Adrián Magallanes earns widespread praise from sources thanks to his expert handling of complex civil and commercial litigation proceedings.
Adrián is co-head of the arbitration and litigation practice groups at Von Wobeser y Sierra and co-leads its energy and natural resources industry group. He has appeared as counsel in ad hoc and institutional arbitrations organised under the ICSID, ICC, UNCITRAL, LCIA and AAA-ICDR rules, among others. He also acts as arbitrator. He has vast experience in litigating before Mexican courts and is vice chair of the Rule of Law Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM).
How have you adapted to conducting litigation proceedings virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic?
We have adapted well. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, oversight and communication were issues that caused me concern, as well as the lack of access to IT support. Ultimately, the software investments we made have rendered these as non-issues, and in fact our degree of communication has probably increased. Nevertheless, the Mexican court system is still to some extent reliant on in-person inspections of case materials and we remain indebted to those law clerks and attorneys that have continued to attend courts.
Which types of disputes have you seen arising from the different types of contracts you are seeing?
We have seen a broad range of contract breaches across many industries deriving from the economic and logistical consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, including project delays, rent non-payments, insurance claims, non-compliance with services agreements, among others. We have dealt with many applications for interim relief and emergency proceedings, and the scope of force majeure has been a recurring legal issue. Disputes in the energy industry have significantly increased.
How have changes in the energy industry by the regulator led to changing demands from clients?
Many of our renewable energy clients, who first invested in Mexico because of the 2013 energy reform, are anxious to understand their rights under Mexican constitutional law as well as under Mexico’s international treaty regime due to the recent measures. We have had to move rapidly to file constitutional lawsuits, while ensuring that in doing so we do not impact upon any particular clients’ rights in international law.
How do you anticipate changes to the Energy Industry Act will impact consumers and private investment into Mexico?
At this stage it is difficult to say, as the intended changes set out in the proposed law amendments are currently suspended following a series of constitutional (amparo) challenges. However, the turbulence has already detrimentally impacted upon the value of private investments in the energy sector, and particularly many ongoing renewable energy projects have faced impacts with respect to their interconnection to the national grid. The changes thus far sought would involve a reversion away from the principle of free competition underlying the 2013 energy reform, towards a system of CFE/PEMEX market control. For consumers, we can therefore anticipate that any such reduction in competition would likely have a negative impact on the price of electricity, as well as on Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Why do class actions continue to be in demand and how do you see them developing in the future?
Class action lawsuits are an essential tenet of consumer protection and I do not imagine that shall change. As the world becomes more interconnected, I imagine that the ease of organising class actions shall only increase and I anticipate that cross-border proceedings will likely increase. I expect that class action plaintiffs will become more organised, and in the coming years we will likely see more coordination among various jurisdictions, at least in the US and Mexico. The development of the class action procedure in Mexico shall depend in part on the courts’ interpretation of their regulation, specifically the rules on ‘standing’ for class action members, and on whether an opt-out mechanism can be implemented in the system.
How has the Von Wobeser y Sierra team developed a strength in obtaining injunctions?
Applying for injunctions in Mexican courts and before arbitral tribunals has been a core element of our work for more than 20 years, and the lessons learned have always been passed down throughout the dispute resolution team. Having dealt with as many interim relief applications as we have – from both the applicant and respondent perspectives – we are today familiar with the fundamental elements that any successful application must have, as well as the strategies that simply do not work. Injunctions in our practice are of utmost importance; they often lead to settlements.
How does diversity and inclusion form an important part of Von Wobeser y Sierra’s culture?
We value enormously the diversity of our talent pool and have long actively sought to ensure that our recruitment policy and office culture are welcoming of people from all backgrounds. We have long understood that the introduction of diverse ways of thinking and working strengthen our practice – it is why we first set up our foreign attorney programme more than two decades ago. We maintain a specialist diversity committee in our firm, and we organise regular workshops and trainings, with a view to in the future establishing as diversity-rich a practice as possible.
What are the main ways Von Wobeser y Sierra distinguishes itself from its competitors?
We are one of the only Mexican law firms to benefit from a full practice, indeed one that has critically acclaimed practices across various fields of both transactional law and dispute resolution – all within the same office. We can therefore offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ to our clients. This also particularly strengthens our dispute resolution practice, as it enables us to instantly tap into the knowledge of leading lawyers across all areas of commercial law; and, valuably, often we work alongside the same transactional lawyers that established the legal relationship that is the subject of the relevant dispute.
Our hallmarks include highly selective recruitment and hands-on training by the senior attorneys of the firm. Most uniquely, those mentors include two retired justices of the Mexican Supreme Court, Mr Guillermo Ortiz Mayagoitia (former president of the Supreme Court) and Ms Margarita Luna Ramos. Their advice is invaluable to us and their role at the firm is highly related to the preparation of our younger attorneys. Just to mention one example, once a week they moderate a breakfast meeting with all litigation associates to discuss the newest judicial criteria issued by Mexican courts.