fivehundred magazine > Interview with: Fernando Vives > We all face a common challenge

We all face a common challenge

Garrigues’ managing partner and executive chairman talks
organic growth, managing through recession, and why it is
impossible to predict the future of law.

How would you define your firm’s culture?

In our kind of business, a strong firm culture easily recognizable by clients is essential. Garrigues has developed a global culture, based on strong ethical values and a commitment with excellence, shared by our 2,000 people team in 13 countries.

The client benefits from the fact that they live the same kind of experience and receives the same excellent service in any office of our firm all over the world regardless of which professional he is working with. So, to answer your question, culture for us is key to consolidate our leadership through excellence.

Since becoming managing partner, what changes have you made that directly benefit clients?

I would say a new way of approaching growth on a twofold. First, a change of pace on the firm’s international expansion in order to achieve this unique and global culture mentioned before.

Instead of seeking partnerships or acquisitions, our bet is on organic
growth, opening our own offices and tracking down the market in search of professionals that are not only the best technically speaking, but who share the same values and are ready to embrace Garrigues’ culture and offer a seamless service worldwide. A perfect example
of this is our Latin American expansion.
Second, our approach to financial growth has also changed. I became managing partner during the last recession (probably the worst we have seen in our history) and my aim was to achieve financial strength subject to profitability. As a result, in the last five years our productivity ratio has increased by 25%. I truly believe our clients have benefitted from this strategy.

What are the biggest challenges facing firms in Spain?

Firms all over the world and across all sectors face a common challenge, to be able to adapt to an ever-changing scenario. Trying to predict how an industry will look like in 20 years is almost impossible. So I believe that we have to make sure that we have the best possible talent and provide them with the best possible training so that they can adapt to market demands any time.

What are your biggest success stories to date?

If you ask about my personal success stories, I like to think they are related to my clients and my activity as a lawyer, which I have never abandoned.

If you ask about my role as a managing partner, I would go back to my previous answer: the change of strategy in our international expansion is a guarantee that our clients receive the same outstanding service all over the world and our financial strength is a guarantee of stability.
Other than that, I am proud that over the years we have built a trusted brand in the top of mind of clients, potential employees, competitors, and all of our stakeholders that stands for both technical excellence and performance and impeccable ethics.

How have attitudes to diversity in law changed? What still needs to happen to make the legal industry more inclusive?

People are the biggest strength of a law firm; and ours include a team of 2,000. Fruit of this vision, is an organisation determined with attracting and keeping the best talent, promoting equal opportunities, applying objectivity in its promotions and retribution policy, continuous learning, collaborative working.

Ten years ago, Garrigues broke new ground as one of the first law firms to implement an equality plan. Year on year, the firm has continued to add new measures to the plan, which has now yielded measurable results. In 2017, the firm launched its second equality plan, upholding the measures introduced
under the first plan and adding new measures leading to greater retention
and professional development of our people.

Our team has a clear picture of our commitment to diverse talent: we
have 53% women and 23 nationalities in our firm. Nevertheless, we are fully aware that we need to work every day in order to make this industry more inclusive.

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

That technology is reshaping the world is an undeniable fact. Our clients are changing and we have to change even faster to anticipate their needs and continue to be their preferred partner in this ever-changing world.
Having said this, technology cannot be a goal in itself: our strategy is to adopt those tools that, by enabling us to improve efficiency, allow us to improve our client service. I do believe that today human intelligence is far more important than artificial intelligence.

What is your one major prediction for the legal market?

As I mentioned before, I do not feel capable of grand predictions in this convulsed environment. If I look at Garrigues’ future, I believe our success would be to consolidate our leadership in Continental Europe, to build an even stronger Latin American presence, to continue anticipating our clients’ needs and offering them the best possible service, to remain a pioneer in our industry and to contribute modestly to our society’s challenges. Not necessarily in this order.

How fantastically supportive the partners and all of our staff have been. I am very lucky to work with such great.

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