More than 400 guests attended the 'Chambers Latin America Awards 2012' on September 17th in Miami Beach, Florida, to recognise those law firms and lawyers that have shown themselves to be at the pinnacle of legal excellence in the Latin American region during 2011-12.
Latin America has shown an enviable degree of economic dynamism compared to many other parts of the world. It continues to reap the rewards of sound economic policies, attracting high-end M&A activity, foreign investment, and major developments. These achievements are reflected in these awards. We cover every Latin American country in depth, and focus on those practice areas deemed to be the most important by business clients. In addition we also reward examples of outstanding client service.
Our decisions on both the shortlisting and eventual winners have been strongly directed by the extensive research process that drives the Chambers Latin America Guide 2012.
To see the full shortlist for the 2012 awards, click here.
Latin America Law Firm of the Year 2012: Carey
Chile's largest firm enjoys an impeccable reputation at the international level owing to its roster of high-profile clients and its long track record of participating in market-leading deals. Its commercial practice excels across the board, providing clients with a full spectrum of corporate and financial services backed by expertise in tax, insurance, and labour and employment. Exemplary cases include the firm's representation of ING in connection with the Chilean aspects of its sale of regional assets worth USD3.8 billion to Colombian holding company Grupo Sura. The firm is a first port of call for clients seeking advice on the funding and development of local projects owing to its expert knowledge of the energy and mining industries and its growing environmental practice. Its competition and dispute resolution divisions are also widely called upon by clients, and the firm provides a first-rate IP service under its sister outfit Harnecker Carey, which has a representative office in China.
Lifetime Achievement: Luis Carlos Rodrigo Mazure, Rodrigo, Elias & Medrano Abogados
Luis Carlos Rodrigo Mazure made his mark on Peruvian legal history as a founding partner of Rodrigo, Elias & Medrano Abogados in 1965. The firm has gone on to become a true giant of the Peruvian legal market. Thanks to Rodrigo Mazure, the firm is respected for its pioneering approach in institutionalising the legal practice in Peru, and opening a Spanish branch in 1973. His personal achievements span the decades. He drafted the single income tax regime in 1968 and helped to open up mining exploration in Peru to outside investment. Rodrigo Mazure had also provided invaluable guidance to companies in major corporate transactions, particularly between Peru and Spain.
Lifetime Achievement: Ronaldo C. Veirano, Veirano Advogados
Ronaldo C Veirano began his legal career more than 40 years ago in Brazil and soon after that he moved to the USA. In 1972 he returned to Brazil to open the Rio de Janeiro branch of a major US law firm, thereby helping to bring international competition to the Brazilian legal market. In 1996 he founded Veirano Advogados, capitalising on the rapid modernisation of the Brazilian economy. Today the firm is home to more than 270 lawyers and has offices in Brazil's four major cities. Ronaldo Veirano has been involved with international organisations throughout his career: in September 2011, he was elected chairman of the World Services Group and he is currently co-chair of the IBA Law Practice Management Committee. Mr Veirano was awarded the Order of Rio Branco by the Brazilian government, and received the Order of Australia from the Australian Governor-General.
Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession: Moira Huggard-Caine, TozziniFreire Advogados
Moira Huggard-Caine is a partner at Brazilian legal giant TozziniFreire, where she heads the firm's International Relations and Women's Task Force. She has played a prominent role in policy decisions taken by the board of the Association of Brazilian Law Firms (CESA), and the Law Firm Committee of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB - Sao Paulo section). Huggard-Caine's achievements in the Brazilian legal profession are also matched by her work overseas. She is a former chair of the IBA's Latin American forum and she currently sits as the vice-chair for Latin America in the Law Firm Management Committee. In addition , her guide to foreign investment in Brazil for the government of Sao Paulo remains the defining publication used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for trade delegation literature.
International Counsel in Latin America
Corporate/M&A: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
The Latin America practice group of this global legal powerhouse has more than 100 lawyers, including 30 partners, with 15 lawyers dedicated to corporate law. The firm strengthened its regional presence with the opening of its São Paulo office in 2011. Both the Buenos Aires and São Paulo offices have two lawyers who divide their time between their Latin American base and New York, and they are supported by a large team based in its New York office and a network of lawyers across Europe. Cleary Gottlieb has an impressive client roster and its Latin American portfolio includes well-known international companies such as América Móvil, Coca-Cola FEMSA and Fintech Advisory. The corporate team recently advised Brazilian telecoms company EMBRATEL (Empresa Brasileira de Telecomunicações) on its landmark acquisition of shares in Net Serviços de Comunicação for USD2.6 billion.
Corporate & Finance (Florida-based): Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
The Miami office of this international firm has a 27-strong team, more than half of whom work in tandem with its branches in New York and Washington in order to service clients across the region. The Latin American practice group has more than 25 lawyers and focuses on a broad range of corporate and finance matters, including contentious work, capital markets, project finance and M&A. All of the group's lawyers speak either Spanish or Portuguese or both, and many have lived or worked in Latin America. The firm's client roster includes PwC, HBO Latin America, BNP Paribas, HSBC and Citibank. Recent work highlights include advising a group of ten lead arrangers on export pre-payment and revolving credit facilities for Votorantim for a total of USD2.65 billion.
International Arbitration: Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
This New York-based international dispute resolution practice handles a range of commercial arbitrations, working alongside the firm's sister offices in Washington, DC, London, Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. It continues to play a central role in an ICSID arbitration between the Ecuadorian government and US petroleum company Occidental in connection with the state's alleged appropriation of the company's local assets and its breach of related treaty obligations. Many of the team's members speak Spanish or Portuguese, and the firm has a fully dedicated Brazil subgroup.
Projects: Shearman & Sterling LLP
The Latin American practice at this accomplished firm has a strong track record across the corporate, finance and capital market spheres and substantial expertise in arbitration, which combine to make it a top choice for clients seeking advice on their projects in the region. The firm's project development and finance group is largely based in New York, and handles a large volume of cases stemming from the mining and renewable energy sectors. It is currently advising the Central American Bank for Economic Integration in connection with the funding for a 220 MW hydropower project due to be developed in Nicaragua by Queiroz Galvão and Eletrobras. The team benefits from the firm's network of offices throughout the Middle East, Asia, North America and Europe, while its office in São Paulo serves as a vital business platform within the region.
Jurisdictional Awards in Latin America
Argentina Law Firm of the Year: Estudio Beccar Varela
This traditional full-service firm was founded in 1897 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious firms in Argentina. Estudio Beccar Varela's reputation extends across national and regional borders into the international arena and it represents large multinationals including Banco de Galicia y Buenos Aires, Magna International, Repsol YPF and Tarjeta Naranja. Recent finance law highlights include advising Standard Bank, Deutsche Bank and Itaú BBA USA Securities on the restructuring of a notes programme for Hidroeléctrica El Chocón for USD40 million. The firm also recently opened a dedicated department to deal with corporate criminal matters. It was a founding member of the Club de Abogados legal network and it also has very close working relationships with Pinheiro Neto Advogados in Brazil and Gómez-Acebo & Pombo in Spain.
Bolivia Law Firm of the Year: Indacochea & Asociados
This full-service player operates out of offices in Santa Cruz and is a top choice for oil and gas clients. It stands out in the market for its long-standing and in-depth expertise in energy law, and recent work highlights include advising BJ Boliviana on its merger with Baker Hughes for an undisclosed sum. The firm is also strong in corporate matters, contentious work and labour law, and works for many large multinationals including Bayer Bolivia, Dupont, El Tejar and Kimberly-Clark. Indacochea & Asociados is a member of the Latin American Network, which focuses particularly on energy law, telecoms and finance.
Brazil Law Firm of the Year: Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga Advogados
Founded in 1992, this is one of the top full-service firms in the country today. Thanks to the group's strong standing amongst leading financial institutions it typically participates in high-level M&A and capital markets transactions. As usual the firm has been in the thick of things in the past year, representing OGX as it tapped the bond markets to the tune of USD2.6 billion, and advising EBX as it received a USD2 billion cash injection from Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala.
Central America Law Firm of the Year: Consortium - Centro América Abogados
With more than 160 lawyrs across five countries, Consortium - Centro América Abogados has the largest team of any regional player. The firm has ten offices across the region with branches in Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. It is one of the region's leading firms in corporate and finance law and is particularly well known for its work for energy companies. The firm handles a great deal of confidential work for top banking clients. Recent disclosed work highlights include advising a syndicate of international banks on the restructuring of credit facilities across the region.
Chile Law Firm of the Year: Claro y Cía
This firm is widely renowned for its iconic practices in corporate law, banking and finance, and dispute resolution, and serves a roster of international heavyweights in relation to their commercial needs. Representative clients to date include BAT, Santander and Walmart. Claro's revered litigation team has been at the forefront of the much-publicised Anglo American-Codelco dispute over local mining assets, and regularly participates in trials before Chile's antitrust tribunal owing to the demand for the firm's counsel on competition issues. At a global level it is a member of Club de Abogados – Iberoamerica, Lex Mundi and the Bomchil Group.
Colombia Law Firm of the Year: Prietocarrizosa
This full-service powerhouse has risen rapidly through the ranks to become one of the largest in Colombia by number of practising lawyers. Given the depth of resources at the firm's disposal and the international experience of its lawyers, it comes as no surprise that Prietocarrizosa is consistently engaged in Colombia's most high-profile deals. A headline example was the firm's role as Colombian counsel to ING in the sale of its USD3.8 billion Latin American assets to Grupo Sura. The firm's focus on energy and natural resources matters also makes it an important port of call for major players in the industry. It is a member of the State Capital Group and the Uría Menéndez Latin America network.
Costa Rica Law Firm of the Year: Pacheco Coto
This local firm is one of Costa Rica's longest-standing legal outfits. Over the years it has accrued an overseas portfolio adequate to warrant the establishment of sister offices in Madrid, Zürich and Auckland, in large part owing to demand for its renowned international asset planning and taxation group. Corporate, M&A and real estate are further areas in which the firm is considered a market leader, while its banking and finance practice is also widely acclaimed. Recent highlights include the team's representation of Chilean pharmacy retailer Socofar in connection with its acquisition of a 50% share of CEFA, Costa Rica’s largest pharmaceutical group, with operations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The firm provides clients with strong sector know-how across telecoms, infrastructure and energy and natural resources.
Dominican Republic Law Firm of the Year: Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernandez
This full-service firm dominates several practice areas in the local market, including corporate and commercial issues, intellectual property and dispute resolution, where its services span litigation, arbitration and white-collar crime. The firm's broad sector know-how spans aviation law, energy and mining, insurance, maritime and sports law. It is also highly recommended for its expertise in environmental law, real estate and tourism, and labour and employment, and recently served as local counsel on matters of corporate and labour law in connection with the merger between Merck and Schering Plough. At an international level it is a member of the Pragma and TAGLaw networks. Many members of the team are fluent in English.
Ecuador Law Firm of the Year: Bustamante & Bustamante
Drawing on more than half a century of experience, there is no denying the importance of this firm in the Ecuadorian legal market. As one of Ecuador's largest firms it offers a full complement of legal services but particularly shines in natural resources, tax and IP matters. The team also very much holds its own in the corporate arena, where it has represented the lenders in the construction of a new international airport in Quito. The firm's multidisciplinary IP practice is widely regarded as the finest in Ecuador and the team is frequently involved in the most high-profile cases within this field as advisers to some world-famous brands. Bustamante & Bustamante is a member of Multilaw and the Bomchil Group
El Salvador Law Firm of the Year: Consortium - Centro América Abogados
The El Salvador branch of this Central American regional firm is one of the major players in finance matters and is also a go-to firm for corporate and IP law. The firm has 24 people working out of its office in San Salvador and works for key international clients including América Móvil, The World Bank and Cemex. The firm's banking group recently advised a bank syndicate led by Citibank and the International Investment Corporation on restructuring a credit facility granted to Grupo Monge, which included the implementation of Chinese wall agreements. The firm is also a member of the World Services Group.
Guatemala Law Firm of the Year: Consortium - Rodriguez Archila Castellanos Solares & Aguillar
This sizeable firm enjoys region-wide support from its sister offices in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica. The firm enjoys a strong position in the local market, where its practices in banking and finance, corporate/M&A, dispute resolution, intellectual property and tax are all recommended as top tier in Chambers Latin America. The labour and employment team is also strongly endorsed. The firm represents illustrious clients such as Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo and Citibank, with the banking division recently serving as local counsel to the latter with regard to two syndicated credit agreements worth over USD300 million granted to Comcel, one of the biggest telecoms operators in Guatemala. The firm also advises clients from the regulated mining and energy and natural resources sectors, and provides ancillary counsel in environmental law.
Honduras Law Firm of the Year: Aguilar Castillo Love
This distinguished team forms part of a regional firm that spans Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico. Its outstanding corporate and commercial practice covers M&A, banking, energy, mining and real estate. Representative clients include ExxonMobil, Hewlett-Packard and Queiroz Galvão, and the team recently advised major Honduran group Financiero Ficohsa in connection with an investment in the bank made by the IFC and DEG-FMO, worth in excess of USD70 million. Intellectual property is another strong area at the firm, where the team regularly engages in the registration and protection of trade marks under local legislation. It also handles ancillary issues such as tax, antitrust and labour law. Clients praise the firm's international know-how and strong English skills.
Mexico Law Firm of the Year: Creel, García-Cuéllar, Aiza y Enríquez, S.C.
This firm dates back to 1936, and has established itself as one of the most famous and high-achieving in Mexico. The group is acclaimed as one of the country's key deal makers in high-profile M&A and capital markets transactions. Complementing the firm's financial and corporate strengths are significant supportive practices in tax, competition and associated regulatory matters, making the firm a 'one-stop shop' for clients such as Grupo ADO, Credit Suisse and Prudential. It has offices in Mexico City and Monterrey.
Nicaragua Law Firm of the Year: Consortium - Taboada & Asociados
The founding office of this region-wide legal powerhouse provides clients with sterling services in corporate and commercial issues, from advice on incorporation and operation in the Nicaraguan market through to ancillary requirements in tax, insurance, and labour and employment. It is also highly recommended for the work of its real estate and dispute resolution groups, the latter spanning civil and commercial litigation alongside arbitration at local and international levels. Intellectual property is a further area of specialisation; here the team assists market heavyweights across the health, retail and pharmaceutical sectors in registering and protecting their local trade marks, patents and copyrights. Recent highlights include advising Grupo Terra on its acquisition of Texaco-Chevron's operations throughout Nicaragua.
Panama Law Firm of the Year: Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega
This leading firm is one of the oldest in the Panamanian market and was originally founded in 1893. It has an excellent international profile and nearly three quarters of its 44 lawyers have studied in the USA or Europe. Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega has offices in London, Luxembourg, Geneva, Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands and Belize and is a member of Lex Mundi and Interlaw. In 2011 it also became a member of the Pacific Rim Advisory Council (PRAC), an organisation focusing on the needs of clients in Asia and the Pacific. Standout international clients include Holcim, ExxonMobil, American Airlines, Marriott and McDonald's, and the firm recently represented the London branch of Deutsche Bank in a USD45 million purchase agreement and security package involving company assets in Panama.
Paraguay Law Firm of the Year: Peroni Sosa Tellechea Burt & Narvaja
This full-service firm was founded in 1968 and has consistently been one of the country's most notable players. It has a team of 29 lawyers, who are dedicated to both national and international work. Key clients include well-known names such as Cargill, Philip Morris, Tam Airlines, JPMorgan and the Inter-American Development Bank. The firm's finance team recently advised Rio Tinto Alcan on the negotiation of energy purchase agreements for a total of USD4 billion, one of the largest investments in the country in the last year. The firm is a well-known name in the international arena and is a member of Lex Mundi and Club de Abogados – Iberoamericana.
Peru Law Firm of the Year: Rodrigo, Elías & Medrano Abogados
This firm is a colossus of Peru's legal market and its large team of internationally trained lawyers is consistently involved in the most high-profile deals taking place in the country. Impressive across just about every practice area, the firm is perhaps best known beyond Peru's borders for its comfort in cross-border transactions and unrivalled clout in the mining industry. A client roster that includes Trafigura, Glencore and JPMorgan also finds its tax, labour and dispute resolution needs expertly attended. Standout recent work includes the firm's role as Peruvian counsel to ING in the region-wide sale of its Latin American assets, and representing Corparación Lindley in a USD320 million international bond issuance. The firm is a member of Interlaw and World Services Group.
Puerto Rico Law Firm of the Year: McConnell Valdés LLC
Puerto Rico's largest firm continues to be a lead actor in the island's legal scene and a firm favourite of international clients, who value the depth of service on offer. Of particular note is the firm's prominence in banking, real estate and M&A transactions. Over the course of 2011 it counselled underwriters J.P. Morgan Securities and Bank of America Merrill Lynch in a series of senior notes offerings for an aggregate value of USD1.9 billion in a development bank. Its corporate strengths are further boosted by the fine support clients receive in tax and labour issues. The firm has a Washington DC office which gives it further corporate reach, and it is also the local representative of Lex Mundi.
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Uruguay Law Firm of the Year: Ferrere Abogados
This full-service titan is home to more than 100 lawyers and the multi-lingual partnership's international outlook makes it a firm favourite of international investors for big-ticket work. The group routinely advises on the top M&A deals taking place in the country and has specialised practice subgroups to handle transactions from various different sectors. In recent highlights, the team was chosen as Uruguayan counsel to the Gilinski group as it acquired HSBC's assets in the region, and advised Abengoa on bidding for the concession to build an energy plant at Punta del Tigre. Ferrere's empire also encompasses accountancy and asset management wings, and the firm is unique in its regional reach. It maintains offices in Bolivia and Paraguay, branches which in themselves have made notable inroads into the legal markets of their respective jurisdictions.
Venezuela Law Firm of the Year: D'Empaire Reyna Abogados
Over the course of four decades, this firm has been at the forefront of the market and its savvy operation continues to capture a healthy slice of big-ticket operations thanks to its standing as one of the primary firms of choice for multinational investors in Venezuela. Its wide-ranging capabilities are regularly called upon by clients requiring assistance with the various legal needs arising from their business activities in the country. Unsurprisingly the firm shines in the corporate arena and is frequently seen in cross-border M&A and banking and finance transactions. Notable recent deals include advising Global Crossing on the Venezuelan repercussions of a multi-jurisdictional merger with Level 3 and assisting Evrofinance Mosnarbank and Deutsche Bank as dealers on a USD4.2 billion 30-year government bond.
Client Service Awards
Client Service awards go to firms who have been consistently singled out by clients during the course of our research for the quality and reange of their client service. We don’t give out client service awards every year in every country, but believe that this year the following awards are thoroughly deserved:
Peru: Rubio Leguia Normand
Uruguay: Guyer & Regules
Venezuela: Despacho de Abogados Miembros de Norton Rose, S.C.
Argentina: Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal
Brazil: TozziniFreire Advogados
Central America: Arias & Muñoz
Costa Rica: BLP Abogados