Interview with: Duarte de Athayde, Managing Partner

Abreu Advogados | View firm profile

Abreu Advogados’ MP explains how the firm is adapting to the new world, challenges and client needs.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Abreu Advogados from your competitors?

Abreu Advogados is an independent Portuguese firm with a strong position among the country’s top 4 full-service
law firms.

From our Lisbon headquarters we undertake cross-border, multi-jurisdictional and complex work for clients around the globe. We have an unequalled track record in providing strategic legal advice to multinationals and private clients in complex projects in Portuguese speaking countries by creating flexible teams that bring together the most talented lawyers in each jurisdiction and working with a network of independent law firms, to better meet the expectations of each client.

The firm was founded 26 years ago by a team of well-established independent lawyers with an international background and a strong desire to build a different type of firm, more open to society, focused on the future and
one that would partner with clients. Since then, Abreu has been forging a unique path in the legal sector, bringing together lawyers that have solid academic backgrounds, unprecedented legal experience and expertise and an
innovative mindset, with the mission to break down legal barriers and make legal jargon accessible to every single person.

We believe in building strong partnerships with our clients, getting to know each one personally, getting to know their business inside out and also sharing their vision for their respective businesses. It is the only way we know.
We are our clients’ trusted advisors, because we meet them in their comfort zone by being dynamic, ahead of the game, knowing each industry like we know ours and always delivering tailor-made advice and sophisticated legal
solutions.

Last year we decided to change the design of our corporate brand and it was a far more strategic step than just a simple brand decision. It was the outcome of hundreds of hours listening to our people, our clients and our key
business partners, that made us realise that the market understands and values the innovation we bring to the  sector by translating “legalese” into a more practical language that both clients and the wider society understand.
This approach foregrounds our firm’s culture and it is always present, from the first moment a person gets in touch  with our lawyers, visits our website or comes into our offices.

This practical and open minded way of thinking is our driver and all of our business cycle is built around it. We have a team dedicated to ensuring that this is always present at all levels and in all areas, from the simplest projects and daily tasks to the recruitment process, but also when we take sustainability decisions or think about the future of the legal profession. We are continuously focused on improving the client experience, providing practical and strategic legal tools to complex legal and business challenges, both national and international.

Today we can say that our differentiated approach led us on a unique journey within the Portuguese legal sector which appeals both to young talent and high profile professionals.

This practical and forward thinking approach is recognised both by our clients and by our peers. This was made clear when we were the first firm to talk about technology and artificial intelligence in times when it seemed to be too far from reality, or when we started releasing our perspective on sustainability, environment and community support, revealing our carbon footprint, many years before this became a trend. This led us to stand out from the crowd, keeping a fresh vision, foreseeing and anticipating needs by constantly innovating and putting the future in progress today.

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

Although the current pandemic affects almost all business sectors, there are some practices that may still keep expanding in the current environment, meeting the strategic plans for business sustainability of both private clients and organisations.

We expect to see growth in demand in the employment practice, in public and regulatory law and EU and competition law, but also in restructuring and insolvency, litigation and eventually, also in transactional work.

We are also boosting our life sciences practice, especially in the healthcare area.

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

Last year we reinforced our team with the lateral hire of 4 new partners from leading firms in key areas such as tax, M&A, litigation, life sciences and private client. Our clients are already benefiting from the experience and the value these market leaders add to our firm.
On another level we are putting in place many different initiatives in the law and tech domains.

Technology is key to our strategy for the coming years, both in the way we work and how we want to service clients. Abreu Advogados has invested in people and resources that can bring new approaches to the economic challenges brought by technology. In the last three years we added the ‘tech language’ skill to the trainee recruitment process, not only for the general trainee programmes but also with a competition called “Law and Technology Award”, in which the main criterion is proven tech ability, giving the winner the chance to join the trainee programme. We believe this will improve our lawyers’ tech skills and generate ideas and a faster adoption of tech tools we are developing. This will necessarily benefit our clients, because we are optimising time, costs and becoming more efficient, more robust and more data driven.

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

Up until this pandemic, technology had not yet changed the way we interacted with clients, as we believe legal services gain from the close relationships we establish with our clients. As these ties are so strong, we have been able to convert our services to a fully online operation with zero interruptions and flaws, until now.

This is only true because we have been early adopters of many technologies and collaboration tools that allow us to function as one
team with our lawyers and clients in multiple locations. As a tech driven law firm, we made several investments in our lawyers’ technology skills and tools to fully cope with our clients’ needs.

Not only by introducing AI in some aspects of our activity, improving the speed and quality of response, but also by protecting clients’ resources and information in terms of cybersecurity, with solutions such as Abreu Security Operations Centre (SOC), where we were the first firm to invest in in-site security facilities.

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

Without a doubt. Organisations are facing hard times, not only because of the pandemic situation, but also because the world is becoming more and more a VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, and in the face of uncertainty we rely on those who haven’t failed us, and Abreu Advogados is proud of the fact that it never fails its clients by always giving soundproof strategic advice.

Law firms that focused on clients’ needs and listened to their concerns have adapted to the new times and provided clients with new and strategic
approaches, generating closer relations and stability.

Three years ahead is a very long time, these days, however, I see the firm standing by the same clients and also welcoming new clients, as well as standing by our team and maybe also welcoming new members, under the same principle, we are an open minded firm, open to anyone who shares our passion to put the future in practice, starting today.

We believe that this is such a strong strategic driver, as we have seen in the past 3 years where we grew at double digit levels every year, that if we keep the alignment that we have set in process with both clients and teams, then we will go very far.