Recently we had the pleasure to announce the arrival of Antonio Leal Holguin as a Director of Adam Smith, Esq., based primarily in Bogota, Colombia. La Republica published an interview with Antonio this morning; it’s one of, if not the, most widely read publications among businesspeople, not just lawyers.
You can find the original here, and with the help of Google Translate and yours truly, here’s a passable English version:
In recent years, Colombia has become an attractive market for the region, so that more and more foreign firms are arriving in the country.
One of the most recent to join the local legal sector is Adam Smith, Esq., a company dedicated to advising firms on issues such as mergers, strategy development, market research, among others. AL [Asuntos Legales, or “Legal Issues”] spoke with Antonio Leal Holguin, representative of the firm in Colombia.
You have just arrived in the country. What motivated them to come?
As the economy has matured, both clients and law firms have become more sophisticated and larger and therefore more complex to handle, and as a result we see an interesting market where there is a need to professionalize law firms.
What expectations do you have of Colombia?
It is a very interesting moment in the legal market, because there has been a wave of mergers, strategic alliances, arrival of international players. What we would like is to help market participants to prepare for the future and meet the challenges in a strategic manner.
Of the services you offer, what are expected to be the most popular?
Above all, the development and implementation of strategy, aligning the remuneration of partners with this strategy and, in general, analyze what is the best way to compete.
For example …
advise firms to see if they should really consider a merger or alliance or whether they should remain independent. Also the type of practice areas and specific legal services that should constitute their focus.
Having opened in Bogotá, do you anticipate have more offices in the country?
We want to serve Colombia from Bogota and in fact, the Spanish – speaking countries of Latin America also from this city, that is, the entire region, excluding Brazil, where we have an alliance with a local firm in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
And how many people work in Bogota?
At the moment, just me, but we all work very closely with the company’s partners in the United States.
Are you already working with a Colombian firm lawyers?
As we just formally launched in the country, it’s only the beginning, but we have already established contact with several major players in the market and our idea is to work with them. In fact, the firm’s two partners, Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton, based in New York, will be here this week, Tuesday through Thursday, and we have arranged a series of meeting with firms.
On the subject of income, how do you expect it to go?
It is a very good time in the market and there is a real need for firms to develop a strategic vision to compete, so I hope it can be a very good year for us.
In the long term, what do you expect the local market?
We hope to position ourselves as the leading adviser to law firms in the country and the region in general, since at Adam Smith, Esq. we see increasing demand for strategic counsel among Latin American firms.
Knowing the Colombian market, what areas do you see areas as providing the greatest potential?
We see a lot of activity in mergers and acquisitions, professional management of the firm as a business, which is a very promising area, and the rebound in mining and energy sector, which will surely have a major impact beginning this year.
In what other countries have a presence?
We work worldwide and with firms of all sizes, but as such, the company is headquartered in New York, and we have worked with the most sophisticated firms in that city and elsewhere in the US, and in the UK and Europe for many years.
Antonio Leal said that the profession has evolved and it is now necessary “to have a clear strategy for the future whereas earlier, clients were easier to obtain, because just tended to hire firms for their brand name,” but that now “it is now necessary to have a strategy clear, convincing and distinctive in the sense that it has to be different from other firms, because not everyone can sell the same. Therefore, we believe that law firms should focus on a few areas of practice in which they are truly excellent good rather than having many, but mediocre, practices.”