Garrigues names first woman senior partner, promotes 16 to partner

Labour and employment lawyer Rosa Zarza to succeed Javier Ybáñez at helm of leading Spanish firm in January

Rosa Zarza will succeed Javier Ybáñez in January Image courtesy of Garrigues

Top Spanish firm Garrigues has announced that labour and employment lawyer Rosa Zarza will be its next senior partner, becoming the first women to hold the position at the firm. 

Zarza will take up the role 1 January 2024 and succeeds Javier Ybáñez, who has been senior partner since 2019 and will continue to be the partner in charge of Garrigues’ Latin American practice, the firm said. 

Garrigues also announced that it had promoted 16 lawyers to equity partner across its Spanish and international offices. The cohort matched the firm’s 2022 round in terms of size but saw the proportion of women drop from half last year to 38% this time. 

Like last year most of the promotions went to lawyers based in Garrigues’ Spanish offices, including three in its Madrid headquarters, two apiece in Seville, Valencia and Barcelona and one each in Vigo, Bilbao and San Sebastián. 

The international promotions, which last year were restricted to Latin America, saw corporate lawyer David Jelicz move up in Warsaw and Jaafar Laidi welcomed in Casablanca in the dispute resolution practice. There were also two promotion in Portugal across Lisbon and Oporto. 

Garrigues’ corporate and M&A practice saw the most promotions, with six. The practice had a strong 2022, working on 198 deals in Spain and 39 in Portugal worth a total of more than €11bn – an effort that saw TTR Data rank the firm in first place by number of M&A transactions in the Iberian market and second by deal value. 

The firm’s tax team saw the second-largest number of promotions, welcoming five new partners, while three moved up in the labour and employment practice and the final two promotions were in the dispute resolution team. 

Garrigues also pointed to the five lawyers it promoted to international partners over the course of this year, including tax lawyers Mónica Bolaños and Ignacio Campino, who were promoted in Bogotá and Santiago de Chile respectively. Lisbon-based João Lima Cluny moved up in the dispute resolution practice, while Mark English was promoted in the antitrust team in Brussels and corporate lawyer Manuel Groenewold got the nod in Mexico City. 

For her part Zarza has been with Garrigues since the beginning of her professional career in 1990. She is the global head of the firm’s labour and employment department, a member of its management committee and also leads its internal sustainability strategy as the head of Garrigues Sustainable. 

Garrigues said that as senior partner Zarza would be tasked with ensuring compliance with the firm’s internal policies and good governance, looking after its reputation and international positioning, and handling conflicts of interest in coordination with the firm’s executive chairman, Fernando Vives. 

Alongside Vives she will lead a firm that houses around 350 partners globally and grew revenue 7% in 2022 to €443.2m, a figure that saw it stay comfortably ahead of second-ranked Spanish firm Cuatrecasas’ €352.7m. 

Ybáñez, meanwhile, is standing down following the conclusion of his tenure as senior partner and his decision not to seek reappointment. Like Zarza, he has spent his entire professional career at Garrigues and has coordinated the firm’s growth in Latin America since 2013, having earlier lead its corporate and M&A department. 

Vives commented: “I am sure that Rosa will do an outstanding job in the position of senior partner, just as she has done throughout her long career in the firm, and that Javier will continue to lead our Latin American practice successfully. As to the new partners, their work will be key to tackling the significant challenges we face moving forward.”

Zarza’s appointment sees her join a growing cohort of women elected to lead prominent law firms. In the UK, Georgia Dawson became the first woman to head a Magic Circle firm when she took over as Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer’s senior partner at the start of 2021 and since then rivals including Linklaters and Slaughter and May have also elected women to top roles. 

Last year Yvette Ostolaza also took over as chair of Sidley Austin’s management committee, becoming the first woman to lead the Chicago-based firm and the first Latina lawyer to be appointed to lead a top 10 US law firm.

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