With 28 lawyers from 11 different firms highlighted in our research, private client is a prominent practice area in Central America. Experts are located across five countries, reflecting the strong provision of private client legal services across the region.
Since the beginning of private sector participation in the Central American energy markets in the 1990s, energy and mining has been a key source of regional investment. Although the first 15 years of the open market was overly reliant on the oil sector, this began to be rectified in the mid-2000s. Indeed, the renewable energy sector has expanded dramatically in the last 10 years and in 2014 renewables were the source of almost 64 per cent of electricity generation in the region.
Employers are fraught with challenges when entering the Central American market. Productive sectors loom large in the market and, as such, ensure that many of the region’s workforce are unionised. The relations between employers and the traditional trade unions in the region are becoming increasingly fractious as the economic situation worsens and employees are laid off. Another concern is the discrepancy between local labour codes and codes of conduct at larger multinational corporations, which has been seen as something that must be challenged if the region is to attract a greater share of foreign investment. Certain lawyers have called for multinationals to align their codes of conduct with the principles enshrined in national labour codes.
Alignment with international IP law in most Central American countries only began in the late 1990s. The US has pursued strong commitments to IP law with its trade partners and more stringent IP protection was afforded by the CAFTA-DR. Panama also established similar provisions within its Panama–US Trade Promotion Agreement. The CAFTA-DR has increased trade between its parties by over 70 per cent – $35 billion in 2005 to $60 billion in 2013 – divided almost equally between imports and exports.
In this chapter we identify 12 leading due diligence accountants from across Central America, who work alongside lawyers to complete corporate transactions. These specialists not only look at issues such as financial performance, cash flow, valuation of assets and tax compliance in order to build up a picture of a company’s health, they also assess the risks and opportunities of a proposed transaction offering advice on the relevant conditions, warranties and indemnities that should be included in an agreement.
In total, 26 lawyers are highlighted in this practice area across 15 law firms. With seven countries boasting corporate tax experts, there is a thorough spread of high quality legal services available across the region in this field.
With 21 lawyers recognised in the field, competition remains one of the smaller practice areas in our research, yet demand for competition legal services is increasing across Central America.
Panama has the strongest transport market by some distance. Undoubtedly the largest project in the sector has been the $5.2 billion Panama Canal Expansion, which is set to create a new lane of traffic through the waterway and double the canal’s capacity. It is predicted that the expansion will shift international trade routes for larger vessels, and boost trade from the US East Coast and Gulf Coast through to Asia. Patton, Moreno & Asvat and Decastro & Robles boast “market-leading” maritime practices, while Arias Fábrega & Fábrega, one of Panama’s oldest and largest firms, retains a strong presence in the country.
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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.