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‘We want to associate ourselves with winners’: Hogan Lovells’ Zaldivar sets out stall for second CEO term

The partnership of Hogan Lovells has voted in chief executive Miguel Zaldivar for a second four-year term, the firm today (5 September) confirmed.

The move follows on from the firm’s board’s unanimous recommendation that Zaldivar (pictured) be re-elected for a term starting on 1 July 2024, subject to a partner vote, which closed at the end of August.

Speaking with Legal Business on the rationale of his re-election, Zaldivar outlined the four factors which contributed to the vote in his favour: ‘Firstly, the firm has a very clear vision which we implemented three years ago when I became the CEO, which emphasises the fact that we are a true international firm. We shine at the intersection of business and government, so with governments active in the highly regulated sectors like life sciences, energy, technology and financial services, we have to be the preeminent provider of solutions. So, the clarity around our vision and having the discipline to stick to those principles.’

He continued: ‘The second factor is that we have a very simple strategy which is easy for management to implement, as well as for the board, partners and the firm at large to measure and assess success. We put our clients at the centre of everything we do, so everybody is driven by this principle which has worked for us.’

Zaldivar also flagged the firm’s continued investment as a factor. ‘We decided to grow by emphasising organic growth by allowing our own people to get promoted, both on the legal side and business services. We concentrated our investments on our existing footprint instead of opening more offices, apart from one in Dublin because of the implications of Brexit to our financial services clients. It is about enhancing the strength of our firm.’

The final factor, he noted, was ‘doubling down on our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and achieving record levels of promotions and allowing diverse talent to achieve their maximum potential in the organisation.’

Asked about the firm’s hiring and jurisdictional growth strategy for the next 12 months, Zaldivar responded: ‘We want to grow in the US. It’s one of the most sophisticated markets in the world. We have identified growing the scale of our business in three states where we already have successful practices. We are thinking about expanding our business in New York, California, and Texas.

However, this growth in the US will not be at the expense of other key practices, he said. ‘We view English law as a very important commodity and the legal basis is relevant, not only to the UK, but to the work that is done on the continent, in Africa, in the Middle East and in Asia, so keeping our preeminent London offering is key in continuing to grow. We will probably continue to expand our existing APAC offices.’ We are looking at what is happening in Indonesia and the growth in Vietnam, south-east Asia, China and Japan. We are very committed to that market,’ he said.

Asked about the potential of a merger with another US firm, in the wake of the firm’s failed talks with Shearman & Sterling, Zaldivar asserted: ‘We don’t need to merge to achieve our goals. If you look at the US side of our business, it is worth about $1.2bn and has about 1,000 lawyers. It has a defined brand and is very strong. We are, however, hopeful that groups of successful, high-performing lawyers will be attracted to our firm. If we have groups of partners interested in talking to us in New York, California and Texas, we will talk to them for sure.’

Zaldivar, however, did not rule anything out for the future, stating: ‘If a firm is interested in talking to us, I will talk to them – I’m a deal lawyer – but we will not compromise the integrity of our balance sheet. We are not interested in deals that come with significant pension obligations, debts, or firms that have experienced a drop in revenue, talent, or partners. We want to associate ourselves with winners, which is why we are not in the market for a merger.’

Zaldivar concluded: ‘We are looking for opportunistic growth in the US, and we don’t believe that the only way to achieve that is through a merger. We will look at every opportunity with teams and firms, but we’re not actively pursuing a merger.’