Ontier is a full-service law firm originating in Spain which has developed an extensive range of offices in Latin America. Ignacio Ojanguren, the recently appointed international president, and Pedro Rodero, its managing partner, discuss Ontier’s game-changing international growth strategy and the shift toward new aspects of legal work.
Leaders League. Ontier has built up an impressive international arm. Could you spell out the thinking behind this expansion?
Ignacio Ojanguren. Ontier has opted to develop internationally by having our own offices. Our expansion is not based on a franchise model but on a process of growth tied to our own business model.
We have a strong presence in Latin America and are on the ground in nine countries, namely Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Chile and the Dominican Republic, the latter our most recent office opening.
We also have an office in Italy, and one in London, which is the hub of our international arbitration and dispute resolution activities: an area in which Ontier has great interest. Within our global network of offices, certain other countries are of high interest because we deliver legal support to local companies that do business in Latin America: this is the case with Italy, for example.
We base our expansion on one thing: the economic potential of a country. From that point of view Ontier targets countries where we have a direct presence, such as Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Chile. But we appreciate that there are other countries with less potential for development in term of size, but which represent interesting opportunities for growth within a less sophisticated legal market.
Our goal is global presence. We focus on regions with potential where no law firm covers our areas of interest. We want our major clients – those that don’t have a presence in that region – to think of Ontier as their law firm of reference.
Do you focus on specific practice areas or is Ontier a full-service law firm?
We have built up our international presence by focusing on the right things. Our goal is to be operational within two complementary areas, namely dispute resolution – litigation and arbitration – and corporate and commercial law. In some countries we went a bit further as we have been adding other areas when needed, such as tax and labor law.
Which industries and sectors are you most involved in?
We have identified several sectors that are attracting a high level of investment at international level and are ones we are interested in. We have a strong presence in the energy and global finance sectors. Other important sectors for Ontier are infrastructure and technology. Private equity and venture capital are less developed in the Latin America region, but we value their potential.
What form will Ontier’s international development take in the coming years?
We are currently in a consolidation phase, because of organic development and, in some countries, the incorporation of teams or other law firms that wished to embrace the Ontier model. We have a keen interest in growing in Chile and in consolidating the teams we have in Peru and Mexico. Of course, if the right opportunity arises in a country such as Argentina or Uruguay, we would seriously consider it, but realistically, at this stage of our development these markets are not a priority.
Tell us about some of Ontier’s highlights in Iberia over the past year.
Pedro Rodero. As regards the global organization of Ontier, we signaled an important shift with the addition of Ignacio as international president, which constitutes a significant step for the firm in Spain. Also, with the incorporation of our new general manager Carlos Ranera, Ontier has set its sights on revolutionizing the business development mentality and the way every member of staff envisages their role at the firm. At Ontier, we are very much aware of the massive changes that are taking place in the legal industry and are committed to doing whatever it takes to adapt and carry on growing or provide added value for our clients.
What does this shift in mentality mean in concrete terms?
The transformation of the legal industry has had a profound impact on many aspects of our organization. From the firm’s point of view, it has allowed our professionals a greater level of flexibility so they can adapt to and feel at ease with the way we do things at Ontier. This has repercussions not only the regulatory working environment within the law firm, but also in the way we work with clients.
Therefore, Ontier must evolve regarding the digitalization of work and in the attitude towards business. Our teams need to approach generating business with an innovative mind set. We insist on proactivity from our lawyers regarding the way they counsel and work with clients and how they can best bring value to them. One of our principles is to get away from the traditional “wait-and-see” approach when it comes to client-need. We prefer an R&D approach – i.e. a research and development led approach, based on anticipating the needs of clients. It is up to us at Ontier to come up with initiatives, ideas and products that provide added-value counsel to our clients, and this is something that we are experts at doing.