Luis, you have worked at law firms such as Herbert Smith Freehills, ONTIER, and even in a Big Four as Deloitte. Last year, you decided to “take the leap” into corporate, private enterprise and, last November, you became legal counsel at Q CELLS, a leading company in renewable energy solutions. What is your first assessment?
Honestly, the balance could not have been better. Moving to a company –and more particularly to a company of this type– is a tremendous culture shock for someone who has spent his whole professional career in a law firm. Everything is different, neither better nor worse, but simply different. The welcome I had within the team was fantastic, and we have managed to generate very positive synergies between us, thanks precisely to having such different professional profiles.
You also opted for a company, a subsidiary of the German Hanwha Q CELLS GmbH, which, although it is considered one of the world leaders in its sector, here in Spain it is now beginning to be better known. What factors made you choose this company?
Obviously, there are companies that are bigger, better known, or have a higher turnover than Q CELLS. But this company has several differentiating factors that made me choose it over others. Firstly, Q CELLS has embarked on a very ambitious venture in Spain and foresees a growth perspective that I find very attractive. In fact, our business plan foresees significant developments on multiple levels in the near future, which motivates me even more.
In addition, I didn’t want to move to a company that was too big or too old. I like things that move forward quickly, and here I was promised that I would be “in motion”. And to date, I can say that this has been delivered to the letter.
Finally, working for a German company with South Korean roots gives your work an international and cross-border component that has always appealed to me. And I am really enjoying working with so many people around the globe.
You are very young (30 years old) and can be an example for other young lawyers who – like you – see that professional life does not leave them time to live the best years of their lives or to tackle other projects – with relative peace of mind. How is life in a law firm, and how is it as an in-house lawyer? Do you think that the ambition for what is known in the legal sector for a traditionally “glittering” career can be a reason to stay at an elite law firm at all costs? Is the “carrot” of partnership nowadays appetising enough to sacrifice?
I feel that this subject should be given much more publicity, so I am glad that you asked me about it.
I would like to make it clear that there is no right choice and that things are never black, white, good, or bad. This is not a criticism against the practice in law firms, to which I am very grateful, but just the opinion I have been able to build up after having worked in several law firms and now in a company.
If a lawyer fresh out from Law school asked me for advice on where he or she should start working, I would definitely say a law firm. And if it can be an international firm, all the better. Both in terms of training and technical skills, law firms are real schools where juniors learn at an unreal speed. Not only about technical matters, but also by developing a working methodology and a devotion to our profession that is difficult for a company to match.
However, I know many lawyers (mostly associates/seniors) who, halfway through their career, make a stop to think with perspective whether the “carrot” of partnership (as you say) is attainable in the short term and which the price they are willing to pay for it. In my case, I realised that too often, my professional life was overriding my personal life and that in many cases, lawyers (including myself) worked in a somewhat submissive manner. I guess that being a partner is a different story, but as I have never been a partner, I cannot have an opinion on that.
The truth is that I have never cared what people –except for those close to me– think of me. To those who are not so lucky, I would say that becoming a legal counsel in a company is not a step backwards in your professional career at all, especially in my sector. I have friends who think that I am now some kind of civil servant who goes home at 3:00 pm, does unsophisticated work, and earns €35,000. Nothing could be further from the truth. To this day, I keep doing M&A assisted by top-tier law firms, leaving the office around 6:30 pm and getting an attractive remuneration package. On the other hand, I would suggest them to look around; law firms are full of excellent lawyers who come from the company world or who have gone through it. I know that opening your eyes can be sometimes difficult, but it is certainly worth it if you think you are somehow missing out on the best years of your life.
From being the lawyer who serves the client, you are now the client of certain law firms. What does this change mean in your day-to-day work? Tell us about the pros and cons, if any.
From what I have experienced so far, there are no cons. I admit that I arrived with a certain fear of the unknown, but I soon realised that my opinion suddenly mattered, and I was really listened to. I am finally independent. I can commit myself to meeting up with friends to play padel because I participate now in the decision on who does what, when who and how. Of course, in a company, there are also unforeseen events that disrupt your plans, but this is certainly not the general rule. Finally, there are things that can wait until tomorrow.
ABOUT LUIS ZUBIAUR
After qualifying in law at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and completing two master’s degrees, Luis began his journey in the practice of law back in 2015. Specialising in Corporate / M&A since the beginning of his career, Luis has worked in international law firms (Herbert Smith Freehills), national law firms (ONTIER) and a Big Four (Deloitte).
In 2018 he decided to specialise in the renewable energy sector, and it was at the end of 2021 when he decided to make the leap to the corporate world, joining the multinational energy company Hanwha Q CELLS.
ABOUT Q CELLS
Q CELLS is a leading total energy solutions provider in solar cell and module, energy storage, downstream project business, and energy retail. It is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, and Thalheim, Germany. Through its growing global business network spanning Europe, North America, Asia, South America, Africa, and the Middle East, Q CELLS provides excellent services and long-term partnerships to its customers in the utility, commercial, governmental, and residential markets.
Q CELLS landed in Spain in 2019 with the aim of expanding its photovoltaic project pipeline. Nowadays, the company holds more than 3.5 GW of power capacity between projects under development and projects under construction in Spain and has a very ambitious business strategy for the coming years.