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Mexico In Brief

Mexico is one of the world’s most important emerging economies and since President Nieto took office in December 2012, it has been renewing its efforts to become a leader in Latin America. Nieto has acted quickly to pursue his far-reaching reform programme, notably in the areas of telecoms and broadcasting, tax, and oil and gas. The future for the economy and legal market looks bright, as these changes bring increased work for lawyers.

Probably the most controversial reform, which will be the biggest test for the administration, is that concerning the energy sector. In August 2013, the government unveiled a bill to allow the state to partner with private companies to find and produce oil and gas. If the bill is passed into law, it will end Petróleos Mexicanos’ (Pemex), the country’s state-owned petroleum company, 75-year monopoly of the sector.

Pemex is currently the world’s seventh-largest oil producer and boasts annual sales of more than US$100 billion, according to Forbes. Nieto has said that the new bill will be “transformational”, allowing private investors and foreign companies to re-enter the market and many have already expressed a willingness to return should Congress pass the bill, including Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell who were among those expropriated three-quarters of a century ago. This would undoubtedly result in huge economic growth for the country through foreign investment, especially due to Pemex’s claims that there are undeveloped shale-gas deposits and deep-water reserves that have yet to be tapped into. Already project finance lawyers are being kept extremely busy due to significant projects emerging from this sector, notably in relation to power plants, oil exploration and production, gas pipelines and storage facilities and transportation infrastructure. This means specialists in this area of law have had a particularly active year and  we recognise five more individuals for this field than in our previous edition, as well as 16 lawyers who are highly regarded for their work in the energy sector.

Tax is another key part of Nieto’s reforms and at the end of October 2013 the country’s senate gave general approval to an overhaul of the current system. The reform aims to raise the tax revenue by three per cent of the GDP by 2018. Further highlights include maintaining the corporate tax rate at 30 per cent, a repeal of the current tax consolidation regime, higher taxes on the wealthy echelon of the population and a charge on stock market gains. Our corporate tax section boasts a substantial increase in the number of practitioners recognised; five more than in 2013. This reflects what we heard from our sources; that Nieto’s proposed tax reforms are resulting in more work and an increasing number of individuals and firms building up their tax practices.

The telecommunications and broadcasting sectors have seen significant changes in the last six months. In June 2013 Nieto signed into law a bill aimed at curbing dominance of major players in the market and increase competition and investment in the sector. A new regulatory body, Ifetel, has also been created and will have expanded powers, including the ability to apply asymmetric regulation on dominant companies and even force them to sell assets. Following the signing of these changes into the country’s constitution, Congress now has six months to draw up and approve secondary legislation. Ultimately the reform aims to give Mexicans improved and cheaper telecoms services and raise competition. A survey conducted by the government last year revealed that 74 per cent of Mexican homes did not have internet access and 68 per cent did not have computers. Thus, lawyers are expecting a busy year ahead with work from potential new clients as the market opens up, as well as increased compliance advice for existing clients.

Mexico boasts a growing middle class, with a recent study by the National Statistics and Geography Institute revealing that 42 per cent of Mexican homes qualify as “middle class”, while 39 per cent of the country’s overall population falls into this social category. This is seven per cent more homes and four per cent more of the population classed as middle class when compared with 2000. With this larger middle class there has been increased spending on consumer goods, which is benefiting the economy and the North American Free Trade Agreement opened up the retail sector. This has not only allowed people access to quality products at competitive prices, but also increased the demand for US-branded goods. This has resulted in steady work for corporate and franchise lawyers advising those entering and expanding in the market. 

Furthermore, Mexico’s proximity to the US, its main trading partner, is resulting in economic gains for the world’s 16th largest exporter. Over 80 per cent of its exports go to the US and, according to The Economist, if the present trend continues, by 2018 the US will import more from Mexico than any other country.  Also crucial to the country’s economic growth is the move of some manufacturing from Asia to Mexico. With the cost of doing business in Asia increasing, many companies are returning to or entering Mexico for the first time. The rising costs of shipping have also helped to make a move to Mexico even more attractive to companies whose primary markets are in the Western hemisphere. In the past few years companies including Casabella, Cessna Aircraft and Flextronics have moved their manufacturing to Mexico while others have expanded existing factories in the country.

The scope of the proposed reforms are ambitious and the recent telecommunications and broadcasting reform is a clear indicator of things to come. The end result should be increased economic growth for the country, which has lagged behind other emerging markets and averaged at about two per cent for the past decade, and improved well-being for the population. As one source put it “it is a hugely exciting time for the country, and a very interesting and busy time to be a lawyer here.”

Legal Market

The Mexican bar is becoming increasingly sophisticated as demonstrated by the results of our research, which singles out 298 individuals from 130 firms, an increase of 26 practitioners and 14 firms in our 2013 publication. This edition includes one new practice area: administrative litigation. Increased government regulation has led to a demand for lawyers with expertise in the field and we recognise eight experts in this edition. Furthermore, we have expanded the scope of our oil and gas chapter to also include renewable and power specialists and renamed it energy. As a result of increased convergence and development in the communications sector, our regulatory communications chapter has been renamed telecoms and media and we single out five lawyers who come highly recommended by their peers. Our internet, e-commerce and data protection section is now called information technology, to include outsourcing specialists and better reflect the work practitioners are doing; it features seven respected individuals.

Although many international firms such as DLA Piper, Jones Day, White & Case and Baker & McKenzie maintain a good presence in the Mexican legal market, it is still the domestic firms and home-grown lawyers that dominate our research. This year we single out eight firms who field the highest number of lawyers to this edition, one more than last year.

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Analysis: Mexico

ADMINISTRATIVE LITIGATION MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Administrative litigation is a fast-growing area in Mexico as an increase in government regulation prompts a growing demand for lawyers in the field. In recognition of the need to improve the administration of justice and the quality of rulings, two specialised administrative chambers were introduced in 2012. While the number of experts in this field is relatively small, new opportunities are attracting the interest of a number of big US and magic circle firms and the market is expected to expand in the coming years. We feature eight lawyers in this chapter.

ARBITRATION MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Following the January 2011 reform of the Mexican Commercial Code, there has been a notable rise in activity of the arbitral institutions. A recent notable case is Spanish company Telefonica’s decision to seek arbitration against Mexico for an investment treaty dispute. With both federal and state courts promoting and supporting arbitration, it is likely that Mexico will continue to be a strong player in the field. Nineteen specialists are listed in this chapter.

AVIATION MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Aviation lawyers reported a busy year with lots of transactional work including the operating and financing of leases and the financing of pre-delivery of purchased aircraft, as well as increased regulatory work. The sector overall is reported as being much more stable, with no major bankruptcies over the past year, and even some growth. In this chapter we single out the 11 most highly regarded aviation lawyers in the country.

BANKING MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Mexico’s banking sector continues to be affected by slowing economic activity in the country as contraction in the second quarter of 2013 prompted the government to dramatically slash its growth forecast. Structural reforms designed to bring Mexico “up to date” are expected to raise long-term economic growth and reforms have been launched in the education, telecommunications, economic competition, energy and tax sectors. The legal market remains active and banking lawyers share the optimism of a more productive economy following the implementation of these reforms. Our research highlights 29 lawyers considered exceptional in this field.

Banking Practice Area Review

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Diego Martinez Rueda Chapital of Cervantes Sainz gives a detailed overview of trends and changes in the banking market over the past year.

"During 2012 and part of 2013 Mexican banks have been focusing on expanding the lending activity and the borrower eligibility but at the same time implementing and adopting the Basel III directives."

BUSINESS CRIME DEFENCE MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

In the first half of 2013, the government imposed 864.5 million pesos in fines on almost 5,000 corrupt public officials. Despite these efforts by the current government to clamp down on corruption and bribery, business crime in Mexico remains a real risk for companies. In this chapter we select four individuals for inclusion. 

CAPITAL MARKETS MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Equity issuance in Mexico has hit record levels with US$10.4 billion raised in 2013 to date, according to Dealogic. In this dynamic sector, we list 22 “outstanding” individuals.

COMMERCIAL LITIGATION MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Mexico has recently introduced various amendments to codes and acts to implement collective actions as part of its legal system, with the aim of delivering a more efficient and accessible litigation procedure. Early indications are that the changes will lead to an increase in environment and consumer protection-related lawsuits, and lawyers have been busy adapting to the reforms while responding to a continued uptick in banking litigation. Our research highlights 21 litigators considered outstanding for their work in the field.           

COMPETITION MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Competition law continues to provide a huge source of work for lawyers in Mexico as the government works hard to ensure that monopolistic activities are investigated and sanctioned. The amendment to article 28 of the Mexican Constitution introduced in the second quarter of 2013 granted considerable powers to the new telecoms regulator to boost competition in the sector. Lawyers anticipate an increase in their workload as further changes to Mexico’s competition policy generate an increasingly complicated antitrust environment. We feature 19 lawyers considered “exceptional” in this field.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Regulators have been continuously working to improve corporate governance standards. In 2011 the Mexican Stock Exchange introduced the IPC Sustentable to help align Mexican corporate governance practices with international norms. Sources state that this has been a slow but steady process of coming to terms with and implementing the new standards, and the challenge is now to apply these heightened standards to small and medium-sized businesses. Fifteen corporate governance specialists are listed in this chapter.

CORPORATE IMMIGRATION MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

The comprehensive legal and statutory immigration policy affecting Mexican and foreign nationals continues to keep lawyers busy as they assist with visa types and application procedures. Our research highlights four lawyers considered exceptional in this field.

CORPORATE TAX MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

A tax reform package was approved in October 2013 by the Chamber of Deputies and now needs Senate approval before being enshrined in law. Key highlights include maintaining the corporate tax rate at 30 per cent (thus repealing the original phase-down to 29 and then 28 per cent in the next two years) and a repeal of the current tax consolidation regime. Lawyers expect to see a demand for compliance advice in the coming year as companies come to terms with how the changes will affect their business. We list 27 specialists in this edition.

ENERGY MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

In August 2013, the government unveiled a bill to allow the state to partner with private companies to find and produce oil and gas. If the bill is passed into law, it will end the country’s 75-year monopoly and spur economic growth. We feature 16 lawyers in this chapter.

ENVIRONMENT MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Following new climate change legislation introduced last year, Mexico continues to actively legislate in this field and introduced a new law on environmental liability in 2013. The new legislation regulates liability derived from environmental damage and provides new means for fines against individuals and companies. Fifteen lawyers feature in this chapter.

FRANCHISE MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

2013 marked another busy year for franchise lawyers as companies continued to expand into the Mexican market. Lawyers are seeing a surge of new concepts penetrating the market including entertainment, home furniture and adult care. While US companies continue to dominate the sector, lawyers are beginning to see an increase in Canadian and European companies gaining a foothold in Mexico. This year we feature six outstanding lawyers in this chapter.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

With Latin America reportedly the fastest growing internet population in the world, Mexican IT lawyers are seeing a huge rise in demand for advice on matters surrounding data protection, e-commerce and intellectual property. With large internet companies such as Amazon and Google increasing their presence in the country, the rise in regulatory work looks set to continue as the market expands further. In this chapter we feature seven “exceptional” lawyers.

INSOLVENCY & RESTRUCTURING MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Insolvency and restructuring deals continued to provide a steady workload for Mexican lawyers throughout 2013 as the country continued to recover from the financial crisis. We identify 11 leading practitioners in this area.

INSURANCE & REINSURANCE MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

With changes to Mexican insurance regulations in 2013 following the introduction of the Insurance and Surety Institutions Law, the market has seen a rise in demand for advisory and compliance advice as companies and insurers align themselves with the new framework. These changes coupled with the growing market as a whole have led to another fruitful year for the country’s insurance and reinsurance lawyers. Five superb practitioners are recognised in this chapter.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

In November 2012 Mexico became the third country in Latin America to join the Madrid trademark filing system. While this marks a positive step in the increased protection of IP rights, the current legal framework still lacks an opposition system which many lawyers believe is vital to provide a higher grade of certainty to trademark owners. On the patent front, litigation has been very active particularly in the life sciences sector. In this chapter we identify a total of 28 lawyers.

MANAGEMENT LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Following recent changes to Mexico’s labour and employment laws, which aim to encourage competitiveness and improve flexibility in working conditions, practitioners in this area have seen a marked rise in workload. As companies look for advice on how best to meet the new obligations, lawyers are finding themselves increasingly called upon to assist with subcontracting and profit share schemes, with some estimating that this work now takes up 90 per cent of their time. Within this busy marketplace we identify 19 of the top management-side labour and employment lawyers.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Following the federal elections in 2012, lawyers are anticipating reforms across a number of industry sectors. Once the legal climate is more certain, it is expected that deal activity will continue to rise steadily particularly in the telecommunications and energy sectors. In this chapter we identify 44 “superb” practitioners.

MINING MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

The Mexican mining industry has experienced a slowdown on the exploration front as companies struggle to find funding for their activities. However, new mining legislation currently making its way through Parliament could introduce royalty payments and reforms to concessions. With full implementation expected in 2014, lawyers are busy advising their clients on what these potential changes could mean in practice. We list 10 mining specialists with the necessary skills and expertise to assist clients in this industry.

PROJECT FINANCE MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

The most significant project financings taking place in Mexico are related to power plants, oil exploration and production, gas pipelines and storage facilities, dams, water treatment plants and transportation infrastructure. While there are examples of issued project bonds, traditional financing from banks and financial institutions remains the most popular form of financing and the sector is expected to remain active in the upcoming years. We select 25 lawyers to feature in this chapter.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

Mexico’s continued efforts to modernise its public procurement system has led to savings of more than 8 billion pesos for the government, according to figures released at the international conference on integrity in procurement in Mexico City in 2012. With a new president in office who has promised new schemes to promote infrastructure projects, legal work is expected to continue rising in this field. Eight lawyers are listed in this chapter.

Public Procurement Practice Area Review

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Roberto Hernández-Garcia of COMAD SC looks at challenges for public procurement in Mexico.

"Mexico has many problems, including those related to public procurement, but there are initiatives on both sides – the public and the private sectors – to improve the state of this activity and thereby create a first-class public procurement system."

REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

The real estate and construction market is well and truly back on track following the global financial crisis and both local and international investors are clamouring for Mexican property investment trusts (FIBRAs). With more and more capital coming into the market, lawyers reported a hectic year. The hospitality, hotel and office sectors are all booming and there has been an increase in the amount of work related to construction and infrastructure projects. In this section we single out the 29 most highly regarded practitioners.

TELECOMS & MEDIA MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

In June 2013 President Nieto signed into law a far-reaching reform of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries that aimed to curb dominance of major players in the market and increase competition and investment in the sector. A new regulatory body, Ifetel, has also been created and will have expanded powers, including the ability to apply asymmetric regulation on dominant companies and even force them to sell assets. This overhaul has created a lot of work for lawyers over the past few months, and they expect to keep busy for the foreseeable future as the effects of this reform come into play. We select five leading lawyers for inclusion in this chapter.

TRADE & CUSTOMS MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS

With trade opening up between Mexico and other Latin American countries following new legislation, the Mexican trade market looks set to expand further in the coming years. A tax reform currently being discussed in Parliament could also see a high demand for work as companies strive to meet with new regulations over the next few years. We have identified 12 “outstanding” lawyers in this field.

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Firm Profiles: Mexico

BARRERA SIQUEIROS Y TORRES LANDA SC

2013 saw Barrera Siqueiros y Torres Landa celebrate 65 years of providing legal services in Mexico. Since its establishment, the firm has grown in size and scope and today consists of over 70 lawyers based in its offices in Mexico City and Monterrey. Its prestigious reputation is the culmination of its determination to deliver a top-quality service coupled with the depth of experience of its lawyers in their respective fields. The firm achieves a total of 15 listings across eight practice areas.

BASHAM RINGE Y CORREA

Established in 1912, Basham Ringe y Correa is one of the oldest law firms in Mexico. Its longevity in the legal marketplace is a testament to its ability to adapt to modern times and attract the top legal talent in the country. A full-service law firm, Basham has an enviable client list including domestic and foreign companies across a wide range of industry sectors. In this edition, the firm achieves 22 listings.

CREEL GARCÍA-CUÉLLAR AIZA Y ENRÍQUEZ SC

Founded in 1936, Creel García-Cuéllar Aiza y Enríquez  is a full-service corporate law firm with offices in Mexico City and Monterrey.  The firm has an established reputation in the marketplace and is known for providing “practical legal advice”. It is home to many “seasoned specialists” as identified by our research in which the firm achieves 16 listings across 10 practice areas.

GALICIA ABOGADOS SC

Founded in 1994 with a focus on complex transactions, Galicia Abogados is known for its “impressive depth of expertise” in corporate and finance law. Although the firm’s offering has broadened over the years, it remains a “market leader” in M&A, banking and project finance. The firm achieves 25 listings in this edition.

GONZÁLEZ CALVILLO SC

Since its formation in 1987, González Calvillo SC has grown to become “one of Mexico’s leading and most prestigious” full-service law firms. The firm’s expansion has been achieved through a principle of gradual and selective movement into new sectors such as energy and power generation, and over the years the firm has cemented its status as a “major player” in numerous practice areas, according to market commentators. The firm receives praise for its “commercial approach”, and represents multinational companies, financial institutions and domestic corporations.

GONZÁLEZ CALVILLO SC - PROFESSIONAL NOTICE

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Gonzalez Calvillo is a leading Mexican law firm based in Mexico City. Since 1987, González Calvillo has rewritten the model of the full-service law firm by growing steadily while very selectively. Long-standing competitors have witnessed the firm surpass them qualitatively, in staffing capabilities, and broad scope of work. All of the firm’s areas have accredited performance for constancy and novelty and are headed by professionals of the highest calibre. Though our clients include various Fortune 500 companies, we are well diversified and we represent a blend of local and multinational corporations, domestic and international financial institutions, governments and governmental entities and individuals.

MIJARES ANGOITIA CORTÉS Y FUENTES

 Founded in 1994, Mijares Angoitia Cortés y Fuentes remains a “stand out” law firm in Mexico City. Offering clients a broad range of experience in a number of practice areas and different industry sectors, the firm maintains its reputation as a “key player” in the Mexican legal market. This is affirmed by an increase in listings in this year’s edition – it achieves 23 listings across 10 chapters.

RITCH MUELLER HEATHER Y NICOLAU SC

The recently merged firm Ritch Mueller Heather y Nicolau builds upon the years of experience of its respective counterparts: Ritch Mueller and Heather & Heather. The merger, which took place in mid-2013, creates a firm of 13 partners based in Mexico City. With more listings in this edition than any other law firm, Ritch Mueller demonstrates the “impressive breadth and depth of expertise” of its lawyers and their “well-earned reputations” in the legal marketplace. The firm performs particularly well in the finance and corporate sectors with many of its lawyers appearing across several practice areas.

SANTAMARINA Y STETA

Santamarina y Steta is one of Mexico’s leading corporate law firms and brings to bear over 60 years’ experience across a range of disciplines to advise clients from the private sector, government bodies and non-profit organisations. The firm is recognised as a “market leader” for transactional, M&A and real estate work, and attracts major corporate clients due to its lawyers’ “continued dedication and professionalism”. The firm performs impressively in this year’s research with 22 listings across 13 practice areas demonstrating its “depth of expertise” in numerous practice areas.

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