Founded in 1992 in Barcelona, the firm Toda & Nel-lo has shown continuous growth at all levels, turnover and team, as well as a limitless horizon with the reinforcement of areas such as sustainability, its digital transformation, and its consolidation as a benchmark firm in advising on particularly complex operations and in matters with a public-private component.
The annual figures also support this statement. During the last financial year, the firm’s turnover grew by 9.3%, largely due to the development of the Madrid office, with global revenues reaching €11.1 million. It also did so by recognising the talent of its team with the promotions of Mireia de Pol and Berta Casas as counsels, among others. Proof of this progress is also the signing of Teresa Olivié as a Compliance counsel and José María Buxeda, who joined the firm as a partner at the end of 2022, to boost the Corporate and M&A practice in Madrid. Legal Dealmaker interviewed José María, former managing partner of Dentons in Spain, to learn more about his career and to find out what the plans are for 2023 of the Corporate and M&A practice in Madrid, currently the department with the highest volume of business in its office in the capital of Spain.
Legal Dealmaker: José María, you, together with other partners, formed Dentons Spain in 2007, and for ten years (until 2019), you were its managing partner. You specialise in advising on M&A transactions, corporate governance and commercial law. You have extensive experience in advising companies on international transactions. In addition to developing your professional career in several law firms, you have been able to get to know the other side of the business, having also been general counsel at Wenea, the electric vehicle charging points operator. What does it mean for you to join Toda & Nel-lo at this stage of your career? What factors made you take the step and leave your position as an in-house counsel to bet on this firm?
José María: The truth is that I did not feel that my time as a lawyer in a law firm was over when I took on the responsibility as general counsel of Wenea, nor did I choose to return to the world of the law firm because I did not feel comfortable in the company. I consider that there are very interesting opportunities in both areas of legal practice, and I even believe that it is very positive for a lawyer to live both experiences in order to understand the workings of business law from different perspectives. In my case, I can say that I have always enjoyed the “law firm life”, and when the opportunity arose to become a partner at Toda & Nel-lo, a firm with an attractive growth project, it was clear to me that this was the way to go.
LD: Do you think that having also held the position of general counsel at Wenea gives you an advantage as an M&A partner in Toda & Nel-lo’s Madrid office?
JM: As I said, this facet has had a positive impact on my professional career. After more than twenty-five years of advising operations as an external lawyer, the fact of having worked as general counsel has allowed me to get to know from the inside one of the most relevant roles in any operation and its close link with strategic and business decisions. As in-house, lawyers take on a more managerial role and accompany organisations in their strategic decisions, in the improvement of processes, and generally adopt a higher level of commitment than if a third party intervenes.
So, I think that the advantageous position of going in-house is related to agility, a higher level of commitment and a focus on service that probably wasn’t considered at the same level before.
LD: In fact, on seeing the annual turnover figures, we have been able to see how the development of the Madrid office itself has contributed to the growth in business figures. We imagine that this was an important indicator that you considered when you joined Toda & Nel-lo. Can you comment on the key points of the firm’s strategy to continue and reinforce this growth in the practice you are part of?
JM: The partners of Toda & Nel-lo were very clear, already in 2017, that the growth of the firm would come from the establishment of a new office in Madrid. The partners were not wrong, as after five years (Toda & Nel-lo’s Madrid office was opened in 2018), the turnover of the Madrid office accounts for around 20% of the firm’s total turnover, a figure that is increasing every year.
The firm started offering advice on commercial law and dispute resolution, and currently, the office already has seven partners and counsels who also lead the Public Law, Tax, Regulatory or Compliance practices.
It is expected that in the coming months, teams will continue to be incorporated to accompany our clients in Madrid in all areas in which the firm provides its services in Barcelona to have a comprehensive level of advice in all areas and from both offices.
LD: Did the firm’s commitment to the internal promotion of professionals and new top-level incorporations such as yours help you to decide to join T&N?
JM: I was attracted by Toda & Nel-lo’s growth plan and how the firm works in different areas. Of course, I was also attracted to the firm’s commitment to values, talent and people management.
Shortly after my arrival, the strategic committee decided to incorporate a new counsel (Teresa Olivié, who joined from Naturgy) and to promote two senior lawyers to the same category (Mireia de Pol and Berta Casas), something that had not happened before in the firm.
Teresa Olivié currently coordinates the Compliance practice at Toda & Nel-lo Madrid (a department led by partner Jordi Sot). Mireia de Pol, who is an expert in tax litigation, will oversee this practice at the firm, and Berta Casas will be responsible for Toda & Nel-lo’s Sustainability area, which is a practice that the firm wants to strengthen in the coming years. I am sure that these three appointments will give a great boost to these three specialities in the coming years.
LD: The actions of the last few years indicate that Toda & Nel-lo is betting a lot on certain sectors such as Energy, Sports, Real Estate or Environment and Sustainability. From your experience, how is this commitment reflected in business development and day-to-day matters? In which topics or issues do you feel particularly comfortable?
JM: Toda & Nel-lo is committed to these sectors because, in addition to the fact that they are industries in which we have a lot of expertise and with many clients for years, we have teams specialised in each of these sectors, with a lot of specific knowledge in the regulations related to the particularities of the sector.
In addition, throughout its history, Toda & Nel-lo has established strategic alliances with entities related to these sectors, which has allowed us to gain the trust of these types of clients and to enter these matters.
In the energy sector, we advise our clients on issues related to renewable energies, energy regulation and supply contracts. In the sports sector, we advise sports clubs and investment funds on financing processes, and we regularly advise sports centres, clubs and athletes on issues such as sponsorship contracts or sports labour law. In the real estate sector, we regularly advise on real estate transactions, lease agreements and town planning. In the environment and sustainability sector, we advise companies and organisations on issues related to regulatory compliance and waste management.
LD: Could we affirm that one of the differentiating value elements of your firm is the advice on matters of special complexity and in matters with a public-private component? In the renowned international ranking The Legal 500, we can read comments like the Lawyers of Toda & Nel-lo “stand out from others as specialist advisers, with excellence and depth of legal knowledge”. Can you give us any recent examples that are particularly relevant and benchmark for you in this type of matter?
JM: Indeed, one of the differentiating aspects of Toda & Nel-lo with respect to other firms, and clearly its value proposition, is our experience in advising on matters with a public and private component. I could list dozens, but without a doubt, one of the recent matters in which this type of experience can be seen is in advising on the 37th America’s Cup, which will be held in Barcelona in 2024 (more information).
Toda & Nel-lo has played a very relevant role in Barcelona’s bid to host the 37th America’s Cup, one of the most important sporting events in the world. Barcelona’s bid has been a success thanks to the unprecedented alliance between public and private entities that have worked together to attract America’s Cup to Barcelona, including the Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona City Council, the Port of Barcelona, Barcelona Global and Barcelona & Partners, a non-profit initiative formed by more than 200 leading institutions in the city with the aim of making Barcelona one of the best cities in the world in terms of talent and economic activity. This public-private alliance has been made possible thanks to the work carried out by Toda & Nel-lo, which has advised all these parties on Barcelona’s bid to host the 37th America’s Cup.
LD: Also, from your recent experience as general counsel, you know how important it is for in-house legal departments that the firms they work with offer solutions related to innovation and the firm’s own digital transformation. How is T&N dealing with this evolution, and how do clients perceive it in a tangible way on a day-to-day basis, i.e. how are you “improving” client service from this perspective?
JM: Toda & Nel-lo, as a medium-sized law firm, needs to keep up to date in terms of innovation projects, but it is true that we carefully select those tools in which we invest to improve our service. Nowadays, there are hundreds, thousands of applications and systems that provide solutions to an infinite number of needs, but not all of them are suitable for all firms.
In this sense, for us, it is a priority to offer the best service to our clients and, therefore, investment in tools linked to digital transformation and the digitisation of processes is part of the day-to-day work of our management teams. Over the last few years, the firm has made significant investments in technological infrastructures, digital management tools, improvements in knowledge management and process automation. By doing so, we have been able to provide a more efficient service and make our teams more agile and effective in their day-to-day tasks.
LD: We have mentioned the firm’s commitment to areas such as Sustainability, which Toda & Nel-lo wants to promote even more in the coming years. What is the reason for this special effort? Is it mainly due to the clients’ own demand, as sustainability is increasingly part of the day-to-day decision-making process, or are there other important reasons that you can tell us about?
JM: The objective we have pursued by launching a new sustainability area responds to our desire to accompany our clients in the management and monitoring of sustainability, both from their business strategy and their daily activity, observing compliance with regulations and good practices.
This new service allows our clients to identify risks related to sustainability, identify and prioritise the sustainability objectives (SDGs) with the greatest relevance and impact for the company, and prepare and review policies related to ESG factors with which to contribute to the sustainability of organisations.
So far, it has been very well received by our clients, who increasingly need legal support linked to existing instruments, procedures, and actions to identify, assess and minimise sustainability risks.
LD: Toda & Nel-lo has been part, since 2021, of Legal Network International, a network present in more than 50 countries. How has this membership affected you in terms of business figures and international affairs?
JM: That’s right. The firm is part of Legal Network International (LNI), which is present in more than 50 countries which allows us to collaborate with many prestigious law firms in different jurisdictions. Moreover, as a member of various professional associations (International Bar Association, Union Internationale des Avocats, etc.), we maintain contacts with prestigious lawyers, which allows us to select the professional best suited to the needs of the client.
Since we became part of LNI, we have noticed an increase in our presence in international matters, we have more references in other firms and clients from other countries end up knowing us to handle their cases in Spain. This added to the portfolio of clients and international matters that the firm already had, means that Toda & Nel-lo is increasingly taking on more and more business in this area.
LD: Finally, what is your assessment of these first months at the firm?
JM: For me, it is a luxury to be part of Toda & Nel-lo. Despite being an established firm (the firm is more than 30 years old), it is a firm with a “young spirit”, eager to grow, to continue to evolve in a solid way and to continue to experience a structured development. And most importantly, it is a firm very focused on values (people, commitment, client orientation, integrity), and I feel very identified with them, so I think we have made a good match!
José María Buxeda is a partner in the Corporate M&A department of Toda & Nel-lo, specialising in M&A and corporate governance. He has extensive experience in advising all types of companies on international transactions. He has developed his professional career in the firm Buxeda Menchén, which in 2007 was integrated into what is now Dentons, where he became managing partner of the firm in Spain for more than ten years.
Until joining Toda & Nel-lo, he worked as General Counsel at Grupo Diggia and Wenea. He also has teaching experience in institutions such as the Instituto de Estudios Bursátiles (IEB), the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economía (ISDE) and the Fundación San Pablo CEU, among others.
He holds a degree in Law from the International University of Catalonia (UIC) and a Master’s degree in European Law from the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He has been highlighted in the main international rankings and directories, such as Chambers & Partners, The Legal 500 or Best Lawyers, in the areas of M&A, litigation and insolvency.
Founded in 1992, Toda & Nel-lo is a multidisciplinary law firm specialising in legal advice and legal defence of companies and individuals, both in the public and private sectors. Formed by a team of qualified professionals with proven experience, the aim of the firm is to meet the needs of its clients as efficiently as possible, providing value-added solutions in the different branches of law that affect different economic activities.