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Central America 2016: Dispute Resolution

While firms in Central America often have a broad offering, dispute resolution has emerged in recent years as an area of heightened activity and as such a premium has been placed on these skills in the market. 

Disputes vary from purely commercial to investor treaty matters often relating to the energy sector. The Dominican Republic-Central America FTA between the US and Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua), bilateral agreements entered into by the countries, and a partnership agreement with the European Union have had significant impacts on the level of commercial activity in the region and subsequently the number of disputes. Furthermore, many of these agreements permit the use of arbitration.

Costa Rica and Panama are the largest hubs for dispute resolution experts according to our research. The results are unsurprising: Costa Rica is often used as a launchpad for further expansion into Central America, while Panama is a popular destination for company’s regional headquarters, as such these markets are active and more mature. Both countries are also appealing seats for arbitrations – Costa Ria and Panama’s modernised arbitration laws are based on the 2006 version of the UNCITRAL Model Law, which were enforced in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

Two regional firms stand out for having the highest number of lawyers listed in this chapter for their dispute resolution skills: Arias & Muñoz and Consortium Legal. Interestingly, neither have lawyers listed in Panama, which might be due to the fact that although regional firms have entered Panama, their goal in doing so is to further assist clients in multi-jurisdictional work rather than competing head on with Panama’s established legal market. 

Belize

At Balderamos Arthurs, Ashanti Arthurs Martin excels in the area of asset recovery and was the first lawyer in Belize to invoke the jurisdiction of the Belize Supreme Court to grant Norwich Pharmacal Disclosure against the registered agent of an international corporation. She enjoys a “high profile” in the region and internationally, respondents also point to her “diligent manner” and “strong work ethic”.

Courtenay Coye is represented by Eamon Harrison Courtenay SC, a “celebrated litigator” with a broad practice encompassing admiralty, fraud and asset recovery, civil and administrative law, and insurance among other areas.

Costa Rica

Batalla Salto Luna Abogados is represented by two leading professionals. Alejandro Batalla is described as “fantastic”. His expertise covers administrative, tax and finance law, and he is deemed a “point of reference” in the market. Róger Guevara focuses on complex litigation including product liability, criminal fraud and insurance. By all accounts he is a “standout” in the field.

At Facio & Cañas, Rodrigo Oreamuno is a “legendary figure” at the bar who is a “highly active” arbitrator, while Victor Garita is noted as an “exceptional strategist”. Garita helped Brazilian construction company OAS reach a settlement with the government over a cancelled road concession – the first time either side has been able to resolve such a dispute amicably.

Arias & Muñoz garners two listings in the country. Roy Herrera leads the active disputes practice and is described as a “pleasure to work with”. Peers commend his “dedication to his clients’ matters”. Pedro Muñoz is a “key figure” at the firm and was instrumental in opening the Nicaragua and Guanacaste offices.

Alejandro Pignataro of Pignataro Abogados assists in international asset tracing and recovery cases and utilises his “wealth of experience” to provide clients with “sensible and commercial advice”. Alongside him, Carlos Valenciano has a “very active” practice with a focus on litigation involving white collar crime and corruption.

Jorge Manuel Chacón Mora is a founding member of CJA/ Abogados and a “distinguished litigator”. He also has experience in arbitration serving as arbitrator or counsel.

Jonatán Picado at Zurcher Odio & Raven is responsible for the firm’s litigation department and leads by example with his “prestigious practice” in the field. Clients praise his “broad industry knowledge” and experience in both litigation and arbitration cases.

Consortium Legal in Central America sees Alfonso Gutiérrez Cerdas highly regarded by peers and clients for his disputes practice. Gutiérrez boasts an “enviable reputation” in the market in part due to his “ability to get to the heart of an issue”.

Dyalá Jiménez Figueres of DJ Arbitraje concentrates solely on arbitration. She has “vast experience” as sole arbitrator and president of the tribunal and brings “international experience” to her cases.

Lexincorp Central American Law Firm’s managing partner Arnoldo André is an “internationally recognised” litigator who is “truly excellent on his feet”. He also has experience in arbitration and served as international arbitrator (appointed by the President of Costa Rica) for the free trade agreement between the government of the republic of Costa Rica and the Republic of Chile.

Aguilar Castillo Love is home to John Aguilar-Osborne, a “litigation dynamo” whose work has seen him represent media conglomerate Viacom.

At BDS Asesores the disputes department is led by Efraín Zapata, a “talented” and “astute” lawyer whose “work is always of the highest quality”.

At BLP David Gutiérrez is a “renowned name” in the market. Clients value his “impressive depth of experience” and “strong commercial acumen”.

Pacheco Coto’s Marvin Céspedes M oversees the firm’s administrative law practice and is a “tremendously effective litigator”.

Dominican Republic

Pellerano & Herrera sees three of its lawyers recommended. The “distinguished” Luís Pellerano leads the international and foreign investment practice. He is “someone you definitely want on your side in a dispute”. Lucy Objío is “well connected” and “incredibly astute”. She has 10 years of experience and her practice has a strong emphasis on litigation covering IP, insurance, aviation and maritime matters among others. Juan Pellerano works in a consultant role to the firm sharing his “insight and knowledge” with the litigation team.

Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernandez also has three lawyers recommended. The firm has a strong reputation for its white-collar defence, fraud and asset recovery work. Francisco Alvarez Valdez possesses a “sharp mind” and “keen eye for detail” while Tomas Hernández Metz is described as being “at the top of his game”. Julio Cesar Camejo Castillo is a “great tactician” and “quick thinker” – skills which make him very popular with clients.

At Russin Vecchi & Heredia Bonetti, Maria Esther Fernández Alvarez de Pou stands out for her aviation and maritime expertise. Her advice is “pragmatic” and she is a “consummate professional”. Managing partner Georges Santoni-Recio specialises in civil and commercial litigation with clients praising his “international mindset”.

Fabiola Medina Garnes is the founding partner of Medina Garrigó Abogados and an “expert” in dispute resolution. She previously served as head assistant to the chief legal adviser of the president of the Dominican Republic and is “renowned” for her arbitration experience.

Marcos Peña Rodriguez at Jiménez Cruz Peña specialises in litigation and arbitration and is a “highly skilled” and “technically brilliant” lawyer.

María del Pilar Troncoso de Riley at Troncoso Leroux is noted for her trademark and franchise disputes work. She is “always ready to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in” according to one client.

El Salvador

Romero Pineda & Asociados garners two listings in this chapter. Carlos Castillo oversees the litigation department at the firm with a particular focus on IP and corporate issues. A “great strategist”, he is considered “first-rate”. Managing partner José Roberto Romero is a “key figure” in the market whose “dedication and diligence” receive much praise.

Two lawyers at Sáenz & Asociados are highly recommended. Mario Enrique Sáenz and Humberto Sáenz Maninero both receive praise for their international arbitration work, with the latter also highly recommended for his work in high stakes litigation. 

Arias & Muñoz’s El Salvador litigation department is led by Eduardo Ángel who previously worked in the constitutional field in the Supreme Court of Justice. As such, he brings valuable experience to his clients’ cases and has a particular focus on administrative, regulatory and competition litigation.

Ricardo Cevallos leads the El Salvador office of BLP. He is “much admired” for his “finely tuned skills” in dispute resolution. He has particular experience in arbitration and is “highly sought after”.

Piero Antonio Rusconi Gutierrez at Central Law in El Salvador is recommended for work on litigation and arbitration matters. He provides “clear and concise advice” which is “highly effective”.

Guatemala

Carrillo y Asociados stands out in Guatemala for its deep bench of litigators. Joaquín Alvarado heads the criminal litigation department and is “stellar” by all accounts, while Rodrigo Callejas heads the fraud and asset recovery team and is “incredibly effective at getting results”. The lawyers have been very active on multi-jurisdictional cases involving money laundering, fraud or tax fraud schemes, assisting clients in prosecuting and recovering assets in Guatemala. Francisco Chávez bridges the litigation-corporate divide and his “strategic thinking” benefits from his “strong commercial acumen”. Emanuel Callejas has a strong corporate law background and is “very active” on anti-corruption compliance and investigations. Clients appreciate his “well thought out strategies”.  

At Arenales & Skinner-Klée – LatamLex, two individuals are recommended. Alfredo Skinner-Klée and Alejandro Arenales Farner garner huge praise for their dispute resolution work and are regular counsel to the government of Guatemala in arbitration work. Skinner-Klée is described as “intuitive” and “very bright”, while Arenales Farner is a “great operator” and “a major player” in the legal community.

At Arias & Muñoz Jorge Luis Arenales de la Roca leads the corporate, M&A and litigation departments. He has a “sterling reputation” and is a “firm favourite” with clients drawing in international clients to the firm.

Consortium Legal’s Alvaro Rodrigo Castellanos Howell is an “accomplished” lawyer who is “pragmatic, quick-thinking and always professional”.

Norka Aragón leads the litigation department at Mayora & Mayora and has the “ability to get to the heart of an issue”. She offers “bespoke solutions” and “really knows her stuff”.

QIL+4 Abogados’ José E Quiñones is a “revered” arbitrator with experience at ICSID and as director for several financial and industrial institutions.

Aguilar Castillo Love is represented by the “sensational” Juan Carlos Castillo-Chacón whose “finely tuned skills” and “impressive record” are much lauded in the marketplace.

Honduras

Consortium Legal sees two practitioners selected for inclusion. Ulises Mejía León Gómez is a more recent addition to the firm and is having “great success” developing the litigation and arbitration area. José Ramón Paz is the firm’s managing partner and he is “always on hand to share his wisdom”. 

Arias & Muñoz is represented by Fanny Rodríguez Del Cid, head of the disputes department. She employs a “forensic approach” to her work and is “always hand-on”.

Michael Rascoff was promoted to partner at Bufete Melara & Asociados in 2014 and heads the administrative and litigation divisions. He has an “international mindset” which clients praise.

Nicaragua

At Consortium Legal, Gerardo Hernandez leads the litigation and arbitration practice and is involved in “high profile” cases. He is described as a “great operator”. José Evenor Taboada is managing partner of the firm, and a “sensational lawyer” whose “reputation in the legal marketplace is well deserved”.

Soraya Montoya Herrera at Central Law Nicaragua is head of the administrative, civil litigation and real estate practices. She is “responsive, commercial and solutions-oriented”.

Panama

Morgan y Morgan is home to two “stellar” litigators: José Carrizo and Simón Tejeira. Carrizo became a partner in 2010 and impresses with his “sound judgement”, while Tejeira is a “longstanding member of the bar” with a “world class practice”.

At Galindo Arias y Lopez, joint practice heads Diego de la Guardia Porras and Tomás Herrera Díaz come highly recommended. De la Guardia specialises in administrative disputes and arbitration proceedings, while Herrera is noted for his expertise in insurance law and is a “go-to” for clients’ most complex, high-stakes disputes.

The litigation department at Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega is overseen by Octavio Amat and Fernando Arias. With a “strong track record” in representing domestic and international clients in litigation, Amat is particularly recommended for his work on commercial, civil, administrative and tax cases. Arias is also “renowned” for his work in the field, with clients praising his “strategic mind”.

Mizrachi Davarro & Urriola’s senior partner David Mizrachi Fidanque is active in litigation and arbitration matters. He is lauded for his “commercial outlook” and “international mindset”. Alongside him, Miguel Urriola Maylin focuses on commercial, labour and asset recovery matters and is a “tremendous litigator”.

Alemán Cordero Galindo & Lee’s Alejandro Ferrer is a former industry and commerce minister. His main focus is dispute resolution and he has particular experience in administrative, mining and environmental law matters. Clients “cannot praise him highly enough”.

Audrey Williams oversees the litigation practice at Benedetti & Benedetti, where she is considered a “fearless litigator” who is “unflappable”. She also leads the trademark and copyright anti-piracy practice.

Patton Moreno & Asvat’s Evans Gonzalez Moreno has a broad dispute resolution practice encompassing litigation, arbitration, and maritime disputes.

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