Local Knowledge, As Well As Global Capability, Is Valuable

Author:Iberian Lawyer
Profession:Iberian Lawyer

The expertise of smaller specialist law firms can be as important as that of the international players, argues The Navigator Company's Antonio Neto Alves

Setúbal-based The Navigator Company is Europe's largest paper and pulp manufacturer, producing 1.6 million tonnes of paper annually and contributing around €2.9bn to the Portuguese economy. The business has subsidiaries in a dozen countries and exports to dozens more, and so a key requirement for its external advisers is both global and local knowledge, according to Antonio Neto Alves, the company's general counsel.

But while The Navigator Company does have long-standing relationships with some law firms, Neto Alves says there is no guarantee that the business will use these firms on every occasion. Indeed, in some circumstances, the company will invite several firms to bid for work. "Sometimes with a large project we put out a tender and make consultations with six or seven law firms, and we take the best offer," Neto Alves explains. However, he points out that the final choice is not only determined by cost. "It is not always price-oriented, because the decision is tailored to our specific needs," he says. "Costs are not the first consideration - we have to take into account, among other aspects, the quality of the team, and the experience of the law firm."

Fresh perspective

Neto Alves says that this approach is demonstrated by the fact that The Navigator Company last year instructed one particular law firm in Portugal for the first time. He adds that the business is always open to using different legal service providers. "It tends to be a very democratic process," Neto Alves continues. "Some companies have a very clearly defined idea of who they will work with, but we don't preclude the possibility of working with a new firm, one that we have not used before." He adds that, while there are advantages in instructing the same law firm for different projects - one of them being the fostering of a sense of loyalty - there is also a positive side to using a new firm and bringing a new perspective to a project. "There is that element of knowledge where, if a law firm knows your business, that can be relevant for a lot of issues," Neto Alves says. "But sometimes that is not so important, and a fresher view is welcome," he explains. "A project could even be prejudiced by prior knowledge of the...

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