Law firms that bill excessively high amounts cause considerable frustration for Ascendi's Paulo Marinho, who wants external lawyers to have a detailed understanding of his company's business
It's vital that law firms have an in-depth knowledge of their client's business, while proactivity is also a trait that is highly valued in external lawyers, says Ascendi's Porto-based head of legal Paulo Marinho.
Ascendi is a Portuguese road infrastructure asset management company that provides toll collection, operation and maintenance services. The company has majority interests in five Portuguese toll road concessions.
Marinho says a law firm that is unwilling to understand the specifics of the business and its problems would be unlikely to win any business from Ascendi. Other issues that deter Marinho from awarding a mandate to a law firm include a lack of proactivity and excessive billing. He says that such issues can cause considerable frustration when using external counsel. Marinho admits that the company has made some "not so good choices" in the past when selecting law firms, but adds that fortunately, the impact of these decisions were not too serious. "I don't mind paying for a good service, but I would never accept paying above a fair price," he says.
Ascendi's business is divided into three areas: asset management, road operation and maintenance - including patrolling, motorist assistance, infrastructure and environmental monitoring - and the development of transport systems involving real-time traffic control and management, in addition to an electronic toll collection system.
Ascendi was awarded its first concession in 1999, shortly after the company was founded, and it currently operates five toll motorway concessions: Grande Lisboa, Costa de Prata, Beiras Litoral, Alta Grande Porto, and Pinhal Interior. Earlier this year, Ascendi won a Global Road Achievement Award from the International Road Federation for its infrastructure management system. Ascendi operates both electronic and traditional toll gates.
Marinho says Ascendi outsources work to external counsel if the matter is particularly complex, for example if it relates to insurance issues, negotiations with the Portuguese government and matters of arbitration, or if it involves engaging additional law firms to provide operational support.
Ascendi chooses its external advisers based on the nature of the matter in hand. "We work with several firms, according to the themes we need...