Nowadays clients expect practical and cost-efficient solutions and advice from lawyers who understand their business and with whom they have a long-term relationship. This is the vision of Raphaël Collin, founding partner at the boutique firm Collin Maréchal, who is committed to taking his firm in this direction.
Leaders League. What transformation has the Luxembourg market undergone?
Raphaël Collin. When I started my career 20 years ago at a Magic Circle firm in Luxembourg, the country was already a leader in the banking and fund industry. Over the past twenty years, it has developed authentic professionalism and expertise in all aspects of these sectors while also becoming more operational and business-focused. The world was completely different back then as well as the approach to international activities.
Now groups and investors take increasing consideration of business and economic rationales, not forgetting financing, reputation, professionalism, competency and stability, when deciding on the localization of their operations. This is also corroborated by the Luxembourg government’s actions that focus on attracting foreign business by offering a concrete competitive business platform rather than on a tax attractivity basis.
Apart from two slight slowdowns in 2001 and 2008, Luxembourg was not as heavily struck by the financial crisis as other countries, so an increasing number of clients have decided to set up their headquarters here: Ferrero now has 1500 employees in Luxembourg, Amazon over 1000, and for instance more companies are sending over their treasury or cash pooling teams.
Actually, Luxembourg has made great efforts in recent years to improve infrastructure and logistics in order to attract and retain fund managers, company top management profiles and their families. In an international “village” like Luxembourg City, you can benefit from the dynamism and high quality work of big cities while enjoying a secure and peaceful life at the same time.
Leaders League. How have clients’ needs evolved in the recent years?
R.C. First, clients are nowadays more practical and straight to the point. Instead of a memento of ten pages, they would rather require an analysis that understands their business and offers advice and solutions that address their issues in the best way.
Secondly, as clients are becoming more cost conscious, law firms are faced with more fierce competition. Today a small efficient team can accomplish a lot of work, so we need to control cost through different ways such as organizational structure and IT.
Lastly, clients expect closer relationships with their advisors, so lawyers also need to be entrepreneurs and go meet clients to understand them, which is a big challenge.
That’s also one of the reasons why I left Baker & McKenzie to launch my own firm two years ago. At big international firms people are under constant billing pressure, but I prefer to be a true legal partner, get closer to clients, understand the history of their business, management and project, and take time to build long-term relationships with them to give better advice.
Leaders League. How is your firm adapting to changes and what does the future hold for you?
R.C. Clients have changed, so lawyers also have to adapt quickly, to be quick, flexible and entrepreneurial. At Collin Maréchal, all our partners come from big firms, so we want to propose the same quality of work while remaining a boutique firm. Here we work together but can also stay independent depending on the project and case. More and more cases need team work, an M&A deal requires tax and labor advice, for instance.
Although a boutique, we already have three partners covering business practices such as tax, labor, litigation, real estate and M&A/corporate finance. We are currently developing new practices starting from October 2016 and are searching for a German lawyer to further complete our offer.
Our ambition is to build a 15-lawyer full service boutique firm in the coming years, covering major business areas. We want to be on the shortlist of clients and take time to build strong relationships with them, understand their history and business and truly take care of them. And we also want work to be a fun experience, because I find lawyers too serious sometimes. Of course you need to make compromises, but it is also important to have a good work-life balance, and working 24/7 is not what we encourage at the firm if it is not really necessary.
Jeanne Yizhen Yin