It is almost two years since Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in as president. Within this short time frame there have been significant developments in the country, most notably transformative changes to its legal framework. These have certainly helped the country take the crown as one of the MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) emerging nations and resulted in excitement among international investors. The country’s growing economy (which an HSBC report predicts will be the eighth largest in the world by 2050), a rising middle class and the enactment of several key pieces of legislation have translated into an exceptional year for Mexico, and its legal market has correspondingly benefited.
The most notable regulatory development of 2014 is the much-discussed comprehensive energy reform, which the president signed into law on 11 August. Made up of 21 component parts, the reform’s new statutes have opened the country’s energy markets to domestic and foreign private investment. This “game-changing” amendment has ended decades of state monopoly of the sector and created new regulatory bodies to oversee the anticipated flood of foreign investment. Our sources report that there has been “incredibly strong interest” from around the globe, resulting in a substantial uptick in advisory and consultation work. There is also a reported determination by multinational energy companies, banks and financial institutions to “get off the starting block and get financing deals done”. This indicates that the reinvigoration of this sector, which is the key goal of the reform, is on course to happen. As one practitioner explained: “There is real concern among foreign companies that, if they do not move quickly, they will miss the boat, so we are experiencing a flood of work as everyone jostles into position.” There is also new legislation aimed at restructuring the electric power sector, which was previously beset by high prices and poor service. In tangent with these regulatory changes, a larger and more sophisticated energy bar has emerged in the country; established firms have built up their practices to meet demand, the younger generation are gaining experience, and seasoned practitioners have been incredibly active. This is borne out in our research, with four more individuals recognised than in our previous edition.
While it will take several years for the first oil to flow as a result of the reforms, exploration and infrastructure are key areas of immediate focus, and project finance lawyers have commented on a continued “boom of activity” over the past year. This is a result of both private and state investment, with the government significantly increasing the amount of budgetary resources available for infrastructure development in recent years. Following the enactment of the new federal public-private partnership (PPP) law in early 2012, Nieto announced a US$316 billion infrastructure budget (including US$48 billion for transport) in his 2013-2018 development plan. According to those we spoke to, this has resulted in “incredible interest” from foreign investors in the country, with banks, pension funds and private equity money pouring in. The US$665 million Mexico Pipeline project financing at the end of 2013 demonstrates this enthusiasm; it was oversubscribed and received commitments from 100 per cent of invited lenders.
In line with these developments we have seen a budding project finance legal market, with the number of practitioners we recognise increasing year on year since 2012, with seven new individuals singled out for 2015. Well-known players, such as Galicia and Ritch Mueller Heather y Nicolau, have been very active on major deals and lesser-known firms are also emerging. According to our sources, due to the amount of work going around these smaller outfits have been able to develop a solid base of clients over the past couple of years and build up good reputations, which has resulted in them becoming credible players in this field.
This drive of infrastructural development has benefited construction lawyers as well. Not only are the best keeping busy, but there has also been notable growth in the legal market as new players become increasingly active. This is borne out in our research, with Enrique Ramírez Ramírez of Ramírez Gutiérrez-Azpe Rodríguez-Rivero y Hurtado, as well as David Enríquez and Luis Pérez-Delgado of Goodrich Riquelme y Asociados, featuring in this section for the first time this year. Alongside the burgeoning construction industry is the continued boom in the real estate sector, which has seen a steady stream of domestic and foreign investment over the past year. Pension funds have entered the fray, most recently with Ivanhoe Cambridge, the real estate unit of the Canadian fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, investing US$100 million in a residential development in the borough of Cuajimalpa in Mexico City.
Mexican real estate investment trusts, known as FIBRAs, have continued to grow in popularity with investors since their introduction to the market in 2010. According to lawyers, the attraction of FIBRAs, particularly for foreign investors, is that they can invest in property without having to buy a building and returns are very solid. There are now eight FIBRAs trading on the Mexican stock exchange with a combined worth of US$18 billion, according to Evercore Group; however, given that the overall value of commercial real estate in the country is estimated at US$370 billion, practitioners are predicting the number to increase. Furthermore, with the country’s young workforce, a growing middle class and an expanding economy, the demand for commercial and residential real estate is expected to keep rising and will remain a “hot area” of investment for the foreseeable future.
It is also an exciting time for TMT lawyers, with the liberalisation of the country’s telecoms and broadcasting sectors resulting in a wealth of advisory and transactional work as existing players adjust their stakes and new companies enter the market. The rules were signed into effect in July and are aimed at creating greater competition in the market and improving quality and service. In the telecoms arena, Carlos Slim is being forced to end his monopoly of the fixed line and mobile sectors, of which he controls roughly 80 and 70 per cent respectively, and is divesting his assets to meet the new limitation of 50 per cent. Meanwhile, Virigin Mobile Latin America entered the market this year, reportedly shifting its expansion plans from Brazil to Mexico in light of these regulatory developments. Latest reports suggest that Spain’s Telefónica, which currently boasts a 20 per cent market share, is seeking to boost its position regarding telecoms and is also considering a range of tie-up options in Mexico with broadcaster Grupo Televisa.
This past year has seen the proposed reforms enacted, and in 2015 we expect the implications of this to play out. The reforms encompass economic competition, finance and tax: as the president states, “Our goal is to make Mexico more open, productive and competitive, with sound public finances and skilled human resources; so we can play a more active role in the global economy and provide our people with a better quality of life.”
However, the picture is not entirely rosy. So far, economic growth has not been at anticipated levels, resulting in some concern – notably for foreign investors – and there is also debate as to how successful certain aspects of the reforms might be. For example, regarding the antitrust bill there is apprehension that in reality it might punish those who achieve success, and in the long term could result in less competition in the market and even put investors off. The next year will be crucial in determining whether all that glitters really is gold; regardless of this, however, leading firms and private practice lawyers will be highly sought after.
So far, under Nieto’s government the legal market has gone from strength to strength. This is evidenced in our research, with the majority of the leading firms in our research achieving more listings this year than in the two previous editions. Furthermore, we have also seen more firms gain prominence in the market: we single out 16 more than in our 2014 edition. Interestingly, in a legal market that has traditionally been dominated by domestic players, several of the new outfits making waves are US or international, demonstrating Mexico’s status as a key jurisdiction of focus for clients, and thus a place where many now believe they need a presence in order to better serve their clients’ needs.
DLA Piper entered the fray in 2012 with the launch of a Mexico City office. In February 2014, it swiped a notable number of partners from Thompson & Knight. In August, Hogan Lovells combined with prominent local player Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa, with CEO Steve Immelt attributing this decision to “the sweeping structural reforms for Mexico, which could unlock major potential for investors and companies in a broad range of industries that are looking to capitalise on the current environment”. With this merger, Hogan Lovells has become the first international firm we recognise as a leader in the market, due to the high number of inclusions it achieves. Practitioners we spoke to believe there will be more significant tie-ups in the near future, with many suggesting there are several local firms merely “waiting for the right suitor”.
However, local players are also accounting for the rise in the number of firms we single out. Several have come to the fore in fields touched by the reforms, such as Acedo Santamarina, which is recognised for the first time due to a listing it achieves in our TMT chapter. We also have a new private equity section as a result of the demand for practitioners with expertise in this area due to funds seeking investment opportunities in the market. Eight individuals are selected, seven of whom hail from home-grown firms. Overall 87.5 per cent of the new individuals to this edition hail from domestic firms, demonstrating they are holding their own in the changing legal landscape.
As reforms invigorate the country, the legal market is also being transformed. Crucially, it is expected that there will be a much greater number of international and US players in the mix, either through combinations or setting up their own shops, which lawyers say will result in healthy competition. As one local practitioner explained, “There is so much work that everyone can keep busy, but the competition will mean that standards of client service and sophistication of work should reach even greater heights, which will benefit us all.”
There is a long-standing tradition of challenging administrative decisions in Mexico and private companies regularly retain counsel to represent them in appeals before the federal courts. We recognise 10 dispute resolution lawyers specialising in this field.
Fernando de Salvidea and Rocío González Alcántara
De Salvidea y González Alcántara
The outlook is positive for arbitration in Mexico and acceptance of it as a useful tool for dispute resolution grows every day. In this chapter, we identify 21 “first-rate” individuals active in the sector.
The aviation sector is expanding, with AeroMexico passenger counts up 20 per cent from 2013 and its two low-cost carriers expanding rapidly as the middle-class travel market grows. However, with the country’s largest independent airline Mexicana still tied up in bankruptcy proceedings, there is some uncertainty as to whether Mexico’s maintenance infrastructure is sufficient to meet this increasing activity. According to our sources, an open-skies policy is still on the cards as the government aims to liberalise air traffic gradually over the next year. 13 lawyers are singled out for their expertise.
In January 2014, expansive reforms to Mexico’s financial and banking laws came into effect which aim to strengthen the nation’s banking and securities regulator in order to increase competition and lower the cost of borrowing. Mexico is a key profit centre for international banks, and leading lawyers have seen a continuous flow of advisory work as clients look to ascertain the full implications of the reforms. Our research highlights 34 leading individuals.
The Mexican judicial system has come under intense international scrutiny after a US lawsuit has alleged that Yahoo! and its legal counsel Baker & McKenzie conspired to overturn a $2.7 billion judgment against the internet giant. The proceedings filed by two Mexican companies in September claim that an appeals judge was bribed into reducing the fine to $172,500. The plaintiffs have also claimed that the Mexican courts are too corrupt for the lawsuit to be filed domestically. This case throws new light on this infamous part of business culture in Mexico. We have selected the four best business crime lawyers in the country.
Following a record-breaking year for equity funding in 2013, practitioners reported some trepidation earlier this year as to whether this level of activity could continue. Happily they have seen a steady workflow of deals, and are optimistic for an equally strong 2015. In this area we recognise 22 “outstanding” practitioners.
Recent amendments to the federal competition law have created a wealth of work in the sector. The modifications, effective as of 7 July 2014, create two new independent bodies, one of which will now deal with telecoms matters separately from the more general competition authority. Given the amount of time and resources previously spent on telecoms investigations, it is expected that the separation of the new authorities and the broader enforcement powers given to the federal economic competition commission will lead to a greater number of investigations in other areas. We list 20 “top-quality” specialists who anticipate an extremely busy upcoming year as a result.
The number of real estate investment trusts is increasing in Mexico and investor confidence is on the rise as drug-related crime and violence are tackled by the government. On the construction front, the outlook is also positive as government infrastructure spending increases and the housing market picks up. In this expanding sector, we list 32 lawyers.
The General Law of Business Organisation provides a statutory basis for the regulation of the internal affairs and processes of a corporation in Mexico, and is supported by a corporate governance code of best practice. The Mexican National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) is the main government agency in charge of enforcing economic fines and compliance procedures, and practitioners in the field must navigate a comprehensive regulatory framework in their advice to clients. We identify 17 “leading” lawyers in the field.
Mexico’s restrictive immigration laws have undergone liberalisation over the last five years, most notably through the Migratory Act that came into effect in 2012. The government has looked to reshape its legislation to deal with its growing role as a country of transit and as a destination. We have identified four leaders in this field of law.
Following a round of tax reforms by the government, including the cancellation of the previously proposed phased corporate tax cuts, 2014 has proven to be an extremely busy year for legal practitioners. With compliance work a growth area for many, the pace of activity is unlikely to slow for the foreseeable future. In this chapter, 29 lawyers are featured.
In August 2014 a new set of energy reforms became law in Mexico, lifting the country’s 75-year embargo of its oilfields from foreign companies. The bill, which included nine new laws and amendments to existing laws, aims to increase transparency, competition and growth in the Latin American region, with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto already promising an oil output of 3 million barrels per day by 2018: an increase of 20 per cent. With the new laws breaking the restriction on foreign investors – as well as allowing domestic private oil and gas firms more access to the country’s major energy reserves – energy lawyers are becoming increasingly busy. We list 20 of the “most well-regarded” specialists in Mexico.
Claudio Rodríguez-Galán, Ramírez, Gutiérrez-Azpe, Rodríguez-Rivero y Hurtado, SC
In June 2013, a chamber specialising in environmental matters of the Federal Court of Tax and Administrative Justice was established. In addition, environmental judicial courts have been established to start operating in July 2015. In light of these changes, there has been much discussion on what impact the new courts will have and what stance judges will take in balancing environmental concerns and commercial interests. We identify 16 leading individuals in this chapter.
Franchise lawyers once again enjoyed a busy year with the continued expansion of companies into the Mexican market. High-profile acquisitions in recent times include that of fast-food restaurant operator Alsea, which acquired the Burger King franchise in April 2013. US companies continue to move into this jurisdiction, with health food chain Froots signing a master development agreement for Mexico in July 2014. With a steady workflow anticipated, our seven experts are likely to have an active year ahead.
Insolvency specialists have seen a stream of advisory work throughout 2014 in relation to amendments to domestic regulations which aim to increase the availability of cheap credit to small and medium-sized businesses. As the government continues to explore ways of protecting the economy and big businesses considered “too big to fail”, we highlight 12 lawyers across 11 firms who stand out for their “comprehensive expertise” in the sector.
Continued steady growth in the Mexican insurance market has seen it maintain its place as the second largest in Latin America. With an 8.3 per cent increase in 2013, practitioners are reporting a strong flow of work and are optimistic for the coming year. We showcase five “spectacular” individuals.
Mexico has a vibrant patent and trademark legal market which is currently undergoing some change. Miguel Angel Margain, the new director of the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, has set forth plans to facilitate the proceedings for IP enforcement, promote the development of Mexican patents and impose stronger sanctions. In this chapter, 32 lawyers are recommended.
Competition in the Mexican pharmaceutical sector has intensified with the entrance of smaller manufacturers in the generic sector, following regulatory amendments in 2008 that opened the market. The regulatory landscape continues to be dynamic and lawyers are highly sought-after to assist with compliance. Seven lawyers in Mexico stand out in our research.
The majority of complex cases continue to be litigated in Mexico City, home to some of the most knowledgeable and experienced judges in the country. Litigators noted a general trend towards shorter case times as the authorities take efforts to streamline processes and move from written to oral proceedings. In this active sector we identify 23 outstanding individuals.
Labour law in Mexico is protectionist, favouring the employee’s interests. It is therefore of the utmost importance that domestic and foreign companies seek expert advice in order to ensure they comply with the law. In light of recent reforms to the labour in December 2012, many clients are concerned with profit sharing and this has created an active source of work for lawyers in the field. We list 22 professionals in this chapter.
With investor confidence on the rise, M&A activity is expected to continue to increase in Mexico, particularly in the energy sector. In this key legal sector, we identify 46 outstanding individuals.
The new royalty tax applicable from 1 January 2014 is reportedly adding a significant tax burden on mining companies operating in Mexico, and there are fears this could result in the jurisdiction becoming one of the most expensive for mining. In addition, the recent toxic spill at a copper mine operated by Grupo Mexico has been seen as the country’s worst modern mining disaster, leading to calls for stricter environmental regulations. With all this in mind, lawyers are expecting an increase in advisory services as clients adjust to the new mining landscape. We select 11 specialists to feature in this chapter.
Mexico is a fertile investment opportunity for private equity investors and aided by the country’s steady economic growth and favourable regulatory changes, annual fundraising has increased nearly sixfold between 2008 and 2012. In 2014, Corp Actinver raised $62.3 million for a Mexico-focused fund, joining KKR and General Atlantic, who are also exploring opportunities in the country. In this burgeoning legal sector, we recognise eight specialists.
Project finance is a well-established sector in Mexico, particularly in the oil, gas, electricity and water industries. In recent years, the Mexican government has given increased financial backing to infrastructure development, having set up the National Infrastructure Fund to allocate funds for major projects and enable greater private sector participation. Project finance has become a popular structure for large infrastructure initiatives in the jurisdiction, especially for projects linked with government concessions, and as a result lawyers have seen a steady flow of advisory work over the past year. Our research identifies 32 leading practitioners.
Since 2009, the Mexican government has focused on modernising its procurement system. The newly rationalised scheme has eradicated 586 obsolete procurement regulations, increased the participation and awarding of contracts to SMEs, and saved the government over $1 billion. The government has also established the Federal Procurement Anti-Corruption Law, which is tackling the country’s notoriously endemic bid ridding. Mexico still falls short of international conventions on transparency, objectivity and competition, but significant improvements in this area have boosted public works and generated economic growth. We have listed eight leading lawyers in this increasingly energised market.
Mexico’s economic acceleration has helped drive up government spending and private consumption in the TMT sector. The IT segment is being reinforced by outsourcing demands from the US, increased demand for cloud computing and infrastructure development, as well as new government projects such as the National Digital Strategy and hosting the World Congress on Information Technology for the first time. The liberalisation of the telecoms market promises to further build the marketplace. A telecoms reform law passed in mid-2013 has borne a new regulator aimed at removing barriers to foreign investment and reducing the market share of the dominant operators. As a result, América Móvil recently announced that it was selling assets to comply with new antitrust regulations that forbid companies from controlling more than a 50 per cent share of the market. In this highly promising sector we have identified 15 leading lawyers.
Mexico’s largest trading partner is the US, closely followed by China; from 2002 to 2012, trade between China and Mexico rose 823 per cent. Trade within Latin America is also on the rise due to recent legislation eliminating trade and investment barriers. With the new tax reforms that came into effect at the start of the year, the coming year is likely to be even more busy as companies must adapt to meet new requirements and regulations. In this field we showcase 11 leading practitioners.
Since its establishment in 1912, Basham Ringe y Correa has become one of Mexico’s leading law firms. It offers a full service across its three offices, and its ability to consistently attract some of the brightest talent in the market has helped to cement its place as a leading provider of legal services. This year the firm garners an impressive 25 listings.
Founded in 1936, Creel García-Cuéllar Aiza y Enríquez is a full-service corporate law firm founded on the belief that the client is best served with preventive advice enabling them to anticipate and avoid problems, rather than responsive action. In this vein, the firm offers clients an uncompromising, dedicated service of quality legal advice for their most complex transactions and matters. The firm operates out of two offices: Mexico City (its headquarters) and Monterrey. In this edition, the firm achieves 18 listings in 12 practice areas.
Creel, García-Cuéllar, Aiza y Enríquez, SC, is an award-winning full-service firm with over 75 years’ experience of providing international and domestic clients with technical excellence, knowledge of the market and unparalleled client service. Its range of practice areas means clients have access to a unique team of attorneys with extensive knowledge to anticipate and resolve issues, and achieve clients’ legal and business goals. With 20 partners and a total of 125 professionals, the firm can advise on the most complex matters, affording clients certainty and peace of mind. The handling of clients’ business goals and multifaceted cross-border and domestic transactions by internationally trained attorneys has sealed the firm’s reputation for client satisfaction.
Galicia Abogados celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, a testament to its commitment to the legal profession. The firm prides itself on its client service and strong reputation, particularly in the financial, energy, and infrastructure sectors. In this edition it excels in our mergers and acquisitions, project finance, banking, and capital markets chapters; overall, it achieves 30 listings across 12 different areas of law.
Formed in 1987, González Calvillo is a leading full-service law firm based in Mexico City. The firm enjoys a “stellar reputation” in a variety of practice areas thanks to its plethora of “first rate” lawyers. Clients range from domestic and multinational corporations to governments and governmental entities. The firm’s high standing in the Mexican legal market is once again affirmed this year – it achieves 17 listings across nine practice areas.
Following the recent merger between Hogan Lovells and Mexican firm Barrera Siqueiros y Torres Landa (BSTL), the combined firm boasts “market leading” corporate, finance, regulatory, ADR and intellectual property services placing it firmly at the forefront of the Mexican legal market.
Since its foundation in 1994, Mijares Angoitia Cortés y Fuentes has propelled itself to the highest echelons of the Mexican legal marketplace by employing the brightest and best in a modern and sophisticated business environment. The firm began as a corporate, M&A, banking, securities and finance practice and although these remain by far its strongest suits it has expanded to become a full-service law firm with 21 listings across nine different practice areas.
Founded in 1975, Ritch Mueller Heather y Nicolau initially focused on advising international investment and commercial banks in respect of their financing activities in Mexico. Although banking remains a core area of strength, it has developed into a full-service firm that is home to over 50 lawyers. This year it boasts 31 inclusions, more than any other firm in our research, across 13 different practice areas.
Santamarina y Steta has consolidated its position as one of Mexico’s leading firms through the provision of “comprehensive” legal solutions across a number of sectors for individuals, corporate groups and institutions, both in the private and public sectors. The firm aims to further enhance its market presence throughout Mexico in a number of key sectors including project finance, M&A, construction and energy. The firm’s policy of cultivating values that promote personal development is highly effective and its lawyers boast a high degree of specialisation that positions them to provide quick and effective advice to corporate clients.
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.