“We want external counsel to connect with the brand values and with the business strategy.”

In a highly competitive market, law firms in Spain and Portugal are continuing to evolve their business development strategies to attract new clients and provide the best services. General Counsels across various sectors in Iberia tell Leaders League they key elements they are looking for in their external providers.

Posté le jeudi, mai 25 2023
“We want external counsel to connect with the brand values and with the business strategy.”

Luis M. Sánchez Velo, Legal Director, Restructuring, Santander

In addition to a high level of legal expertise, our partners must have a demonstrated ability to solve all kinds of problems quickly and imaginatively, providing solutions to our clients' problems in accordance with the bank's standards.

In order to execute this, our partners will need to be fully aligned with our policies and principles, which basically consist of putting the client at the center of everything. If an external legal counsel is able to assure us of that service, it is almost certain that they will be able to establish a long-lasting relationship.

Cristina Alvarez, Head of Legal Department Europe, Cintra 

The most important factor is expertise.  We tend to rely on the rankings prepared by reputable firms, on opinions of other colleagues and on our own prior experience.

We value very highly the involvement of partners and senior lawyers in the matters that we entrust them with, particularly in complex deals.  We appreciate their availability to interact with us when we need them.

It is very important that the law firms offer reasonable fee proposals: we require fee caps, because we work with budgets that cannot be undetermined. We also appreciate the willingness of law firms to take risks with us in the deals, agreeing to make discounts and to have success fees depending on how the deal at hand evolve for us. The structure of the law firms’ fees needs to be reconsidered and adapted to the new reality of law firms.

Isabel Fernandes, General Counsel, Grupo Visabeira

In-house lawyers view external law firms as Partners rather than just mere Service Providers. They appreciate firms that are willing to work closely with them, have a solid knowledge of their organization’s business operations and industry dynamics, understand their needs, and, based on such, provide strategic advice and value-added services on a clear, concise, and jargon-free communication basis, building, by this way, a long-term relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

Collaborative partnership involves joint problem-solving, proactive communication, responsiveness an accessibility, cost-effectiveness, value, and regular updates on legal and regulatory developments relevant to the organization, enabling in-house lawyers to effectively make informed decisions and manage legal risks.

Mafalda Duarte, Head of Legal, Liberty Seguros, Portugal 

The ability to have prompt feedback and an open mindset, that allows an approach that is close to the business needs, are my main concerns when choosing an external counsel.

More and more it is needed a sharp and precise legal advice, rather than several pages of legal concepts, that can be foreign to other departments in the company. 

The technical solid knowledge and experience are expected.  The ability to communicate in a simple way, without losing focus and the delivery of a thorough legal analysis is greatly appreciated.

Nacho Redondo, General Counsel, Caixabank

We look for external counsel when we think it can provide added value if we don’t have enough internal resources to handle the task at hand or if we need a highly specialized expert due to the specificity of the transaction.  When we are dealing with outside jurisdictions, we may consider seeing external support.We work with legal firms as partners that help us, not as substitutes to undertake our work (because we love what we do!).

In all these cases we value the long-term relationship we have with many different firms, who are leaders in their fields, who know us and share our fundamental values.

Beatriz Bernabeu, International Legal Director, Havaianas

It is essential that the external counsel understands and feels the business and the commercial implications. I expect my external counsels to really connect with the brand values and with the business strategy, proposing alternative solutions with a pragmatic mindset. As lawyers our mission is to play an active role in supporting the business, finding creative ways to reach the intended objective by striking the right balance between the risk to be taken and the outcome to be obtained. This mindset should be shared 100% by the external counsel.

Rafael Ramirez, Legal Director, AXA

I especially value specialization in the specific subject we want to outsource. It is also important that they provide solutions connected to the reality of the specific business. The solutions they propose must be realistic and innovative at the same time.

I also appreciate the availability of tools that allow us to follow a project or judicial procedure in a simple way and with up-to-date information.

Carlos Ulecia, Chief Legal Officer, NH Hotel Group

When I am in need of external counsel, I always say the same thing, which may seem very simple but at the same time it can be very difficult to find, which is high quality human values.  It is a given that external legal counsels are technically good and experienced lawyers, knowledgeable about the subject matter and the industry, and that they are pragmatically business oriented. That is obvious.  What I seek and always need are people I can trust with high quality and human values. It is the same that I ask of my team of in-house lawyers.

Moises Ramirez, Legal Director, GSK

It’s important for them to have extensive technical knowledge, but it is also critical to have knowledge of the company and the business in which it operates.  An important aspect is interest.  I look for those who are interested in providing advice to me, the company and the specific issue.  The tangible outcome of this is that they show availability and react fast. This is something that is taken for granted by many people but does not always occur. It is known that external lawyers handle a very large workload. There are some lawyers that tend to give the impression of being overworked and others who show their ability to handle things. That ability to handle their clients and cases generates the trust and comfort that is critical for a client to entrust them with a matter. Therefore, high quality and responsiveness are my top requirements when hiring external counsel. Other factors, including price do have their importance. In case of budget constraints, I prefer to outsource fewer matters but only to the best professionals.

Rita Branquinho, Head of Legal, Novabase

When contracting external legal counsel, it's like seeking a comic book superhero. We want their legal expertise, agility, and ability to overcome hurdles. Clear communication, affordability, and a cultural fit are also important. We need lawyers who can speak our language without sounding like a legal robot, won't break the bank - affordability is crucial, as we need to balance our legal budget. We want someone who understands our organization, shares our values, and fights for justice alongside us. After all, in the world of legal battles, having a legal counsel you can trust and rely on is like having a superhero by your side. It's a quest for a legal sidekick, not one in capes and tights but possessing the right skills and chemistry. A cultural fit and strong working relationship contribute to successful long-term collaboration.