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Dr Louis Cassar Pullicino, managing partner

Dr Louis Cassar Pullicino, managing partner of GANADO Advocates, explains how the firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate GANADO Advocates from your competitors?

Specialisation and in-depth analysis of issues and transactions being handled are key differentiating factors of the firm. Our efforts focus on the main areas of law we specialise in and we seek to avoid the distraction of trying to do everything for everyone. Such areas revolve around three main pillars – shipping and aviation, corporate and financial services – with ancillary services, such as the tax, litigation and labour law practice areas, servicing all sectors. We are determined to excel in areas we, selectively, choose to promote and consciously avoid certain areas, despite them being lucrative areas of activity. For instance, within the gaming area, we only limit ourselves to M&A matters, capital markets, litigation and other specialist tasks.

We strongly believe that we need to be fully knowledgeable about our clients’ area of activity in order to be able to provide detailed and specialised advice, which belief has been a differentiating factor since the firm’s early days. Specialisation, coupled with real focus on efficiency and timely delivery of service, has allowed us to lead in areas like shipping, investment services, insurance, banking as well as trusts and foundations.

Education is also a key differentiating factor, as we strive to continue growing the legal profession in Malta and consistently raise the benchmark, not just for local legal services, but for all lawyers in our industry sectors. In fact, the firm is very active in the promotion of legal education and academia and has established its own legal training institute – The Institute of Legal Studies.

In addition, we actively take on initiatives to propose legislative development in areas of our specialisation and often draft relevant legislation based on competitive and innovative ideas.

What practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

We see very good potential in the areas of aviation, investment services and insurance, capital markets and intellectual property.

We have always been at the forefront of the developments within the aviation industry and have contributed to the design of the legislation in place and, more recently, supported the Government with the ratification of the Cape Town Convention and in extending education on the subject.

We have also sought to develop the current alternative financing opportunities and the use of Malta as a good location for capital market solutions in this sector. We are experiencing some good results and a high level of professionalism in the legal and accounting fields, which have helped the sector improve upon its results over the years. Within the financial services sector, insurance is, possibly, one of the areas with the highest growth potential, in view of Britian’s vote to exit the EU.

Within the intellectual property (IP) area, the firm has been leading a project for the Government of Malta aimed at overhauling the current IP legal framework to provide solid legislative solutions to the IP industries, thus making Malta a relevant IP jurisdiction. The Project, known as “Making Malta an IP Hub” brought together the various Malta-based legal and advisory service providers, who are all actively participating in the said Project.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

One of the challenges we face is the need to invest in human resources whilst, at the same time, keep abreast of technological innovation which is becoming vital for the firm. We have been investing heavily in our IT infrastructure whilst continuing to grow our regulatory team, mixing lawyers with other professionals. Our challenge is to maintain the firm’s drive for quality in client service and commitment, systems and processes, so that we continue to provide an excellent back-up for the 70+ lawyers of the firm and the ones joining our growing team in the future.

For instance, we have recently completed the implementation of a CRM system that supports the firm’s ongoing commitment to customer relationships. As the firm continues to grow, the system will give us greater insight into current relationships, whilst providing us with opportunities to develop new ones. The system forms an integral part of our relationship intelligence structure and has proved to be essential in helping us gain a better understanding of client needs and deliver against their changing requirements.

During 2016, the firm took the provision of pro bono services to the next level, with the launch of Project Anew – an initiative that benefits young entrepreneurs and assists them in bringing their business ideas into fruition. By way of this scheme, the firm is providing free legal advice and networking opportunities to potential entrepreneurs, helping them get their business started. More information about this initiative can be found here.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Technology poses a quantum leap within the professional service industry, bringing with it many opportunities and as many challenges. Besides presenting the firm with the opportunity to standardise internal operations, technology continues to be an important factor for customer relationship management, opening new channels for communication that contribute more and more to efficient service delivery.

Today, blockchain technology is bringing along change on how financial transactions are executed and is yet another factor that is contributing to the way professional services organisations are interacting with their clients. These emerging, alternative forms of financing raise several legal and regulatory issues that we have recently been experiencing.

By way of our involvement in Lex Mundi, the firm is currently involved in a think-thank process aimed at developing recommendations in supporting the technology needs of the firm, both individually as well as jointly when working with other firms within the network. Such an initiative is a key focus for the firm that will further assist us in our efforts to leverage technologies to improve processes and, as a result, drive greater customer value.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Recently, the firm acted as Malta legal counsel in the world’s first structured debt capital markets transaction backed by maritime assets (container vessels and bareboat charter party receivable). This highly innovative deal borrowed technology from the maturing EETC (Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificate) aircraft finance market in the U.S. The issuer Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) were structured as Maltese shipping organisations, also established as securitisation vehicles under the relevant Maltese shipping/securitisation regimes and enjoying the special advantages of each. The application of special rules in Malta for bankruptcy remoteness, creditor/investor primacy and tax neutrality were fundamental to investors’ and rating agencies’ analysis.

Within the ILS (Insurance-Linked Securitisation) field, the firm was involved in a trail-blazing effort with respect to a project that aimed at establishing a local market for Insurance-Linked cellular transactions.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

We have a growth agenda within the firm, as we will continue to deepen our legal advisory resources and focus on our international practice. Recruitment has become more difficult and complex, mainly due to the greater success around us that has, inevitably, led to more opportunities in many areas of specialisation we did not have before.

In the coming years, we will continue to promote specialisation through education, internal and external, and through secondments overseas, whilst continuing to study international trends on alternative billing methods and client feedback systems.

Our focus will continue to be on innovation in the law so that we can survive in a world which is determined to eliminate tax as a differential basis for choosing locations of business or products. It is our excellence in providing support and solutions to complex commercial issues which will allow us to compete within a borderless Europe and the wider world.

We will endeavour to retain our prime position as a top-tier law firm in Malta, focusing on the provision of the highest quality professional services within a highly regulated market that is becoming more and more competitive.

Legal Developments by:
GANADO Advocates

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    The AIFMD passport is currently only available to EU AIFMs and EU AIFs. However, AIFMD makes provision for access to the passport rights to be possibly extended to non-EU entities at a future date. Although the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) just recommended this extension to managers and funds established in Jersey, Guernsey and, potentially, Switzerland, investment manager and funds set up in the US, Hong Kong and Singapore will not be granted the same right at the present time.
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