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This Special Report covers 26 practice areas.

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Mexico In Brief

The past 12 months can be defined by three things, one lawyer told us: “A lot of change, a lot of work, and a lot of investment.” July 2018 saw the election of left-wing candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador as the country’s next president, who stormed to victory with 53 per cent of the popular vote, in the process winning 31 out of Mexico’s 32 states. According to one source, “It has been a long while since Mexico had an administration with control of that level,” and “significant change” is sure to be on the horizon. As interviewees often tell us, “Change and uncertainty is good business for lawyers.” Companies are placing an increased emphasis on compliance in order to avoid risk. Interviewees have also reported “a lot of very important transactions” in the project finance, telecoms and infrastructure sectors over the past three years. Significantly, reforms enacted in December 2013 opened Mexico’s energy sector to foreign investment, creating “huge potential for investment” which has been flooding in since the legislation was implemented. There has also been an uptick in real estate and construction projects, particularly around coastal areas and cities which offer “very attractive prospects” to investors.

A changing political landscape

Even before the start of Mr López Obrador’s term in December 2018, practitioners from specialisms across the board reported “receiving a lot of questions about how the new left-wing political party will impact their respective fields”. In the competition law arena, sources told us that “the field will not suffer or be affected by the change in administration” as this would require a constitutional amendment for the president to have a direct intervention on officials handling the matter. Arbitration practitioners too expect minimal changes, although one source expressed concern that “WTO litigation and investor state arbitration linked to the new president’s ideology, which favours state involvement in industry, protectionism for domestic industries, could be coming our way”.

Trade and customs lawyers have observed that “the new administration coming to office made 2018 a year of uncertainty for political developments”. They add that “this put brakes on the market, and few cases were initiated”. The government is also considering putting a stop to the construction of a new airport in Mexico City, and submitting the issue to public consultation. One source told us, “This is a problem as people often do not understand the technical nature of the issue."

Opinions on the new government are divided, but respondents remain optimistic for the future. In the words of one interviewee, “The new president is stubborn but pragmatic, so it will be interesting to see who within his administration is able to successfully put forward their agenda.” Another source observed, “The leadership of the party has been contradicting itself,” and some practitioners doubt Mr López Obrador’s consistency on key policy issues. For example, he has shifted his opinion from being a critic of NAFTA, to claiming to support it. As one lawyer observed, “While he has stated that he will not conduct expropriations, I would not be surprised if he does”. Overall, although lawyers across the country are expecting a lot of changes, it is hard to be sure in exactly what sense this will be. On a positive note, according to sources, “Mexico had very peaceful elections and confidence is high among investors.”

Though Mexico’s trade market has “died down and remains relatively quiet” due to the changing in administrations, the ongoing NAFTA negotiations “seem to be going well”. One of the greatest challenges lies in the nationalistic political climate in Mexico’s northern neighbour, which has adopted a self-serving approach to trade and industry. For example, corporate tax rates in the US have been reduced in order to encourage investment and create job opportunities there. This has led some US-based entities with operations near the border to “unwind operations in Mexico and ship the assembly lines back to the US”.

Legal market competition

Traditionally, the Mexican legal market has been “very closed and steady”. It has been dominated by top-tier local players, and “it was very difficult for firms to break in if they were not the usual suspects”, market sources told us. This is starting to shift, and sources have reported a big change in the legal market in Mexico as many international firms have begun to make strategic alliances, taken over practices or recruited practitioners from well-known firms. This reflects international firms’ “increasing interest not just in opening offices in Mexico, but in taking major steps to build specialist practices”. In the words of one interviewee, “This is definitely causing movement.”

The legal market “is becoming more sophisticated every year” and has been “growing fast” over the past three years. One interviewee stated, “If you look at the market now compared to 2015, the level of competition is much, much higher”. This can be attributed to the influx of international players to the market and the heightened capabilities of market-leading Mexican firms, which continue to dominate the local market. 

This environment is very positive for clients, who now have a greater range of options when it comes to selecting and instructing legal counsel. As a result, companies’ attitudes have shifted: “Clients no longer work with one firm for everything – they are in the position to look at who is best equipped and skilled for each matter.”

Conclusion

Although the results of July’s election will certainly bring a raft of changes to the Mexican market, “the climate is very bright for the future”. Mr López Obrador, backed by a popular majority and having won all but one of Mexico’s states, is in a uniquely strong position to enforce change during his six-year term to give life to his left-wing policies and enforce Mexico’s much-needed anti-corruption drive. The Mexican economy retains the confidence of investors and practitioners predict a busy year going forward.

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Analysis: Mexico

Mexico: Administrative Litigation 2019

In this chapter we highlight 19 practitioners who are recognised as among the leading advocates in the country in administrative proceedings.

Mexico: Arbitration 2019

In this chapter we recognise 29 standout lawyers for their leading work acting as counsel and arbitrator in both domestic and international arbitration proceedings.  

Mexico: Aviation 2019

In this chapter we highlight 11 lawyers as the leading figures in the Mexican aviation space. They stand out for their strong expertise handling a range of contentious, regulatory and financial matters for clients across the sector.

Mexico: Banking 2019

In this chapter we highlight 35 outstanding individuals for their work in the banking space over the past year. Their expertise is wide-ranging and covers both domestic and international financial arrangements and regulatory matters.

Mexico: Capital Markets 2019

In this chapter we highlight the top nine capital markets practitioners in Mexico. They are selected for their outstanding expertise in representing clients on a variety of capital markets matters, including debt, equity and financing projects.

Mexico: Commercial Litigation 2019

In this chapter we recognise 28 practitioners for their outstanding work representing clients in contentious commercial proceedings.

Mexico: Competition 2019

This chapter sees 24 outstanding competition lawyers highlighted for their work in the field. They excel on matters ranging from merger control to abuse of dominance cases and cartel investigations.

Mexico: Competition Economists 2019

In this chapter we highlight seven of Mexico’s most impressive competition economists. They stand out for their work on such areas as monopoly investigations, trade agreements and damages quantification.

Mexico: Construction & Real Estate 2019

Here we highlight 24 impressive lawyers for their leading work dealing with financings, transactions, regulatory issues and disputes across the construction and real estate sectors.

Mexico: Corporate Immigration 2019

In this chapter we recognised the six most distinguished corporate immigration practitioners in Mexico. They are selected for the excellence of their practice regarding all matters pertaining to immigration, including a wide array of permits and regulatory issues. 

Mexico: Corporate Tax 2019

In this chapter we identify the top 31 corporate tax practitioners in Mexico. They have been chosen for their exceptional practice advising and representing a broad range of clients in tax and transactional matters, including tax litigation, wealth planning and the implementation of international tax law.

Mexico: Data 2019

In this chapter we highlight 17 practitioners in the Mexican market who stand out for their leading expertise in data matters, including privacy and protection, security, IT and telecommunications.

Mexico: Energy 2019

In this chapter we highlight 19 individuals who stand out for their top-tier work handling a range of matters for energy-sector clients, including project financings, regulatory issues, transactions and disputes.

Mexico: Environment 2019

In this chapter we recognise 14 leading environmental law experts in the Mexican market. They stand out for their excellence when it comes to transactional, litigation and regulatory matters, as well as strategic planning, dispute resolution and administrative procedures.

Mexico: Franchise 2019

In this year’s research seven lawyers are identified for their brilliant work in the franchise space, handling a range of matters including licensing, investment and distribution. 

Mexico: Government Contracts 2019

In this chapter we identify six practitioners for their exceptional work handling a range of government contract and public procurement matters for domestic and international clients.

Mexico: Insurance & Reinsurance 2019

In this chapter we highlight five standout lawyers from the insurance and reinsurance market for their work covering claims across a range of sectors and advising on insurance policies and policy restructuring.

Mexico: Intellectual Property 2019

In this chapter we feature 31 practitioners who are selected for their outstanding work as advisers and litigators in a broad spectrum of IP matters for both domestic and international clients.

Mexico: Investigations & Compliance 2019

In this chapter, we recognise 11 standout lawyers for their excellence handling a range of investigations and compliance related matters from anti-corruption regulation to compliance programmes.

Mexico: Labour and Employment 2019

In this chapter we are delighted to present the top 31 labour and employment lawyers in the Mexican market. They are selected for their excellent work advising clients on group moves, benefits and compensation, reorganisations, and regulatory and auditing matters. 

Mexico: Life Sciences 2019

Here we recognise six practitioners for their exceptional work in across the life sciences sector handling transactional, regulatory and IP matters, as well as disputes.

Mexico: M&A and Governance 2019

In this chapter we recognise 34 practitioners who stand out for their impressive handling of public and private M&A transactions and joint ventures, as well as corporate governance matters.

Mexico: Mining 2019

We recognise 13 standout practitioners here for their exceptional work in the mining sector advising companies on regulatory and transactional issues as well as disputes.

Mexico: Project Finance 2019

Our research into the Mexican project finance space sees 32 outstanding individuals highlighted in our guide. Their expertise covers issues ranging from securities issuances and capital markets transactions to PPPs and joint ventures.

Mexico: Restructuring & Insolvency 2019

In this chapter we identify 13 lawyers for their outstanding work handling high-value restructuring and insolvency matters for national and international clients.

Mexico: Trade & Customs 2019

In this chapter we highlight 18 individuals for their outstanding work on both contentious and non-contentious matters in the trade and customs space.

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Firm Profiles: Mexico

Mexico: Leading Firms 2019

The latest edition of WWL: Mexico features over 150 firms, from international outfits and full-service domestic players to specialised boutiques. Almost 40 per cent of the total listings this year are achieved by nine standout firms that we profile here.

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