DLA's Mexico entrance flags up growing interest in burgeoning LatAm markets

Robust insurance and infrastructure sectors are drawing legal advisers to Mexico and Brazil

DLA Piper’s move into Mexico through last month’s acquisition of a Mexico City team from US law firm Thompson & Knight has made the firm the latest in a handful of global players to build a presence in the country.

The hire, which saw the firm recruit Thompson & Knight’s entire 15-staff office, including four partners, means DLA joins the likes of White & Case, Baker & McKenzie, Greenberg Traurig, Jones Day and DAC Beachcroft in the country, with other firms such as Clyde & Co considering their own launches.

As the second-largest insurance market in Latin America after Brazil, many firms have sought to target the regional insurance sector, with the absence of restrictions on opening offices or employing local lawyers granting easier access to the lucrative market than in Brazil.

In addition, Mexico’s vast natural resources and the Government’s commitment to improving local infrastructure means there is also growing demand for lawyers specialising in energy and public-private partnerships work, as well as corporate and financial services advice for both inbound and outbound investment.

enriquez-raymundo-bakersBakers’ Latin America chair, Raymundo Enriquez (pictured), who is based in Mexico City, said: “When we first entered Latin America six decades ago, we represented mostly American or European multinationals seeking to engage in the region’s largest economies. Then we added domestic companies to our client roster. Now, we’re also seeing an uplift in work from large Latin American multinationals seeking to expand in the region and around the world.”

While the geographic proximity between Mexico and the US means the country has to date been of more interest to US firms than UK, a commitment by the British and Mexican Governments last year to double bilateral trade to £4.2bn by 2015 is an indicator of the growing importance of both Mexico and Latin America generally to the UK legal sector.

The Law Society is next week hosting a seminar at an event organised by the British and Mexican Chambers of Commerce and the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, with 40 UK law firms expected to attend alongside 15 Mexican law firms. Discussions are likely to focus on referrals with local firms as well as opportunities to establish offices.

Interest in Mexico comes amid a wider push into the Latin America region. Hogan Lovells last month confirmed that it was to enter the Brazilian market, with a launch in Rio De Janeiro planned for later this year, while Berwin Leighton Paisner is also considering an office opening in the country.

In particular, firms are keen to pick up infrastructure and construction mandates in the run-up to both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

Kennedys senior partner Nick Thomas said: “Latin America is now an insurance hotspot mainly because its major economies are growing fast and include industries requiring the full gamut of insurance services. Many international insurance and reinsurance companies are looking for increased access to these markets, and it follows that the more sophisticated insurance firms are looking to service their clients growing legal needs in these growing markets.”

Yves Hayaux-du-Tilly of Mexican law firm Nader Hayaux & Goebel, and co-founder of UK business network LatAm Forum, warned: “If you are interested in building a Latin American practice, you either develop a proper strategy through firms in the target country, or you invest in the development of local talent and become a serious local player.

“The lack of exposure to Latin American culture is a challenge, though, and a couple of Spanish-speaking lawyers designated as ‘the Latin American desk’ just won’t cut it.”

For more, see DLA Piper continues global growth with Mexico office launch.