With half a decade’s worth of experience in the Luxembourg market, Ogier Luxembourg has earned its place at the top table in the Grand Duchy. Practice Partner François Pfister fills us in on developments at the firm.
Leaders League. This year marks the fifth anniversary of Ogier’s Luxembourg office. What do you consider the biggest achievement so far, and what future projects do you envisage?
Francois Pfister. These past five years have gone by very fast, but we have already achieved a great deal. We have developed our core practices and our strategy has been, and continues to be, successful. We are now an attractive Luxembourg business law firm for our clients, an alternative for prospective clients and an inviting option for lawyers looking to develop their skills in a calm, friendly, open-minded and "team spirited" environment. Incentivizing collaboration and collegiality rather than competition, mobilizing rather than managing - this is the way I see my role in the firm. Within the coming year, we will be exceeding 40 people in Luxembourg (amongst whom we will have 30 lawyers) - we are here to stay and to continue growing.
However, there are a number of challenges ahead which are not all specific to Luxembourg, not least the technological transformation of our businesses. Only the firms which are measuring and embracing the changes that technology and, in particular Artificial Intelligence, is bringing will remain competitive. The firm has embarked up on a global strategy of preparing for the future through investment in talent, training and technology.
How do you cope with the increasingly complex regulations of the fund industry and still manage to assist your clients?
My feeling is that lawyers are now required to have both a wider knowledge and a more specialized knowledge of the industry and the regulations that underpin it.
Team work, knowledge transmission and exchange are essential to cope with the increased complexity of fund regulations. Ogier is present in the main international investment fund jurisdictions in the world. We can rely on the vast experience gained in jurisdictions like Cayman, Jersey and Guernsey in structuring private investment funds and Ogier Luxembourg for its part contributes to the network with knowledge gained as an onshore regulated fund center. Now, with the emergence of an unregulated funds sector in Luxembourg and the regulatory framework provided by the AIFM Directive, our office is not only using but also contributing significantly to the depth of knowledge available throughout the network. Creating platforms of knowledge sharing, comparing experiences and solutions, working in teams to set up and advise investment vehicles in different jurisdictions with combined approaches is, in our view, a unique feature that Ogier can offer.
In addition to mastering fund regulations, an investment fund lawyer must also be familiar with corporate law, finance law and taxation, as well as the business itself. That is one of the key reasons why Ogier is currently investing a lot in training our people, be it training concerning technical skills or so called soft skills.
What changes have you observed regarding client demands and needs over the years?
Clients expect their lawyers to understand their businesses. They see their lawyers as business partners and need to be able to trust them not only with their current issues and projects but also with future ones: clients expect their lawyers to anticipate and to adapt. That is why we like our lawyers and staff to be purpose driven: listening first, and then providing practical and straight-to-the-point solutions in a second step is key to establishing this “trusted advisor” status that we are aiming for. And while technology is undoubtedly an indispensable aide, the lawyer’s business remains fundamentally a people’s business.
Clients also expect that adequate means are put in place to deal with specific matters. Certain issues do not necessarily need constant partner involvement - notably for cost reasons – but do require partner input and availability whenever necessary or desired. In that regard, Ogier has always been a firm where partners are very hands-on.
In your view, what pitfalls should Luxembourg avoid when it is trying to attract UK-based fund managers after Brexit?
In the bigger picture, I think that it is a mistake to consider that the UK leaving the EU is good news for Luxembourg. Yes, there will naturally be some benefits that will flow from Brexit, particularly in the financial and insurance sectors where we can anticipate more businesses being attracted to Luxembourg and jobs created in those sectors as a result. However, Luxembourg shares a number of common strategic views with the UK, in particular on regulatory issues. From that point of view, Luxembourg is certainly losing a valuable ally. Post Brexit, the UK will become a competitor to Luxembourg, as already are France, Germany and Ireland. That is why Luxembourg will need to closely monitor its competitiveness and not underestimate the competition presented by both the UK and other EU players. It has traditionally been a strength of the Grand-Duchy to innovate and to continuously adapt and extend the legal toolbox available to economic players. That forward-thinking and flexibility should in no circumstances disappear. Similarly a fantastic asset of the country is the constant dialogue that exists between politicians, legislators, unions, government and the economical decision makers. This helps immensely in understanding the challenges, needs and successes that the country is facing. Luxembourg should, in her bid to attract post-Brexit business, continue to offer the same unique, need-driven, quality products, services and solutions that she has always strived to provide rather than seek to emulate those offered elsewhere. The biggest threat facing us is ourselves; arrogance would be a terrible sin.