DLA Piper finds 'final piece' in Latin America with new Argentine affiliation

The tie-up with Cabanellas Etchebarne Kelly is the culmination of a strategy that has added affiliates in Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico

DLA Piper has reached an affiliation agreement with Argentine firm Cabanellas Etchebarne Kelly to round out its expansion efforts in Latin America.

The move gives the international firm a presence in the region’s third-largest economy that supplements existing partnerships involving firms in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru. Cabanellas Etchebarne will operate as DLA Piper in Argentina.

“I don’t believe that we will engage in any other country expansion in South America,” DLA Piper global co-chairman Roger Meltzer said. “This was the final piece that we had been searching for for some time.”

Cabanellas Etchebarne has 28 lawyers in offices in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and New York City. The firm handles M&A and capital markets, foreign investments and cross-border transactions, banking and regulatory work, project finance, debt restructuring, arbitration and litigation, and employment. Its lawyers also do work on corporate misconduct and internal investigations, infrastructure, and renewable energy and electricity.

“If one is going to pursue a pan-hemispheric strategy, to not have a relationship and an agreement with a firm in Argentina would have left us with a hole,” Meltzer said.

While the firm knew it needed to expand its footprint to the country, it ”took its foot off the gas” until the consequences of the 2015 election of President Mauricio Macri and the October 2017 legislative elections were clear.

DLA Piper was made aware of Cabanellas Etchebarne roughly 18 months ago. According to Meltzer, one of the attractions of the firm was its New York office. Some of the figures there had practised at major New York firms. New York office head Marcelo Etchebarne and attorney Antonio Arias both clerked for US Third Circuit Judge Anthony Scirica and worked at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, while others worked at Morrison & Foerster and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

“We worked with them on some high-profile transactions,” Meltzer said. “Four or five months ago, I said to the group: ‘Let’s get it done.’”

Last year, DLA Piper inked a cooperation agreement in Peru with Pizzaro, Botto & Escobar, which now operates as DLA Piper Pizarro Botto Escobar. The firm already had cooperation agreements with Bahamondez, Alvarez & Zegers in Chile; Martinez Beltran in Colombia; and Campos Mello in Brazil. It has also established DLA Piper Gallastegui y Lozano in Mexico,

These expansions have been informed both by the region’s trade with the US and, increasingly, with China. That’s especially true for the three Andean nations: Peru, Chile and Colombia.

“We set our minds to a specific kind of expansion in South America where we measured the risk and opportunity, and that strategy has been successful in its vision and tactics,” Meltzer said.

That same calculus was part of the firm’s decision to cease operations in turbulent Venezuela in 2016, ending a five-year affiliation with Venezuelan firm InterJuris Abogados.

“All of us understood there was material and political risks associated with it,” Meltzer said. “You have to believe that the rule of law and a growing middle-class are, if not there, then on the horizon, and you have to believe the country has a meaningful business plan.”

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