Úria Menéndez; Leading the Law in Valencia and the World

Valencia, Belgium, India; Valencia top lawyer Jorge Martí is comfortable in the Global Village.

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Some cruel things have been said about laws and lawyers over the years. Bismarck said that “laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” Ambrose Bierce defines ‘a lawsuit’ in his Devil’s Dictionary’ as “a machine you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage”. There is even an old Spanish proverb (and the Spanish are not famous for cruelty; at least not to humans) which claims that it “is better to be a mouse in a cat’s mouth than a man in a lawyer’s hands”. But I suspect that most of the people who wrote that stuff had never met Jorge Martí.

Jorge Martí is arguably the best lawyer in Valencia; or at least he heads the Valencian branch of Spain’s most prestigious law firm, Uría Menéndez. One thing is certain, he is definitely the most competent English speaking Spaniard that I have ever met, apart from those with an English speaking parent.

England, and more importantly London, has played a major role in Jorge’s life; it was in London’s Cheapside that he proposed to his wife, who had been studying fashion design there, although she turned him down at the time. She later gave him an affirmative response at Valencia’s Malvarrosa beach in September 1990, so maybe it was the scenery that was wrong. And it is to London that they frequently return to see old friends and remember old times at the flat that they bought in fashionable Chelsea.

Jorge’s success story however began after graduating from Valencia Law Faculty in 1985, with a scholarship to the Netherlands, soon to be followed by stays in Strasbourg, where he studied Human Rights, Aosta in the Italian Alps where he studied European Law, and Bruges, where he stayed for two years working as an Assistant Professor at the College of Europe, and thereafter, lecturing in London at King´s College.

It was also in Bruges where he developed his interest in art, studying Fine Arts in his spare time in the Flemish language, and the results can be seen all over the walls of his suite of offices in Valencia’s Calle Colón, where his own abstract paintings hang.

While in Belgium he also had the opportunity to spend some time in Bruges studying European law, before Spain became an EU member. As his days there began to draw to a close, he decided that it was time to return home to Spain.

In 1990 therefore he began working for Uria Menendez at their Headquarters in Madrid, but within a year had been sent back to London to set up the company’s branch office there. And there he would stay for five years, some of which was spent as a visiting Professor at King’s College specialising on European law, before being asked to return to his home town of Valencia to set up a new branch, with two lawyers, a number which has since increased to 52.

Having learnt so much from his own experiences, he now actively encourages his younger staff members to become ‘all-round’ lawyers, which means that they should travel and get to know how lawyers work in other countries, and that they should have cultural interests too. And of course, they should speak English, and preferably also other languages; although decorating their offices with their own paintings is not obligatory.

Widely acknowledged as the highest ranking firm in Spain, Jorge’s attitude to the competition is surprisingly healthy: “we love competition” he says, and points out that his clients are those who know how to appreciate quality, and who seek excellence in a law firm that seeks excellence amongst its employees. Furthermore, his goal is not to be the biggest law firm in Spain, merely the best.

As he himself says, your colleagues are the people you spend most of your time with, and you should look for people whose company you enjoy, especially in a working atmosphere that normally involves long, hard days, finishing late and travelling frequently, unlike in London, where the lawyers are usually out of the office by half past six or seven.

During his time in London Jorge dedicated much of his free time to watching operas at Covent Garden, and now, with the phenomenal growth of cultural activities in Valencia, he is able to watch London companies and others performing at the impressive new opera house of Valencia’s ‘City of Arts and Sciences’.

Uría Menéndez is Spain’s sole representative in the international association Lex Mundi, an organisation that guarantees that: “Quality is essential, results will be measured and service must be more than a catchphrase”. Jorge himself is a member of the prestigious International Association of Lawyers and has also been Chairman of the Company Law Commission at the UIA (Union Internationale des Avocats), a position he held for six years and he is currently Director of UIA for International Relations and President of the Spanish National Commmittee.

As the world shrinks and the global village grows, one of Jorge’s key roles is to permit Valencian companies to develop their links with companies in emerging countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and Arabia, and to help them overcome legal and linguistic barriers to doing business there. The company has also moved into Asia, opening an office in Beijing in order to offer their services to the growing number of firms that are expanding their business interests there.

Jorge also heads the Indian Desk at Uria Menendez and is a Director of the Europe India Chamber of Commerce.

 It’s curious that if you look up ‘law’ and ‘lawyers’ in quotation dictionaries, few people have had anything nice to say about them over the centuries; even Shakespeare, normally a fair-minded chap, could only come up with: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” in Henry VI Part 2. So I suppose it is comforting to find a man who the law suits; who is as comfortable talking about opera and art as he is on litigation and licensing agreements.

Closer to home, or Europe at least; Jorge Martí was named Honorary Consul for Belgium in Valencia in October 2011.

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