top-quality legal advice in all the markets in which they need help;
• providing seamless and integrated legal services to clients, which creates a user-friendly experience across borders; and
• helping clients in international matters through specific knowledge or experience of sector or industry practices worldwide.

Global Trends in the Spanish Market

As the Spanish economy has recovered and grown since the crisis, it has become a very attractive place for law firms to expand their operations. Spain’s cultural proximity to Latin America and increased cross-border activity between the two regions have enhanced its appeal as a hub for Latin American legal work. Spanish multinationals have been growing rapidly and looking for investment opportunities, with Latin America being one of their main destinations. There has also been continued foreign direct investment into Spain from Europe, the US and Asia, which has made Spain one of the top receiving economies in the world in the last few years. All these trends have led to considerable internationalisation of the legal market, creating a competitive springboard for international work.

Independent firms

Spain’s role of serving as a window to Latin America has become the key to Spanish law firms’ identity and strategy of expansion. A number of top Spanish/Iberian firms have repositioned themselves in recent years to become Iberian and Latin American go-to firms for Portuguese and Spanish-speaking clients on cross-border deals between Iberia and Latin America, as well as Portuguese-speaking Africa.

Some of the most successful examples of these firms are Cuatrecasas, Uría Menéndez and Garrigues. Each of these firms has offices in New York and London, which allows them to provide clients with financing capability on transactions. Garrigues has the most spread-out model, having planted its offices in countries across South America, and is especially appealing to clients looking for one-stop full-service assistance. Uría has taken the approach of merging with firms in a number of Latin American markets and is one of the top choices for high-end work from Spain, benefiting from being part of a renowned European best-friends network with the UK firm Slaughter & May, amongst others. Cuatrecasas is at the other end of the spectrum, having chosen a combined model of organic growth in Mexico and a joint venture with a local firm in Columbia.

Aside from their focus on Latin America, all these firms have been active in attracting international work in Europe and Asia, both as a result of Spanish outbound investment and due to huge in-flows of foreign direct investment. Uría, in particular, has been seen to make great inroads in China, building close relationships with PRC firms, as well as firms in Korea, Japan and India, often acting as a trusted partner to independent firms or directly assisting Asian conglomerates going into Spain or Latin America.

Spanish firms have developed their capabilities in co-ordinating international work and have received encouraging feedback from the market in this regard. As one source comments with reference to the Spanish market: "National firms break down into two types, those that deal with local law issues, and those with a more international base. Those which are more international have better drafting, language skills and responsiveness, being more attuned to what the client of a big international firm needs."

One other firm which has capitalised on its local strength and become a competitor for international work without expanding significantly abroad is Perez-Llorca. The firm particularly gains from the strong wave of inbound investment, as it is often the preferred choice of clients and foreign counsel due to its strong position in the domestic market and its independent model.

International firms

Various international firms have increased their investment into their Spanish operations in order to take advantage of the opportunities in this thriving market. Some very successful firms in the Spanish market, such as Clifford Chance and Linklaters, perceive their base in Spain not only as a key element in their pan-European offering, but also as a fully-fledged standalone international practice, capable of generating its own work and with a scope and reach beyond Europe and Asia. Clients have turned to the Spanish offices of these firms directly to co-ordinate matters in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Herbert Smith has also made a success of advising on infrastructure and energy projects out of Spain, particularly into Europe, Asia and the Middle East, having generated and led from Spain on some important high-profile work.

US-centred international firms have also recently been strengthening their operations in Spain. Latham & Watkins has been a notable recent entrant into the Spanish market which, coupled with its US practice, may strengthen its overall appeal for international work involving Latin American countries, given that the US has long been considered another key hub of expertise on the region.
Other international firms in Spain have followed different strategies. Baker McKenzie with its full-service multidisciplinary capability on the ground, and highly-rated contentious and transactional practices, is regarded as a strong choice for clients with global mandates due to its wide and well-connected network, whilst DLA also attracts clients due to its capacity to connect to other offices across a vast range of locations. Others, such as Hogan Lovells and Bird & Bird, have used their Spanish offices to serve clients in niche areas of international work, notably including IP and matters related to the TMT sectors.