Spanish firm Cuatrecasas hires new director to tap potential in China

Cuatrecasas appoints Sandra Costas

In a rare move and sign of an upbeat outlook Spanish law firm Cuatrecasas appoints corporate veteran Sandra Costas as its new director in China following the Asian giant ending its zero-covid policy.

Costas, a corporate lawyer with 20 years of experience, came on board as a director and partner in the Beijing and Shanghai offices.

Costas told China Business Law Journal that having an office in China allowed the firm to synchronise with the time zones of Chinese or Asian companies and in accordance with local cultural traits.

Sandra Costas, Cuatrecasas
Sandra Costas

“On many occasions this makes the difference to achieve a successful transaction or an efficient resolution to a dispute,” she said.

Costas also described China as “the first entry point in Asia for many of our Western clients”.

“Despite the diversity of the markets in the region, we see our Western clients frequently using their acquired expertise, experience and talent in China as a stepping stone to approach other markets in Asia.”

Specialising in cross-border corporate and commercial transactions between Asia, Europe and the US, Costas had practised at DLA Piper and worked at the commercial section of the Spanish Embassy and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, making her familiar with the commercial and legal requirements of both jurisdictions.

The latest data from China’s Ministry of Justice show there are a total of 186 foreign law firm offices in China, of which those from the US and UK remain dominant, with 81 and 28 respectively, and 26 are from other European countries. Cuatrecasas is one of three Spanish law firm brands in China.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China’s latest survey showed that more than half of US businesses no longer saw China as their top three investment destinations. This may trigger a butterfly effect on US law firms’ revenue in the Asian country. In contrast, stable China-EU relations mean that European firms are keen to retain a foothold in China.

“We see higher demand, and the recent end of the zero-covid policy in China and the expected strong economic rebound in 2023, will certainly translate – inside and outside China – in new investment and trade opportunities for our clients and for us as a firm,” said Costas in a view she based on her experience with the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.

Cuatrecasas will focus on investment in the technology, industrial and consumer sectors this year, while advising Chinese outbound investment in Europe, Latin America and Africa in the natural resources, energy and infrastructure sectors.

With Chinese law firms having grown by leaps and bounds over the years, Costas believes that domestic firms still have an advantage despite the increasing competition pressures exerted by foreign firms.

“Chinese firms have expanded into main financial hubs such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, London or New York, but still their presence in Spanish and Portuguese speaking jurisdictions is limited,” said Costas.