Since the merger year, in 2012, Meyerlustenberger Lachenal (MLL) has continued to grow. Born from the union of the Geneva firm, Lachenal & Le Fort (whose roots date back to 1882) and that of Zurich Meyerlustenberger (younger, dating back to 1975), the firm now has four offices in Switzerland and counts more than 110 lawyers. «We are constantly growing with a generational change that has taken place in recent years both in Geneva and Zurich. All this has brought new wind and a lot of innovation», Julien Tron (pictured) tells Legalcommunity.ch.
Partner of MLL, he works in the Geneva office and is one of the six lawyers of the firm who have Italian as their working language. However, he defines himself as a «Swiss product»: he is bilingual Italian-French, but also speaks German, English and Spanish. Specializing in trust law and international succession, Julien also has considerable experience in international disputes. «Speaking more languages and understanding more culture is essential in a crossroads like the Swiss one», he underlines.
How would you describe your firm?
We are a very multifaceted business law firm, with a wide range of specialists offering a very wide range of services. In the Swiss market there are specializations, but not in an excessive way as for example in the American or Anglo-Saxon market where lawyers remain limited to their practice area. Our particularity is to try to understand what the other is doing and thus preserve the generalist reflex. We must keep in mind that all the elements can be connected regardless of the specific practice area.
What are the main goals of MLL in the last decade?
In addition to the continuous growth of the last eight years, there has been, for example, an important increase in the role of women within the firm. For us this is a source of pride, whereas some firms are more reluctant about it. Today, more than 20% of the partners are female and within the firm the representation of women exceeds 55%.
Another figure: 56% of lawyers belong to millennials generation…
Since 2012 there has been a real generational change. It is a fairly strong figure the one you mention, which for us means innovation. We consider ourselves a modern law firm: we try to create flexibility for anyone who wants to work for us without imposing too rigid schemes. Even at the level of diversity, there is room to be yourself with your own personality, needs and family configuration. There is a culture that works well precisely because we are in a young environment.
Is there a difference between your locations?
Yes, especially in terms of clients. In Geneva there is a concentration of private clients and small and medium-sized companies, while in Zurich there are large and often listed groups. The differences between the cantons are very strong. There is a substratum that is shared, but linguistic and economic diversity remains.
MLL is a firm with an international vocation, but with offices only in Switzerland …
At the current stage of our development, we prefer to have a quality network of contacts abroad rather than opening offices there. We want to remain Swiss while looking at the international landscape. This is why we are part of an international network through which we have access to trusted lawyers from all over the world. The network includes, for example, Interlex, Telfa, Adlaw, Nextlaw. Beyond this, the firm also encourages participation in conferences and trips abroad. Apart from that, collaboration in several cases is inevitable: we often have a foreign lawyer who collaborates with us in a specific case.
Furthermore, you also have three international desks: China, Latin America and Turkey …
Those desks represent the willingness to have expertise on several very specific countries. You speak the language, you know the culture and so you can work effectively and professionally. We are a small country but very open to foreign countries.
And the business with Italy?
I’ll tell you, informally there is also an Italian desk. We haven’t officially made it public yet. Before Covid-19, we had planned many meetings with professionals in Italy, but shortly after there was the lockdown. The works that have to do with Italy represent numbers that should not be underestimated. We are regularly in Milan and Turin, but also in Rome to meet Italian clients or correspondents, and we are also regularly in Lugano. As far as I am concerned, these cases concern small and medium-sized entrepreneurs who do business in Switzerland or important families with assets in Switzerland.
Beyond this, in what area do you work with Italy?
An important aspect is intellectual property. There is a strong Italian industry linked to design and beyond, which has high needs in the sector. So, we have very important clients in this area.
So, when will the desk officially open?
I can’t give a date yet, but there will be the desk for sure. As for now, it can be absolutely said that we have all the skills to do it. Besides me, in Zurich there are colleagues Reinhard Oertli, Michael Ritscher and Sergio Bortolani, who have deep and deep-rooted relationships with industry, the luxury and finance industry in Italy. Marco Fusi and Yannick Tschudi, for example, are also native Italian speakers and deal with Italian clients.
How will the Swiss legal market look like in post-Covid scenario?
I think the work will continue and perhaps will increase. Our customers are less impacted by the pandemic and will continue to ask for legal services of a certain quality. This is why we do not have a significant impact on our turnover. There was a drop during the lockdown, but also a very solid recovery. The relations with our clients will change instead. There is a fairly important change in philosophy here in Switzerland. After entering everyone’s home with Zoom and similar, you are more relaxed. But this doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice quality.
In terms of technology, if you had to define innovation in MLL …
I would say that it is the possibility of being able to work in any situation in a very lean way. For instance, we have extremely powerful technological platforms. We also have an online system called MLL-Docs which offers over 200 automated Swiss legal documents with templates in German, French and English. Finally, in my opinion, innovation is also the fact of being extremely flexible.
Are there any other projects your firm is carrying out?
There has always been a great cultural sensitivity at MLL. A project that I personally take care of is the Verbier Festival. It is part of the five biggest classical music festivals in the world. We thus have the opportunity to support young musicians. And not only that, thanks to music it is possible to combine two different realities such as Zurich and Geneva, Switzerland and Italy.