J&A Garrigues was founded in 1941 as a result of the merger of two separate law firms managed by the brothers Joaquín and Antonio Garrigues Díaz-Cañabate.
Antonio Garrigues Walker (son of Antonio Garrigues Díaz-Cañabate) joined the family firm in 1954 and took over the reins as chairman eight years later, following his father’s posting as Spanish Ambassador to the US. The firm then began to take shape as an institutional organization, moving towards the partnership-type model typical of English-speaking countries, in which firms are collectively owned by their professionals according to merit and length of service.
For Garrigues, the seventies marked the beginning of the firm’s considerable reputation among foreign companies starting to train their sights on Spain, looking to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the country’s new democratic system. Indeed, the firm’s monopoly in the field of foreign investment advisory services was such that, for some time, Henry Ford was under the misapprehension that Garrigues must be some type of Spanish tax, since a ‘Garrigues fee’ was an ever-present item in the accounts of the US companies setting foot on Spanish soil. Alongside Ford, other noteworthy clients included IBM, Philip Morris, Hewlett-Packard and Avon. A key part of this success was without doubt the Garrigues New York office, which opened in 1973 and was the first Spanish law firm to open for business in the Big Apple.
It was followed in the eighties by the Brussels office (the nerve center for the firm’s dealings with Europe) and the creation of the Club de Abogados, providing Garrigues with an extraordinary international network under agreements forged with firms from Latin America, Europe and Japan.
Merger of two cultures
Following constant growth in terms of professional headcount and billings, 1997 was to be a watershed year for the firm, to which the beginnings of what Garrigues is today can be traced: the merger with Arthur Andersen Asesores Legales y Tributarios (ALT). It was also a merging of two different corporate cultures that yielded textbook synergies, allowing each to get the very best out of the other and helping Garrigues cement its position as the leading firm in the Spanish legal market.To properly understand the Garrigues/Andersen ALT merger, it is essential to be aware of the backdrop to the ALT’s arrival in Spain.
This took place in 1960, foreshadowing the economic and social change the country was shortly to experience. Within the organization there was a clear understanding that audit work ought not to be restricted purely to US and foreign clients but should rather help Spanish companies to get on the track towards modernity. In 1997, Andersen and J&A Garrigues were leaders in their respective fields: Garrigues in the field of corporate/commercial, labor and employment, and civil law advisory services; and Andersen in consulting, audit and tax advice.
It was then that they first became aware of the complementary fit and potential for synergies presented by the two firms, and a strategy that went far beyond a partial alliance began to emerge. The 1997 merger with Andersen ALT (the tax and legal arm of Andersen), which gave rise to Garrigues&Andersen, was carried out under the umbrella of four core concepts: synergy in practice areas, the perfecting of the management system, the technical training of professionals, and the internationalization of its activities.
A new beginning
The 21st century brought with it the downfall of the multinational Enron, to whose fate Andersen was inextricably tied. On December 2, 2001, it was announced that the energy giant had gone bankrupt. Arthur Andersen was among the worst hit and was formally charged with obstruction of justice in March 2002.
A few days later, Garrigues’ partners decided to embark on a new journey, moving on from the Andersen era and recovering the firm’s former name: J&A Garrigues.
Despite those difficult times, no one at Garrigues would dispute the positive outcome of the 1997 merger. The figures speak for themselves: in the five years following the merger, billings at Garrigues were up 130%, while professional headcount had increased twofold (from 500 to more than 1000).
Resuming its solitary adventure, the new firm had the advantage of a business and professional outlook that would be fundamental to its commitment to international expansion.
In order to maintain its leading position, the firm worked flat out to lay the foundations for its own international network.
The firm began to expand into emerging countries, gaining a foothold with its offices in Shanghai, São Paulo, Casablanca and Warsaw. Its extensive international network is rounded out with offices in well-established legal markets such as London, without overlooking its strong presence in Portugal thanks to the offices in Lisbon and Oporto.
The firm’s international legal network also boasts strategic alliances. In 2005, the firm’s tax practice was bolstered with the creation of Taxand, an independent network of purely tax firms, made up of 2,000 professionals across five continents.
This reinforcement on the international stage was mirrored by the growth of the firm’s geographic reach in Spain, with offices in 18 cities.
Latin America, strategic cornerstone of Garrigues’ international expansion
Latin America is a naturally strategic region for Garrigues, due to our international outlook and a desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with our clients. This is why, in 2013, we pledged to become the firm of choice in Latin America, where we have been present for over four decades through a range of alliances.
In this new phase, Garrigues has rolled out its Latin American tax and legal practice by opening own offices. We are a unique firm with an integrated management model and a solid team of professionals who all share the same business culture. We believe this is the best way to offer our clients a quality service that exceeds their expectations anywhere in the world. We have offices in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile, constituting one of the major direct presences in Latin America and enabling us to guarantee a quality, coordinated and uniform service.
The firm’s expansion process will be completed with the opening of new offices in other countries in the region. Garrigues is seeking to become a law firm of choice in Latin America, offering a premium service in line with the rigorous standards that are our hallmark in the geographic areas in which we operate.
Fernando Vives appointed executive chairman
Fernando Vives, managing partner of Garrigues since 2010, was appointed executive chairman of the firm on October 1, 2014, following a resolution adopted by the Partners’ Meeting. Antonio Garrigues, upon reaching eighty years of age, stepped down from his role as partner and was named the firm’s Honorary Chairman. He will continue as Chairman of the Garrigues Foundation.
The firm entered a new era under the leadership of Fernando Vives, one of the most eminent corporate/commercial lawyers in the legal industry. He has more than twenty-five years’ experience at the firm, eight of which as head of the corporate/commercial practice.