Mexico is a compelling country, full of possibilities and contradictions. As economist Dani Rodrik has noted, “Probably no country in the world presents a starker contrast between external success and domestic failure.” While the Institutional Revolutionary Party government continues to implement its 11 internationally acclaimed structural and economic reforms of 2012, its intended rewards within the socio-political and economic sphere of the country remain to be seen. Coming into 2016, the country continues to struggle with an exciting and volatile economic landscape, standing on the cusp of change.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, the government has been ruthlessly promoting a plan for modernisation that is heavily concentrated on economic growth. While spearheaded by the opening up of its oil and gas reserves to private investor participation, the persistence of sluggish growth figures has left many in doubt about whether the promised results can be delivered. Many feel that the government’s insistence on the positive impact of these reforms shows that it is wearing “rose-tinted spectacles”. Indeed, a politically tumultuous 2014 saw many accusing the government of failing to adequately respond to accusations of negligence in the case of 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College; this did much to tarnish the president’s image and popularity. The country’s GDP has remained stagnant, and unemployment within the country (especially among the young) remains very high, fuelling further dissatisfaction. It is predicted that the coming year will be a challenge for the government, not only in terms of ensuring that its controversial reforms result in success, but also in maintaining popularity and trust among its people.
Entering the first quarter, there were fresh disappointments on all fronts as the economy continued at a rate of 1.8 per cent growth, much lower than the ambitiously stated 5 per cent. The Central Bank of Mexico thus revised its economic growth estimates from 2–3 per cent to 1.7–2.5 per cent. The reasons for such disappointing results were clear: the weaknesses in oil production industries both domestically and in the US; lack of sufficient worker skills and training; excessive regulation; and high levels of crime and corruption. Deputy finance minister Fernando Aportela Rodríguez reasoned that the disproportionate shock was caused by a weak US economy, lower oil prices, and a drop in Mexican oil output. While these factors may be reasoned in truth, they nevertheless expose Mexico’s dependency on the ever-changing international economic market. Lawyers in our research spoke of how practices were intrinsically linked to fluctuations in the US financial market. As such, the likelihood of a rapid change in Mexico’s present economic circumstances remains unlikely; the Federal Exchange Commission’s third US$200 million auction signalled a transition towards higher interest rates in the US, which will take a particular toll on emerging market economies such as Mexico. Furthermore, while the Central Bank of Mexico decided against increasing interest rates from 3 per cent, the continuing depreciation of the peso will certainly begin to show its effects more markedly on consumer prices.
At the same time, some experts argue that a depreciating peso, when taken in relation to an increase in US interest rates, could mean increased exports in the short-term. This would particularly benefit the manufacturing and tourism industries, and thereby spur a gradual economic recovery of the economy to 3 per cent by 2017. This is especially reassuring as the manufacturing industry accounts for a large portion of the country’s economic performance. As such, our research shows that areas such as trade and customs will become busier as new reforms come into practice, and we find a nearly 50 per cent increase of highly regarded practitioners in the sector.
Lawyers we spoke to also commented on the disappointing results of the first oil auction in July 2015 and how these exposed the country’s need to increase its awareness of buyer interests and the global marketplace. While doing well to reduce the damage of declining oil value by way of hedging the price of oil purchase per barrel, many felt the government failed to foresee the adverse effect this would have of deterring potential foreign investors, who became reluctant to make a purchase in an arena of reduced profit margins. As the Mexican government is propelling much of its reform agenda towards oil sector revenues, it remains imperative within the next year that it ensure these deals are successful. As such, the energy sector will remain extremely busy for practitioners, especially in the areas of M&A, project finance and government contract transactions. Additionally, as the oil market and supply turns to more lucrative Asian markets many lawyers in our research spoke of how Mexico’s performance will fare in an increasingly complicated global environment.
While the last few years have shown a gradual expansion of global law firms such as Hogan Lovells, Baker & McKenzie and Greenberg Traurig, the challenge remains for them to find better ways to solidify their presence in Mexico. This is an especially pertinent issue when one notes that none of the bidders in the last oil auction were represented by a foreign firm. Interviewees felt this spoke to the fact that Mexico has many high quality lawyers domestically, with a highly sophisticated knowledge of the local and international marketplaces. As such, the benefits for international law firms remains in integrating their practices with the unique structure of Mexican firms, many of which are run like family businesses. We see this in a noticeable amount of mergers occurring between local and international firms, as demonstrated in DLA Piper’s merger with Gallástegui y Lozano. These newly formed hybrid firms help to refresh and improve the local market, but also increase unpredictability and sometimes insecurity, with numerous reshufflings of partners occurring across firms in Mexico. Our research in energy reflects this mixture of domestic, international and hybrid firms.
The current fluctuating levels of stability in the market are reflected in our research, as we find that most practice areas have continued to see a consistent flow of activity. However, many of the individuals we spoke to in the course of our research stated that there is an increasing general feeling that change both needs to and will happen. What is also noticeable in these changes is that they occur in a socio-political and economic climate that many are unhappy with. The government has concentrated heavily on energy and telecoms as the major points of growth, both of which have yet to leave their positive mark. So far reforms have been more costly than beneficial, and the government’s determined focus on long-term rather than short-term goals has been its most contentious issue so far.
At the beginning of 2015 an awareness of this was made conspicuous: seven policy initiatives were introduced to “improve the welfare of Mexican households”, so as to “deliver concrete results in order to compensate for the underperformance of the economy”. Although it is doubtful that these reforms will compensate for the lack of sustained growth in overall income per capita, they will bring positive gains to manufacturing and telecoms sectors. In this sense, looking at construction and TMT markets, our research shows them to be consistently busy with local names and firms still dominating the practice areas.
As the reforms of the current government continue to take shape, Mexico still remains an exciting and unpredictable market coming into 2016. Our listings reflect this current state of limbo where general sector consistency and stability is marked with a hint of precariousness. It seems now that both domestically and internationally, Mexico’s impending boom is keeping everyone on the edge of their seats.
Intensive activity continues in this sector, as mediation and arbitration remain the most common required methods for dispute resolution and challenging of arbitrary government actions. Following this, private companies retain counsels to be represented before federal law courts. The following list recognises 15 dispute resolution lawyers in Mexico who are leaders in this field.
"In Mexico, individuals have found that administrative litigation makes it possible to exercise their rights to challenge any arbitrary action taken by government authorities. These actions may occur in various sectors at the federal, state or municipal levels. It is not surprising that recent activity in this field is intensive."
Commercial arbitration for both domestic and international disputes continues to experience rapid development in Mexico. From a historic reluctance for international arbitration embedded in the Commerce Code of 1889 and the Constitution of 1917, the growing openness to this form of dispute resolution reached a significant milestone in 2012, with the amendment to the Public-Private Partnerships Law removing the long-term requirement prohibiting arbitration in government acquisition. As a result, all federal acquisition contracts to date may be subject to domestic or international arbitration. In this chapter, we identify 22 “first rate” individuals active in the sector.
From a drawn-out period of decline that saw the country’s oldest airline carrier collapse in 2010, the Mexican aviation industry has grown considerably due, in part, to good economic growth and a widening middle-class. The commercial airline industry has also been recently bolstered by the “Open Skies” partnership with the US. Meanwhile, the country’s long-term aim of becoming one of the world’s top aviation suppliers has gained ground with the aerospace industry growing around 21 per cent higher than the average GDP over the last five years, according to PwC. With the future looking bright we have selected the 10 finest aviation practitioners in the country.
Mexico is the second-largest economy in Latin America, yet it continues to have another turbulent year. The economy expanded at a moderate annual rate growth of 2.4 per cent as recovery lost momentum during the first half of 2015. Yet despite this, Banco de Mexico has signalled that higher borrowing costs in the US may lead to a similar increase in Mexico. A gradual recovery of economic activity is expected, with economic growth forecast to strengthen from 2.3 per cent in 2015 to 3 per cent in 2017. Against this backdrop 32 individuals are recognised for their expertise in banking law.
Corruption and business crime continue to be issues of real importance in Mexico, as Transparency International’s corruption perception index ranked the country as 103 out of 177 countries in 2014. Currently, measures intended to reduce corruption are not necessarily dealing with these problems. In this context business crime defence continues to be an active area, where we recognise four of the top lawyers practising in this field.
Mexico currently has the most robust public debt and equity market in Latin America. Despite a slow 2014, Mexico still raised $1.7 billion in IPOs compared to only $355 million in Brazil. Mexico also kicked off the first Latin American IPO of 2015 when leasing company Unifin Financiera SAB went public in May ending a six-month dry spell. This is indicative of the stronger sentiment and economic outlook that Mexico is enjoying over its neighbours. We have listed 13 of the most prominent lawyers in the country at the moment.
Commercial litigation continues to be an active field within the Mexican legal market. Mexico City remains the hub of the country’s litigation practice, and is home to many of its leading litigators. Twenty-one practitioners are recognised in this chapter for their notable work.
Competition law in Mexico has undergone radical change recently, both in legislation and in practice. In July 2014, the New Mexican Antitrust Act was enacted alongside widespread structural reforms in key areas such as energy, finance and telecoms. A constitutionally autonomous commission (COFECE) was established with investigative and fining powers in line with international best practices to achieve a mandate to open competition among key markets in the country. Practitioners report that the commission has set about its mandate with gusto, doubling the number of investigations in 2015. We have selected 18 of the country’s leading competition lawyers.
In this chapter we single out five of the leading competition economists in Mexico.
Mexico continues to be an emerging market in the real estate sector, with a noticeable investor shift towards commercial and hospitality sectors. There has also been a strong trend in development activity follow regulation changes in 2014, with Mexican real estate investment trusts being some of the most dynamic investors in the past years. The construction sector is also positive as the government continues to invest in infrastructure improvement. We list 31 “market-leading” lawyers in this highly energetic sector.
In this evolving sector key mandates have included anti-corruption and compliance-related advice, with more local enforcement anticipated in the coming months. In this growing sector of law, 18 practitioners are recommended.
The Mexican legal market has seen an increase in corporate immigration activity, as recently liberalised immigration laws continue to attract developing business opportunities to the country. Four lawyers are singled out in this chapter for their expertise in the field.
There have been few significant changes to the corporate tax system in Mexico since the approval of the major tax reform enforced in January 2014; the industry is still feeling its effects. However in February 2014, the Mexican Executive Branch announced the Fiscal Certainty Agreement, a unilateral agreement aimed to create fiscal stability and certainty to taxpayers. In this the Mexican government committed to not proposing new federal taxes nor increasing the rates of existing federal taxes, nor limiting or eliminating the existing tax benefits or tax exemptions in regards to federal taxes, until 30 November 2018. In addition the Double Taxation Treaties with Malta, Peru and the United Arab Emirates became effective within the last 12 months, eliminating double taxation and thereby encouraging foreign direct investment between these countries. Against this backdrop 32 practitioners were recognised for their “leading work” in the industry.
The new set of energy reforms which came into law in in mid-2014, lifting the country’s 75-year embargo of its oilfields from foreign companies have seen a mixed first year. Although international interest has been piqued, the first oil auction was less than successful. However, practitioners are hopeful that the same mistakes will not be made again and that 2016 will bring a brighter future for the newly liberalised market. In this chapter 18 names are featured.
Since the establishment of a chamber specialising in environmental matters of the Federal Court of Tax and Administrative Justice in 2013, environmental practitioners have seen a changing market. With the environmental judicial courts opening in 2015, practitioners stated that they are still waiting to see what impact these courts will have, once judgments begin to be handed down. We identify 17 leading individuals in this chapter.
The past year has been a busy one for franchise lawyers in Mexico, with the expansion of international franchises into the domestic market. As US companies continue to move into this jurisdiction, the steady workflow practitioners currently enjoy is expected to continue. Against this backdrop we highlight seven leading experts in the field.
In the last few years, the Mexican government has continued the procurement system reform by improving the efficiency of delivery of goods and services. This system has introduced Mexico’s procurement system to global best practices, as well as boosting numbers of electronic transactions. The need to have more standardised procedures is also reflected in the country’s participation in the Open Contracting Global Principles agreement. This registers an ongoing process to improve on issues of efficiency, quality and transparency in public procurement measures. We have listed 11 leading lawyers in this increasingly refining market.
Practitioners in the field have noted distinct developments in the legal market. Amendments to insolvency and restructuring policy in Mexico have sought to improve the efficiency of processes such as liquidation. Thirteen individuals have been singled out in this chapter.
With Mexico’s insurance market still the second largest in Latin America, practitioners are continuing to enjoy a strong flow of with, and remain optimistic for the coming
Developments in the approach to Mexican intellectual property policy have recently impacted the legal market. It has seen a drive towards further protection of intellectual property rights, creating a more adaptable legal framework within which intellectual property holders can work. Furthermore, there has been fresh progress in the tightening of copyright, trademark and counterfeit prosecution. 29 individuals are showcased in this chapter for their strength in the field.
Following the Walmart scandal in 2012, when The New York Times reported that the firm had paid $24 million in bribes to Mexican officials between 2002 and 2005 to expedite the opening of new stores, focus on anti-corruption and compliance has intensified. In addition, labour disputes and collective bargaining remain active sources of work. We identify 25 lawyers in this very active sector.
“An aging population, growing middle class, and better access to health-care services are greatly increasing consumer demand for pharmaceutical products”, according to Deloitte’s report on Mexico. The industry is expected to grow an average of 5.6 per cent over the next few years, reaching $21.5 billion in 2018. However, the government also has a tight cost-control regime and the country has the greatest penetration of generic drugs in the world, growing at an average of 12.6 per cent a year. In this tricky but nevertheless increasingly important marketplace, we list four leading lawyers.
M&A activity in Mexico has increased significantly in recent years with significant reforms in anti-corruption, financial, labour, tax and antitrust areas to name just a few increasing investor confidence. Foreign investors are growing in number and the dynamic pace of activity is expected to continue into 2016 with the oil and gas reform opening the doors to private investors who wish to partner with the government to explore the country’s deep water and shale resources. We recommend 55 practitioners in this chapter.
The worldwide commodities decline has seriously impeded the progress of Mexico’s otherwise robust mining industry. Like much of the rest of the world, new mining operations in Mexico have slowed and mining houses have placed emphasis on cost-reduction and improving capital management. Practitioners report that they still have a significant amount of legacy work, while corporate restructurings have become the most prominent source of new work. We select 11 of the finest mining lawyers in the Mexican legal market.
Private equity investment in Mexico continues to grow and is a burgeoning source of work for the country’s lawyers. One of the largest transactions to take place in 2014 was the acquisition by Partners Group of Fermaca from Ospraie Management in a transaction valued at US$750 million. In this chapter we single out 13 lawyers.
The Mexican government has announced investments for up to $316 billion in infrastructure projects by 2018, including $48 billion for transportation projects and an increase in infrastructure spending of 35 per cent compared to the previous administration. In an area which continues to pick up pace, we single out 36 leading lawyers.
Following the establishment of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law in 2014, Mexico has seen a change in its process of telecoms regulation. This change has meant an end to limitations on foreign investment, in the hope that the sector can now function with providing better service and quality, lower prices as well as promoting more competition and investment. While these exciting developments continue to unfold, we provide the following list of 17 highly regarded practitioners within the practice area.
The trade and customs legal market in Mexico has experienced recent changes due to the establishment of various international free trade agreements. The development of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with the US and Canada is part of an international attempt to discourage monopolistic activity. This chapter recognises 16 lawyers for their expertise in the field.
Agon Economía y Derecho is a multidisciplinary consulting firm that specialises in the legal, economic and strategic issues relating to competition and regulation. Founded in 2013, Agon now boasts the largest competition practice in Latin America.
Tracing its history back to 1912, Basham Ringe y Correa is an “established” law firm in Mexico with an “elite practice”. The firm represents prominent multinational companies, medium-sized companies, financial institutions and individuals in their business throughout Mexico and abroad. The firm is home to “leading lights” who provide “great insight into market developments” ensuring clients receive a “high quality service” that is delivered in a “timely manner”. In total, the firm achieves 24 listings in 12 practice areas in this edition.
Basham, Ringe y Correa is recommended by Chambers: Latin America (2015) for competition/antitrust; corporate M&A; dispute resolution: litigation; energy and natural resources; intellectual property; international trade; labour and employment; real estate; and tax.
Established in 1936 Creel García-Cuéllar Aiza y Enriquez is now a full-service corporate law firm, boasting an “outstanding” reputation in giving complex and sound legal advice. Their continuing commitment to excellence is reflected in this edition, with the firm receiving an impressive 21 listings across 12 practice areas. It stands out particularly in the areas of banking and private equity.
Creel, García-Cuéllar, Aiza y Enriquez, SC, was founded in 1936 and has since become a full-service corporate law firm.
Galicia is one of the most prominent full-service firms in Mexico and it is also widely respected in the international legal community for its local expertise. The firm was founded with a specialist focus on corporate and banking law over 20 years ago and it quickly became a standout name on complex transactions. The firm has been involved in some of the country’s most noteworthy deals over the years, including the financing for Mexico City Airport Terminal 2. Clients consistently praise the “professionalism” and “commercial-focus” of the firm’s lawyers.
Following the merger of Hogan Lovells and Mexican firm Barrera Siqueiros y Torres Landa (BSTL), the firm has “gone from strength to strength”, bringing a “strong international expertise” to the market. The firm receives 23 listings this year, with its M&A and arbitration practices featuring particularly highly.
Mijares Angoitia Cortés y Fuentes is one of Mexico’s leading commercial law firms. Founded in 1994, the firm comprises a team of highly qualified lawyers, who therefore standout in the industry for the quality of their work. Indeed, this is reflected by the majority of lawyers identified in our research achieving multiple listings for their leading expertise in numerous sectors. The firm’s 21 listings across nine different areas of practice illustrate its comprehensive service to clients and demonstrate its leading position in the market place.
Nader, Hayaux & Goebel (NHG) is a market leader in mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, securities and capital markets, structured finance, insurance and reinsurance, project finance, real estate, energy and infrastructure, telecommunications, tax, restructurings and workouts, government procurement and antitrust.
The firm continues to be seen as a leader in Mexico, celebrating more listings than any other in the research. Indeed, with 31 inclusions across 13 different practice areas, Ritch, Mueller, Heather y Nicolau continues to prove itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Mexican legal market. Our research shows areas of project finance, banking and capital markets to be particularly strong.
Santamarina y Steta was founded in the 1940s and has gone on to become one of Mexico’s most highly regarded law firms. It prides itself on its ability to offer creative, efficient and long-term solutions to both international and domestic clients. The firm has offices in Mexico City, Monterrey, Tijuana and Querétaro, and offers “first-class” advice on a wide range of legal matters. Santamarina y Steta performs strongly this year with 22 listings across 12 practice areas.
Offering excellence and integrity, Von Wobeser y Sierra SC was founded in 1986 and is one of the foremost Mexican law firms to offer full-service legal solutions. The firm is composed of more than 30 different practice areas, including specialised desks with a strong roster of international and national clients.
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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.