Spain: Speculation Mounts That More US And UK Firms Could Open In Spain

Last Updated: 26 February 2018
Article by Iberian Lawyer

Attraction of big-ticket deals, as well as the global aspirations of Spanish clients, mean opening in Madrid is an attractive prospect for Anglo-Saxon firms

Despite some market insiders questioning what incentive US and UK law firms have to open offices in Spain – a jurisdiction where legal fees are much lower than in London or New York, for example – the Anglo-Saxon firms keep coming. Rumours persist about US and UK firms eyeing openings in the Spanish market, with Shearman & Sterling and Norton Rose Fulbright among the names being mentioned. Meanwhile, in May this year, one did actually take the plunge with UK firm Pinsent Masons setting up shop after luring a team from Ramón & Cajal, a move that has led to a legal dispute between the firms. While acknowledging that Spain may be a "low fee jurisdiction", legal market insiders argue that opportunities to advise on some big-ticket M&A transactions, as well as a trend for Spanish businesses to expand their operations around the world, mean that for top quality firms, there is always an opportunity to build a successful practice.

Spain offers significant opportunities in areas such as private equity and finance, which are industries where UK law firms have traditionally been strong, says Andrew Ward, a partner at Cuatrecasas in Madrid who previously worked as a barrister in the UK. In addition, Ward says that "Spain has a large and sophisticated economy, so a law firm that wants to portray itself as global, really needs to have a presence".

Meanwhile, multinational companies that operate in Spain, or Spanish companies that go overseas, demand legal advisers with a global outlook, says Herbert Smith Freehills Madrid managing partner Miguel Riaño. "This makes the Spanish market very attractive for firms such as ours that operate in different jurisdictions," he adds. Growth in the Spanish real estate and energy sectors, as well as an increase in major transactions in general, is also appealing, according to Riaño.

Pan-European platform

With regard to the US and UK law firms that already have a presence in Spain, this is often a result of them following clients that were investors in Spain and southern Europe, says Javier Monzón, partner at Freshfields in Madrid. "Besides profitability and fees, this is also about a global offering to international clients," he says. "A strong pan-European platform has been part of the strategy for the UK 'Magic Circle' firms, except Slaughter & May, and a factor that differentiates them from their US competitors' offering in the UK and across Europe." However, some elite US global firms have taken the step of opening in Spain, such as Latham & Watkins, White & Case and Davis Polk & Wardwell. In total there are approximately 30 US/UK firms with offices in Spain.

Diego Lozano, partner at Pinsent Masons, and head of the firm's Madrid office says opening an office in Spain was the "natural next step" for the firm. He adds: "Pinsent Masons already had offices in France and Germany [before opening in Spain], so it was a case of the firm looking at where it could strengthen in Europe." Lozano says the options were Spain or Italy, and the firm chose Spain because it already advises a significant number of Spanish companies – including Telefónica, Banco Santander, OHL and Ferrovial on their operations outside Spain. Lozano adds: "We are already working with many Spanish companies on infrastructure projects around the world."

According to Lozano, around 25 per cent of the revenue of Pinsent Mason's Madrid office is generated by international work. "We have a simple strategy, we want to be a leader internationally in our global sectors, we want to offer clients a significant international presence and be seen in the market," he explains. "I would say we are in the middle of the first phase of our development, we currently have a strong corporate practices, a finance team and a litigation team, but we are also growing our technology and construction-related practice and we need to increase our regulatory capability." Lozano is targeting significant growth for the firm in Spain – Pinsent Mason's office in Madrid currently has 18 lawyers, but he anticipates that, in a year's time, the firm could be twice that size.

Ignacio Ruiz-Cámara, co-managing partner at Allen & Overy in Madrid, says Spain has some very "big, strong and international corporates and financial institutions, with a presence all over the world" and that consequently, if firms want to build a relationship with such clients, they need to be close to their decision-makers. Ruiz-Cámara adds that there are also major transactions happening in Spain that can generate big legal fees. "Obviously, average fees are higher in New York or London, but that is not the only consideration," he says. "While the average deal in Spain may be smaller than in other markets, there are still some big ticket and complex deals happening in Spain year after year, such as takeovers, mergers, joint ventures and bond issues, which justifies international firms charging higher fees." However, Monzón points out that, for the Spanish offices of smaller US and UK firms, maintaining profitability levels in line with the expectations of international firms is possible but "increasingly challenging".

The highly competitive nature of the Spanish market is seen, by some, as a barrier to the entry of more US and UK firms. "Even at the top end, firms like my own are more than able to compete with them head-to-head and in every area," Wards says. He argues that, given there are already a considerable number of major US/UK law firms already present in Spain, it is unlikely there will be many more joining them. However, he adds that, as there are large firms in the UK and the US that do not yet have a presence, "if there is work for them then they will come."

Maria José Menéndez, Madrid managing partner at Ashurst, says the fierce competition in the market is due to the fact that there is not a significant amount of high-end work in Spain, and international firms and the top Spanish firms are all competing for that which is available. "We keep hearing about more firms looking into setting up an office in Spain, so yes, it is certainly possible for more firms to come, but they should be aware that, although there clearly is scope for success, our market is tough," she says.

Shearman & Sterling and Norton Rose Fulbright did not comment on rumours that they are considering opening in Spain. Ruiz-Cámara says the idea of more US and UK firms opening in Spain cannot be dismissed, and adds there could be some movement if US/UK firms "find the right partners to open up their offices."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions