Javier Ybáñez (Garrigues) : "The main challenge is talent attraction and retention"
The Impact Lawyers publishes an interview with Javier Ybáñez, Senior Partner and head of Garrigues Latin America, 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 opening an office abroad? Why?
We are committed to an integrated management model with our own offices and local talent. A single firm, a single partnership, a cohesive team and the same high quality standards. This is the model we have followed in our expansion in Europe, China and Morocco, and since 2013, also in Latin America, where we have built one of the most relevant direct presences in the market (offices and multidisciplinary teams in five countries), with the capacity to operate locally, regionally and internationally and a strong diversification by practice areas.
When we opted for this model, we knew that the process would be slower than other options chosen by law firms, such as alliances, franchises or shareholdings, but we wanted to be able to guarantee our clients the same way of doing things and the same quality of service, one hundred percent Garrigues. At the same time, we ensured control of operations and less complex integration between the different offices and with the organisation. Rapid integration of large teams can present major problems for organisations. Time is proving us right and the results are very positive for clients and the firm.
Whichever model you have chosen to set up in a new jurisdiction, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?
There is always the great effort of adaptation from the point of view of the law and the economic, social and cultural reality of each country. But, without a doubt, the main challenge, especially considering our model, is that of attracting and retaining talent.
We initially sought out top-level professionals who could be at the forefront of Garrigues' representation in the markets where we wanted to be, aligning our efforts to try to create a cohesive and integrated platform. We were not looking for professionals who would just bill, but who would be integrated into the Garrigues culture, while at the same time adapting our organisation to local specialities.
Then, closely linked to this, we focused on ensuring that all our professionals, both senior and junior, felt identified with the way we work, and on ensuring that they all had the same opportunities for professional development and training. It is an ongoing challenge that requires greater commitment from the whole firm, but which allows us to grow and to be able to anticipate our clients' problems.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your international growth strategy?
The COVID-19 health crisis has not changed the way we see things. Internationalization is a strategic pillar for Garrigues and it is clear to us that our strong diversification by country and also by practice area is an advantage when facing uncertain situations such as the one we are currently experiencing. We are therefore always evaluating the possibility of growing in other countries and increasing our capabilities. In 2020, we have strengthened our international teams, especially in Latin America, with the incorporation of new areas and professional profiles. In Peru, we launched the new competition, regulation and intellectual property area, with the recent incorporation of two leading professionals in the field, Ivo Gagliuffi and Javier Coronado; in Colombia, we incorporated lawyer Adriana Espinosa to lead the infrastructure practice. We will continue to analyse new opportunities. We believe that the current situation is favourable for firms with strong corporate cultures.
This survey was conducted through Venize Comunicación between December 2020 and January 2021.