Alfonso López-Ibor (L-I Lawyers): "Foreign firms investing in other countries tend to be financially stronger"
The Impact Lawyers publishes an interview with Alfonso López-Ibor, Director Partner of Lopez-Ibor Lawyers, on the firm's internationalization strategy. This interview and others can be found in the Survey on the internationalization of law firms.
What is the strategy you have followed when internationalizing the firm? Why?
For us, the internationalization of the firm has always meant developing an international clientele in addition to our purely Spanish clientele. In fact, in recent years our international clients have come to represent more than 60% of our turnover. We consider this to be an anti-cyclical strategy, as it allows us to handle cases and maintain an acceptable level of activity in difficult times when our economy is suffering. In recessionary periods we lawyers have a lot of work, but big problems in getting paid due to the financial difficulties of local clients. Foreign firms investing in other countries tend to be financially stronger.
Obviously there is no single model. Our policy has been to select and actively participate in good international networks of lawyers, to develop contacts with Anglo-American firms not established in Spain by creating "Best Friends" alliances, to specialise in areas of law with a high international component and to participate in seminars and publications aimed at potential investors in Spain. For some years now we have also incorporated foreign lawyers, especially from Latin American countries, as a strategy to get closer to those countries that are becoming a source of international work.
We have not considered opening offices in other countries as this is very costly and has a slow maturation period. It would only be justified in the case of monitoring one or two Spanish clients with strong international expansion. But the truth is that opening offices abroad is currently only within the reach of large firms. In this sense, it would be very interesting if there were aid for medium-sized firms like ours, which already have an international projection.
However, we have the impression that the central government, through ICEX, the Community of Madrid and the Madrid Bar Association itself are beginning to be aware of the need for support, aid and subsidies, since Madrid's economy is essentially one of services and Madrid has very good law firms and excellent international lawyers.
Whichever model you have chosen to grow internationally, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?
In our strategy, perhaps the biggest challenge is organisational, in the sense of taking advantage of the opportunities that arise on a daily basis.
How has the crisis caused by COVID-19 affected your international growth strategy?
COVID-19 has dealt a huge blow to sectors where we have traditionally had a lot of work, such as hotels, aeronautics and real estate. However, we share the perception that the new vaccines will bring about a recovery of the world and European economies sooner rather than later.
In terms of our strategy, we have started to focus on advising digital businesses that are expected to grow strongly precisely because they are not face-to-face. From an internal organisational point of view, we are promoting teleworking for lawyers and staff as we had already invested in new systems before the pandemic. In the near future we plan to reduce the need for office space.
This survey was conducted through Venize Comunicación between December 2020 and January 2021.