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Legal Marketplace

Forum: The jurisdiction-less law firm

Leonard Lee  Communications / Thomson Reuters

· 6 minute read

Leonard Lee  Communications / Thomson Reuters

· 6 minute read

How Danish law firm Accura finds a way to truly work globally

Since its founding less than a decade ago, Accura’s Renewable Energy department has quickly grown into one of the world’s largest renewable energy-focused legal teams, with more than 70 professionals across six offices globally. But its reach extends far beyond Denmark, thanks to innovative models – for both business and providing legal counsel – that cut across geographies and jurisdictions in a unique way.

Partner Anders Hørlyck Jensen describes it as a “horizontal approach” to law. Accura counsels clients in the renewable energy space – offshore wind farms, solar power, green hydrogen production, etc. – in relation to joint ventures, investments and other M&A activities, as well as on contracts for the development, construction and operation of renewable energy assets. In addition, the firm is able to apply that specialized expertise wherever in the world it is needed.

Accura’s horizontal approach views jurisdictions not as boundaries but as opportunities to partner with local firms that can couple their knowledge of location-specific regulations and legal requirements with Accura’s deep domain expertise in renewable energy projects. Accura team members are actively licensed attorneys in their home jurisdictions, bringing the universally relevant commercial and legal principles that form effective renewable energy deals and contracts. The team then works collaboratively with their local partners to nail down the local elements in order to ensure compliance with all applicable local regulations.

In that sense, Accura functions as a traditional law firm in jurisdictions such as Denmark where it is registered as such, and at the same time seamlessly functions more like an alternative legal services provider (ALSP) in other markets. While many law firms have formed ALSPs that are subsidiaries of the parent firm, in Accura’s case it all functions as a single entity, nimbly adapting to each market, client and project as needed.

In many ways, Accura has shed preconceptions on what a law firm does and how it’s supposed to operate. Its singular focus is on optimizing how legal services are provided to the specific group of clientele it serves.

Accura’s horizontal approach views jurisdictions not as boundaries but as opportunities to partner with local firms that can couple their knowledge of location-specific regulations and legal requirements with Accura’s deep domain expertise in renewable energy projects.

While many large firms will present that they operate renewable energy teams throughout the globe, the advantage of Accura’s model is that it allows its teams to take their expertise in a highly specialized market and leverage it on a global scale. They are able to mesh their experience handling the intricacies of renewable energy deals with the local nuances required with financing deals. That combination of deep domain expertise along with leveraging the feel of local markets can spell the difference between a successful deal and one that flounders.

“You have to understand the mandatory requirements, the specific financing environment – all the intrinsically local elements,” says partner Peter Østergaard Nielsen. “But you also must have the knowledge to be able to look at the project from the inside and thoroughly understand it. Attorneys who only operate within a region often can’t do both effectively. That’s where operating jurisdiction-less with our specialized expertise becomes a major competitive advantage.”

Accura’s many clients benefit from this jurisdiction-less approach. When a project’s deals and contracts are wrapped up, the client can move on anywhere across the globe and deploy Accura to the next project. Accura’s highly portable, go-anywhere approach can be applied at will without having to worry about the location of the next jurisdiction.

When Accura first introduced this approach, however, the advantages were not always immediately apparent. Some questioned, for example, why the firm would use a team with an Australian lawyer on a Taiwanese offshore wind farm project. “We would ask them, ‘Wouldn’t you rather have an international expert who is experienced with wind farm projects combined with a local Australian lawyer who will ensure compliance with all local regulations?’” says partner Matthew Mulqueen.

Accura’s local law firm partners similarly may have been wary at first, but they soon came to see how working together creates relationships that are strongly complementary rather than competitive.

“We know what we’re good at, and at the same time, we know what we’re not good at,” Nielsen adds. “We’re not going to suddenly go rogue and stray outside of our core strengths.  We are very opportunistic, but we are also highly focused and that’s where we really bring value.”

Accura’s Renewable Energy department has been purpose-built to be globally cross-jurisdictional from the get-go. “We don’t put down an office somewhere and then look around for clients and build a book of business,” says Nielsen. “Instead, we send people to follow the work, and then expand outwards. We’ve done that to grow across Europe, Asia Pacific, and now the United States. We want to be everywhere and never feel like we’re tied to a particular locale.”

For example, having recently established a Boston office, Accura finds itself being contacted by US law firms that may have a client moving or expanding into the renewable energy space. While these US law firms may be experienced in many aspects, such as permitting, lobbying, managing regulations such as the Jones Act, and financing, they may be in need of Accura’s specialized expertise in areas such as the development of offshore wind projects or Power-to-X technologies, which convert renewable energy outputs into other energy carriers such as hydrogen.

“It’s not always easy to manage such a nontraditional approach,” says Jensen. “Operating across many different jurisdictions has its challenges.”

One of the keys to Accura’s success has been establishing these strong working relationships with their local law firm partners. “It starts with both sides having a genuine understanding of how the other firm works and the value that each side brings to the table,” explains Jensen. “It requires building trust. We do that by working together to build a structure that is centered around the client.”

Because that structure is readily transferable to other projects, other clients and other locations, Accura is carving out a new model not only for providing legal work, but also for its own expansion. Accura can aptly adjust to changing market conditions as renewable energy projects ebb and flow across the globe. Geopolitics, energy market fluctuations, evolving regulatory environments and even changing public sentiment can influence where renewable energy is in favor at any given moment, and Accura is well poised to capitalize on those opportunities.

“Every market we move into, we learn more about how we can contribute value to our relationships,” says Mulqueen. “And all of this even further feeds our global expertise that we can bring to every client and project we’ve involved with.”

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