Recently announced as Pérez-Llorca Brussels new office managing partner, Sonsoles Centeno is an experienced lawyer who has a remarkable approach. Before joining the private sector in 2021, she worked for 18 years in public administration as an expert in Administrative and European Union Law. On Pérez-Llorca’s new office goals, she tells Legal Dealmaker that the aim is to offer comprehensive advice not only focused on Competition Law, including state aid, but also on Regulatory Law in areas such as Energy and Environment, Tax, Transport, the Internal Market, and Data Protection, among others. To do so, she is gathering -as she highlights- the best possible team.
A partner at Pérez-Llorca, a State Attorney on leave of absence, and an expert on Spanish Administrative European Union Law. How do you embrace this new responsibility?
With a lot of pride and excitement, but also with a lot of responsibility. There’s no doubt that I’m facing a huge challenge, but I have the best professionals supporting me.
Before joining Pérez-Llorca, I worked for 18 years in the public sector, five of which I spent as a State Attorney in this city, which gave me a vast experience in Administrative and European Union Law. This has also given me a privileged and strategic insight into how the institutions such as the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union work, which will help me to set up and develop this project.
I have a lot to learn, but I am in the best place to do so and working with the best colleagues. Since I joined the firm in December last year, I have worked alongside a group of partners to shape this project, and I now have a team of lawyers who are used to working with European Institutions and with whom we will build the new Pérez-Llorca office in Brussels.
Having the opportunity to open a Pérez-Llorca office in Brussels is undoubtedly a responsibility, but it is also a very rewarding challenge.
What are the guidelines for the Brussels office? Are they based on a strategic plan? If so, what is the growth path for the next five years?
The opening of this new office in Brussels is part of the firm’s Strategic Plan, whose objectives include both the growth of the firm and the promotion of its international presence. Pérez-Llorca is no longer a national firm; it is one that looks beyond our borders. This is Pérez-Llorca’s third office abroad, following the opening of offices in London and New York in 2015.
The new location in Brussels provides us with an operational centre from which to strengthen the relationship between our clients and the European institutions, including the European Court of Justice. A significant part of our work revolves around advising large Spanish companies with interests marked by the regulatory activity of the European Union. In addition, we are very active in litigation before the ECJ, in proceedings before the European Commission, and, in general, in matters in which European Union law plays an essential role. Having a permanent base in Brussels strengthens our ability to respond more efficiently to our clients’ needs and interests and will allow us to continue to grow.
Is the Brussels office a multi-practice one, or will it be focused on specific practice areas and types of clients? If so, please detail which ones and explain a bit why.
The Brussels office was created with the aim of providing a service to our clients in different practice areas. As a former State Attorney, I have extensive experience in negotiations with the European Commission and as a litigator at the Court of Justice of the European Union, where I have had the opportunity to deal with a wide range of cases, working hand in hand with experts in each area.
Our goal is to offer comprehensive advice. Pérez-Llorca’s new Brussels office is not only focused on Competition law, including state aid, but will also advise on Regulatory Law in areas that are important today, such as Energy and Environment, Tax, Transport, the Internal Market, and Data Protection, among others.
We must bear in mind that Spanish law is increasingly influenced by the rules that come from and are decided in the European Union. We operate in an EU market, and we cannot be detached from it. It is not only a question of transposition or application of European legislation in our country. This would be too simplistic a view of the environment that surrounds us and in which we have to work. It is about understanding the context of the regulation and how to apply it correctly in each specific case. Only by analysing and understanding this will we be able to offer the best advice to our clients. Therefore, being present at the decision-making centre of this regulation will help us to connect Brussels and Spain from a legal perspective and provide us with the holistic view that our clients demand.
Personally, it is also a personal experience, since you will have to move to Brussels. What are your feelings about it?
I am very happy and excited to be back in Brussels. I had already lived in this city when I worked as a State Attorney, and I am delighted to return. It is a fantastic city.
Perhaps what I would highlight most are its openness and multiculturalism. This city allows you to live with very diverse people from different countries, which enriches you as a person and allows you to understand better not only your work but also the environment in which you carry it out. I also have many friends here, so meeting up with them again is a bonus in this new chapter of my life.
If I had to mention one negative point, it would only be the rain, which says a lot about what it has given me and will continue to give me in this new stage.
As mentioned, you joined Pérez-Llorca from the public administration sector. How do you like the private sector so far?
Pérez-Llorca is my first experience in the private sector, as my entire professional career had been spent in the public sector as a State Attorney, and I must say that it has been very positive. Like everything, it has its pros and cons, but I have been fortunate to have joined a team of excellent professionals who have helped me in this transition.
Moreover, I believe that most of the qualities that a lawyer should have in both areas are equivalent. I also believe that the public and private sectors are not as far apart as some may imagine and in many cases, go hand in hand and complement each other.