Distinguished firm commanding respect
As the oldest firm in Uruguay, Hughes & Hughes’ long and successful history has seen the firm respond well to the highs and the lows of the country’s economic cycles. Throughout it all, it has remained a firm with considerable clout, known for its transparency, ethics and exceptionally high standards of service. Even as Uruguay faces static economic growth, Hughes & Hughes has little to worry about. In 2016 the firm grew at a level consistent with previous years and its core areas of corporate, banking and finance, litigation and labour remain busy. Moreover, the firm is looking to the future: its experience advising oil multinationals puts it in an excellent position to pick up work from the oil and gas industry, where it anticipates increased activity in the years to come.
The firm prides itself on offering clients the best possible service and continues to make investments to that effect. In 2016 it updated its invoicing systems to help lawyers from all practice groups to track what services their clients require. Its efforts to please its clients set this firm apart from competitors. One company that uses several practice groups reports: “They know our business very well and they are extremely customer-oriented and professional. We can always rely on their understanding our needs.”
Hughes & Hughes is led by the reputable Marcela Hughes. The firm does not have a dedicated management committee, instead choosing to include all of the partnership in the running of the firm.
Hughes & Hughes has a consulting office in Montevideo’s free trade zone, Zonamerica, which provides offshore services to international clients, and a presence in Uruguay’s other free trade zones.
Some of Hughes & Hughes’ biggest clients are international; they include European forestry company UPM, Spanish bank BBVA, the Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s and Dutch manufacturer AkzoNobel.
Corporate and M&A
Key partners: Marcela Hughes is held in extremely high regard in Uruguay’s legal community and further afield; she has a loyal client following, with one naming her the one of the best lawyers in Uruguay. Haroldo Espalter is similarly well received, with a client drawing attention to his professionalism and reliability. Both practice co-heads are recommended in LACCA Approved.
Analysis: This is one of Hughes & Hughes’ most successful practices, evidenced by how pleased clients are by the services on offer. They appreciate the ability, availability and flexibility of the team’s lawyers. One says: “they quickly understand the issues under consideration and provide prompt and clear advice.” A lawyer from a firm that has worked alongside the corporate team, says: “Hughes & Hughes is very assertive and competent with its demands, always doing their best to conclude the ongoing issues.” The department has done particularly impressive work in the energy sector on behalf of major oil and gas and renewables companies, but it is also visible in other sectors, such as retail.
Banking & finance
Key partners: Haroldo Espalter (who, according to one client, has an understanding of financial issues beyond that usually seen in most corporate lawyers), Héctor Ferreira and Juan Oreggia together co-lead this department. Oreggia, who is recommended in LACCA Approved, joined in 2016, having formerly helped lead the highly regarded banking and finance team of rival firm Posadas, Posadas & Vecino.
Analysis: This strong department advises clients on complex financing structures, including capital markets issuances. The group has valuable experience advising multilateral and international lenders, such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. It also works with debtors and has helped companies restructure their debts.
Project finance & infrastructure
Key partners: Haroldo Espalter
Analysis: Hughes & Hughes has much experience advising borrowers looking for project financing for renewable energy projects. Besides that, it has advised private-sector clients interested in utilising Uruguay’s PPP legislation. Several of the firm’s partners have done work for the Uruguayan development corporation, which has involved consultations with the UK and Australian governments about possible PPPs.
Key partners: Bernardo Porras, Alfredo Taullard and of counsel César Alvarez Larraburu, who comes recommended in LACCA Approved.
Analysis: The department is one Hughes & Hughes’ largest and most respected, with one client saying they appreciate how lawyers’ here value being close to their clients. The group’s experience extends to collective action suits, non-compliance claims in cross-border M&A deals, discrimination litigation and breach of contract disputes. Clients from the banking sector are a mainstay.
Work highlights: The firm is defending Finish pulp mill operator UPM and its local subsidiary in an alleged breach of contract and abuse of dominance case. The high-stakes case requires a complete review of the UPM subsidiary’s contracts and could have a serious impact on its commercial relationship with other companies.
Key partners: Haroldo Espalter
Analysis: Hughes & Hughes’ energy practice is impressive. Over the past five years, the firm has muscled its way into various major energy deals. The practice group, which has a large number of lawyers dedicated to it for a mid-sized Uruguayan firm, has experience advising clients in both the renewables sector and in the offshore hydrocarbons industry.
Work highlights: The firm recently helped regular client Statoil sign a farm-in agreement with UK oil explorer Tullow, giving the Norwegian energy company a stake in an oil block off the coast of Uruguay.
Key partner: Mariana Estrade (senior associate).
Analysis: Hughes & Hughes’ environmental practice is small, but one of Uruguay’s most capable. Department head Mariana Estrade has broad experience and regularly plays a critical role in multidisciplinary cases. Her practice is highly specialised, covering the environmental implications of offshore drilling, heavy industry compliance and the corporate sponsorship of nature reserves.
Work highlights: The firm is helping a subsidiary of Finnish pulp mill operator UPM establish and operate a nature reserve on the Rio Negro.
Key partner: Enrique Radmilovich, who is recognised in LACCA Approved.
Analysis: Hughes & Hughes’ labour team is top-tier in Uruguay. Large local and foreign companies regularly call on the firm for advice on hiring and firing employees, social security matters, and claims. Excellent knowledge of immigration law and cross-border restructuring complements this offering. As a result, the department is rarely lacking in work and has gained a reputation for professionalism. A firm that has worked alongside this department describes the counsel found here as “fast, business-oriented [and] excellent client service.” Another client describes the work done here as “very high quality” by an “extremely responsive” team.
Work highlights: German industrial conglomerate Siemens recently hired the firm to temporarily assign foreign employees to posts in Uruguay. Spanish warehousing company Megalux is another regular client, relying on Hughes & Hughes for labour advice in the country.
Key partners: Bernardo Porras
Analysis: The team has been active in bidding proceedings across a range of industries. One client praises this department for being “very effective” and giving “prompt and practical responses”.
Key partner: Hector Ferreira
Analysis: Hughes & Hughes has an established corporate governance practice. The firm can very capably balance restructuring work with the overhaul of a client’s corporate governance structure. It also stands out for racking up experience in shareholder disputes. Clients looking to start companies in novel markets, such as peer-to-peer lending, are known to seek out Hughes & Hughes for corporate governance assistance as well as regulatory matters.
Work highlights: A Brazilian company is relying on the firm to overhaul its local operations in a multidisciplinary project that will require a new corporate governance structure. Hughes & Hughes also recently advised a major shareholder that raised corporate governance concerns after its company’s shares were pledged as collateral in a financing agreement.
Analysis: Hughes & Hughes is involved in several pro bono projects, such as América Solidaria, an NGO that promotes Latin American integration through volunteer programmes; the Uruguayan Scout Movement; and the Laptop Per Child Foundation.