01 March 2021

Elisa Lemus (Barrilero): "It is essential to know the local reality of the environment very well"


The Impact Lawyers publishes an interview with Elisa Lemus, Head of Barillero y Asociados International Desk. This interview and others can be found in the Survey on the internationalisation of law firms

What is the strategy you have followed when opening offices abroad? Why?

Our international implementation strategy was to generate our own "own model" of internationalization. In this sense, respecting what others have done, we identified two previous models, to conclude in "our model":

OPTION 1.- OPENING OUR OWN OFFICES.- It was a strategy that we discarded from the beginning for two basic reasons: 

1.- THE COSTS.- developing our own office structure means facing very important investments in order to maintain the quality standards of our firm.

2.- FOREIGNERS ANYWHERE - We have seen in person when visiting other countries and markets, that in many environments (mainly LATAM), Spanish law firms are viewed with reticence when trying to compete in their own countries with very good local law firms.

OPTION 2.- NETWORKS OF LAW FIRMS: The second strategy that we also discard is to join an INTERNATIONAL NETWORK where you do not really know the destination law firm and where pulling from the list is not always the best for our clients. According to our vision, belonging to an international NETWORK serves to cover the dossier, but does not respond to our model of understanding the legal profession.

OPTION 3.- OUR MODEL: Having discarded the classic formulas, we faced the exciting challenge of generating an "alliance of our own" based on express collaboration agreements with law firms previously approved by our firm. To this end, we visited all the law firms that we intended to select by country and, only after getting to know them personally and discarding other very valid options, we formalised the collaboration agreements with the law firms that we considered to be the closest to our firm.

As a result of this stage, we are currently in contact with a very important ALLIANCE, where we work as "Partners" and where we know each other personally. This allows us to ensure that when our clients have to travel to other countries, they are attended there as if we were ourselves, with reasonable prices and exquisite treatment, always being advised by professionals who are well-connected in each jurisdiction. Logically, this experience also happens in the opposite direction, when a client comes to us referred by our Partner.

Whichever model you have chosen to set up in a new jurisdiction, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?

We could talk about many challenges, but to simplify there are THREE basic ones:

- KNOWLEDGE OF THE LOCAL ENVIRONMENT - In our profession it is essential to know the local reality of the environment very well. It is not only a question of knowing the law, but above all, of knowing how to move in each country, with its advantages and disadvantages. This challenge was essential for us in order to guarantee the best quality for our clients and we are convinced that we have more than met it.

- VIP TREATMENT - At all times we have tried to ensure that our clients are treated as VIPs. If it is necessary to organise all the logistics, our partner firm will do so. If it is necessary to control and translate the legal direction, our international division will do so. In short, it is essential that our client receives the same treatment as in Spain.

- PRICES - Another issue that we have noticed from the beginning is that in many countries the lawyers' fees are much higher than in Spain. For this reason, we are normally the ones who settle the costs with our collaborating law firm, thus avoiding surprises for our clients.

How has the crisis caused by COVID-19 affected your international growth strategy?

Evidently, the international implementations and movements have slowed down, but in spite of this, we have continued to grow in the international division of the firm, which ratifies the success of our "own model".


This survey was conducted through Venize Comunicación between December 2020 and January 2021.

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