29.09.2021 | Teodor Burnar
10 Questions for... Mr. Antonio Muñoz de Gispert (Absis Legal, Barcelona, Spain)
Q: How did your first start out as a Lawyer? Looking back, do you have a piece of advice for young Lawyers emerging on the Barcelona / international legal scene?
A: It’s 30 years since I started being a lawyer. I will have to celebrate it! Back then I joined a medium-sized law firm in Barcelona, where I had a fantastic experience. I was there for approximately seven years. It also had international clients, so I had the opportunity, from the beginning, to deal mostly with German, French and English clients. I was lucky, because I learned how to speak English when I was very young, and during my university career I learned how to speak French. So it was a really great experience both personal and professional.
After that, I felt it would be good to work for a company, to be an in-house Company lawyer. I think that’s very important, because when you are in a company, you realise all the direct problems that the Company has. I was in a big Company, namely Danone. It was originally from Barcelona, but then it was purchased by a French holding company. I worked there for almost five years. I also had a very interesting experience, because in this case the clients were the different departments of the company: the Sales Department, the Purchase department, the Financial Department, IT department,... and also, the direction/CEO of the company. So it was really interesting for me.
After those years, they proposed to me to go to the French holding company or to the subsidiary Evian. In this last case I had to go to the mountains – I really didn’t feel like going there! (laughs) A Spaniard like me wanted an open environment. So I had the opportunity to go to Ernst & Young Barcelona. It was a job within the Legal Department, at one of the Big 5. I felt like I needed this opportunity and it was also a good experience.
After that, I went to another company, Almirall Prodesfarma. It’s a big Spanish company, that deals in Pharma. After two years of being there, we thought we needed to start a new challenge, creating a Law Firm, namely Absis Legal. Time has shown us that it was a good decision.
In regard to the advice I offer young lawyers – I think that it is really important nowadays – and you will agree with me surely – that they know foreign languages. You have to speak English, that’s obvious. If you don’t speak English, you’re nothing! (laughs) And it is then interesting to know another language. I am lucky that I speak French from the beginning, but I also think that it would be interesting to speak German maybe, and also I would say to speak Chinese! It will become so important in the years to come.
Another thing I would advise them would be to get really familiar with all the technological advances and devices. We are right now talking via a conference call through Zoom. I think every lawyer has to become skilled in this area. People are talking lately about Artificial Intelligence. They say lawyers are going to disappear, to which I don’t really agree. But clearly AI will help lawyers in their work. So it will be massive – Internet and all things like it.
Q: You have a wealth of experience in areas such as Corporate Law, Commercial Law and Insolvency. What are, in your opinion, the key professional traits for a Lawyer dealing in these specializations?
A: It is quite a difficult question! Of course, like all lawyers, you have to be communicative, flexible, imaginative… These are the personal skills that help you deal with all this work. But definitely, in those particular specializations – Commercial, Corporate, Insolvency – you have to always keep studying, you cannot stop doing that. You have to be updated in order to have the best responses for your Clients. That has helped me a lot throughout my career.
Q: What was your mindset when you founded your Law Firm, Absis Legal, almost 20 years ago? In what ways did you want to make a difference?
A: Well, as I told you before, I worked for private offices and Companies, and I wanted that me and my partners deal with our own files and private Clients. Changing from being contracted by a private Law Firm and also by Companies, when we started Absis Legal we wanted to really work for our own. You always have to make an extra effort, to be more commercial. You have to get work, and that is probably the most difficult thing to do.
There’s always the risks of being on your own. It’s a challenge, but it’s going very well now and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Q: What are some of the professional values that you and your Law Firm hold in high regard? Why are they paramount for your day-to-day activity?
A: Our legal advice is personal, direct, fast and based on excellence, confidence, persistence, independence and security. I really think that doing what we are doing right now, the most important thing is establishing a personal relationship between Lawyers and Clients. Everyone has to trust your Lawyers.
We are a middle-sized Law Firm in Barcelona. So we have the opportunity to always deal personally with our Clients. When you go into a big office, that’s more difficult. Partners don’t deal directly with Clients but have to control and check the work done by their colleagues.
Q: Can you name one major difficulty in today's legal system which affects both Lawyers and their Clients?
A: The major difficulty in today’s legal system, which affects both Lawyers and Clients, are in my opinion standard procedures, that we all have when dealing with a file. Of course, you have to apply a standard procedure, but you always have to personalize it to the case you are dealing with. You can’t make the mistake of following too much the respective procedure, because you always have to adapt it to the Client. That can be a problem/difficulty for you if you don’t do that, but also for your Clients.
Q: The WOLEP network aims to change the legal landscape and provide Lawyers with the tools of tomorrow. You're obviously a modern, business-oriented Lawyer. How do you see the legal system of the future?
A: I think I’ve covered this topic a bit earlier. Like I said, I see the legal system of tomorrow greatly impacted by the rise of Artificial Intelligence.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge / professional success in the past 12 months?
A: I’m also specialized in insolvency procedures. Under Spanish law, there’s the possibility, for a Company that is in insolvency, in liquidation... Because there are two ways of ending these procedures: you can liquidate the Company or you can get into an agreement with the creditors. The latter is really difficult in Spain. Experience says that you always get to liquidation. That is a headache.
But, under the liquidation procedures, you have another two ways of ending that liquidation: one – you can liquidate everything, just selling everything and all assets of the Company, and nothing happens. But there’s another possibility, that you can allow the Company to go on with its activities, with all their employees and everything as it is. And that’s selling what we call the «productive activity» of the company. That’s what I’ve been doing lately, and we had real success in our dealings. It was a great challenge to take on. When you are appointed by the judges to deal with this procedure, as a judicial administrator, you always want to get the best for the business.
Q: The globalization of legal services has been intensified by the latest developments and it will only continue to do so. What opportunities does it provide for you as a Lawyer and for your Law Firm?
A: We’ve already touched upon it a bit. These are basically the goals of WOLEP: international relationships - both personal and professional, exchange of informations and projects, referrals, more work.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: We’re doing different files. I’m the head of a legal team that is working on different matters. It’s always tricky to mediate between shareholders! (laughs) Also, insolvency procedures are on the agenda. In addition to that, we’re working for an international Client, a Tunisian agent from a Spanish company. We also dealt recently with heritage files.
Q: You used to be a University Professor in Barcelona. What was the most valuable lesson that you’ve acquired from that experience?
A: When you are in the University, you will always learn from your own students. You can also do it in life, enrich yourself from the new generation – beginning with your children. And then, you learn from your students and also from your friends. To sum it up, it was a really rewarding experience for me.