Friday, 06 November 2020 10:00

Bruno Ferreira: "What started as four letters is now 400 people"

Recently highlighted by the Financial Times as one of the six leaders who have taken advantage of the current circumstances to make successful changes in their companies, Bruno Ferreira is the kind of partner who leaves no one indifferent. His vision of the legal market and working models has set the recent agenda of the Portuguese legal world. One discovers young lawyers reproducing some of the ideas he has expressed in interviews and, since his appointment as co-managing partner of PLMJ just over half a year ago, his shadow is cast as one of the references within the profession. We take this opportunity to learn about some of the ideas behind the transformation he is leading within one of the country's emblematic firms.

You spent ten years at Garrigues before being hired by PLMJ, already as a partner. Did you notice a big difference between working at a multinational firm like Garrigues, specifically at the Lisbon office, and moving to a flagship firm within the Portuguese legal market? Someone might consider that from the very first moment PLMJ hired you they already had the decision made of incorporating you to management positions.

To become the co-managing partner of a firm of PLMJ’s size just a few years after joining the firm is a great honour and indeed an enormous challenge. I accepted this challenge specifically because the mission that was proposed to me in this role is precisely that of realising the vision for the future that made me join this team four years ago. I think the question you are asking me is why I was chosen to hold this position and I don’t think it’s up to me to say. What I can say is that I see the figure of a law firm´s managing partner as a kind of spearhead of a Board of Directors that shares the same vision. In this case, an extraordinary and cohesive group that works as a real team and is committed to PLMJ’s present and future. It is also perfectly aligned with the path we decided to follow in 2018. I would therefore say that what is required of me and my colleagues on the Board is the ability to implement the measures we have decided on together and to continue the project that we started. This primarily involves the development of our people –lawyers and staff– investing in talent and creating a management culture based on a serious commitment to transparency and frankness. As for the differences between the two firms, I learned a lot at Garrigues and made many friends there. Thinking about both firms on Iberian Peninsula level is reductive. PLMJ Colab has a strong presence in Portuguese language countries, and Garrigues has a very significant presence in Latin America. In any case, I was at Garrigues in a very different phase of my career so I can only really say that the main differences are perhaps the differences between the two cultures, the Portuguese and the Spanish. This is even more remarkable when the Garrigues Lisbon office is part of a large organisation and which, like all organisations, has a drive towards centralisation.

What does PLMJ have to do today with the classic Pereira Leal Martins Júdice? What is the meaning of the slogan or definition of “Transformative Legal Experts”?

As one would hope, the legacy of the founders in steering the course of the firm over the decades is still a clear presence in the firm as a whole, and it is naturally part of the vision of current leaders. But it must be said that the generation that is now in its forties is already the second generation after the founders, and I believe that both were and have been able to take up the baton that the founders handed over to them at the turn of the millennium. Twenty years have passed in the meantime. What started as four letters is now 400 people. With this growth, we have also made a corresponding leap in terms of our quality, profile and leading position in the legal sector. This is recognised by clients and visible in their evaluation of our work. And it is reflected in the leading global legal rankings. Looking to the present and future, the mission of the current generation and leadership is clear: to go beyond what has been built, recognising that the new generation has played a part and will always play a role in this building project. We want PLMJ to exist forever and, for this very reason, our fundamental and great mission is to ensure that we continue to grow at the same time as we prepare for the next 20 years. How? By acting in line with our people´s career and life expectations, and with an eye on what is, in fact, Portugal’s catalyst for growth: companies. Within the firm, we have the technical quality necessary to go even further, and we have a team that has renewed itself and is highly motivated. We build solutions for the client’s current but also (and at times more importantly) future needs. Law firms are known for lagging behind innovation, and we want to start changing that perception, not by innovating for the sake of innovation but by trying new approaches that add real value to our clients and, most importantly, cocreating these solutions with them. This is what our mantra “Transformative Legal Experts” means: transformative, agile and loyal to our clients and our people. It means looking beyond the financial result and considering the impact of our activity in all its dimensions. It is a path to sustainability which business case is now proving its virtues.

by antonio jiménez 

To read the article in full please download issue N.99 here

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