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Latin Lawyer 250 2017

Posse Herrera Ruiz

Colombia

Modern transactional heavyweight

  • Established: 1995
  • Partners: 16
  • Total lawyers: 126

This is a top-tier firm in Colombia.  Posse Herrera Ruiz has a winning reputation for transactions and is a go-to name for other legal services, such as disputes and tax. The firm’s intellectual property capabilities are substantial, while insurance and real estate are current areas of focus. Indeed, this firm fields a leading team in most of the work it does.

Despite an already outstanding offering, the firm is seeking to up its game yet further by providing increasingly bespoke legal advice; it is looking to drive this shift by hiring more senior lawyers.

Posse Herrera is also keenly aware of the increasing international flavour of legal services and in 2016 established a joint venture with leading Spanish firm Cuatrecasas, which operates under the name Posse Herrera Ruiz + Cuatrecasas.

The tie-up involves two of the Spanish firm’s lawyers working in Bogotá and a certain amount of integration. However, the alliance requires exclusivity only for work between Iberia and Colombia. Posse Herrera insisted on this last point since it did not want to lose ‘best friends’ relationships with leading law firms in the region and elsewhere.

Recent internal developments include a more clearly-defined career ladder whereby lawyers earn points that let them take part in running the firm, and investment in the firm’s infrastructure. 

Posse Herrera’s approach seems to be working: clients line up to sing the firm’s praises, highlighting its lawyers’ practical advice, ability to identify solutions to complex situations and anticipate the impact of regulatory change. 

Offices

The firm has offices in Bogotá, Colombia’s second city Medellín, and Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast. The joint venture with Cuatrecasas also gives Posse Herrera very strong links to a network of offices in Spain and Portugal and a foreign law consultancy in Brazil.

Alliances & networks

Posse Herrera Ruiz is a member of Meritas and recently joined three other networks: ADVOC, the International Network of Boutique Law Firms and the Employment Law Alliance.

Clients

Posse Herrera’s client book befits its status as a heavyweight in the market. It includes energy companies Anadarko, Petrobras and Ecopetrol-unit Reficar; insurance companies The Travelers Companies, Royal and Sun Alliance and AIG; retailer Cencosud and bottler Femsa, as well as conglomerates such as Grupo Sura and Maersk. Other notable clients include investment manager Macquarie Capital, Subaru-owner Fuji Heavy Industries, alcoholic drinks group Diageo, and local and international banks.

Practice Areas

Corporate and M&A

Key partners: Managing partner Jaime Herrera – who comes recommended in LACCA Approved, in-house counsel research conducted by Latin Lawyer’s sister association, the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association - is one of the highest-profile figures here and regularly features on the counsel lists of Colombia’s complex, cross-border deals. José Alejandro Torres and Jaime Cubillos are other notable dealmakers. Ernesto Cavelier, who is best known for IP work, is tasked with providing general corporate advice.

Analysis: This is an outstanding and very large corporate and M&A department capable of staffing multiple complex, multijurisdictional deals simultaneously, in range of different sectors - including insurance, energy, aviation and construction. A client recently commended the department for its ability to “provide legal services bearing in mind the strategy of the business and the impact on the market.”

Top deals

Banking & finance

Key partners: Mariana Posse (LACCA Approved) is a key name, praised for her willingness to work with in-house counsel “on a daily, sometimes hourly basis”. Jaime Herrera juggles his busy M&A practice with capital markets work, while Andrés Montoya, who does trust and real estate work, is also noted. Praised for her business knowledge and professionalism, Alessia Abello combines experience in project financing and private equity to make herself an integral part of the team.

Analysis: This is a well-regarded practice that covers any work related to banking, finance and capital markets. Advising local and international banks in multi-jurisdictional financings has been the mainstay of the department of late.

Top deals

Project finance & infrastructure

Key partners: José Alejandro Torres (LACCA Approved) heads the infrastructure area and is known for his work on hydroelectric project financings, while Jaime Herrera is also noted for his work advising international clients. Alessia Abello, who comes recommended in LACCA Approved, adds further depth to the team. Ana Lucia Barrientos, who leads Posse Herrera’s Medellín office and is supported by a team of four associates, is busy here too.

Analysis: Posse Herrera combines its project finance and infrastructure services with its administrative department to produce an offering that appeals to banks, sponsors and multilaterals alike. Services range from the legal structuring of projects to steering clients through public tenders, advising in PPP projects and litigation and resolving contractual issues. A multi-million dollar dual currency, dual-tranche financing for a 4G infrastructure programme toll-road project gives a flavour of the kind of work the team is capable of.

Top deals

Most recent deals

Litigation

Key partners: Daniel Posse (recognised in LACCA Approved) is renowned for his dispute resolving capabilities. His experience, intelligence and negotiation skills are singled out for praise by clients. Carolina Posada and Juan Pablo Bonilla are also very well-received, with one client saying the latter “knows the procedures very well and instills confidence in his clients”.

Analysis: It is hard to beat Posse Herrera when it comes to disputes. The market-leading litigation team has an excellent reputation, helped by its success in fighting large cases on behalf of multinational clients. Diageo is one company to recently hire the firm for a dispute with the Colombian government, while a major miner and a Japanese conglomerate have also turned to the department with similarly high profile cases. A client points out that the team ‘produces results’.

Work highlights: The department is helping alcoholic drinks conglomerate Diageo design a strategy to force the Colombian government to comply with free trade obligations that the company alleges it is not fulfilling. In another ongoing case, a major mining company has turned to the team to fight an increase to royalty payments, while Subaru-owner Fuji Heavy Industries has employed the firm for an unfair competition claim.

Arbitration

Key partners:  Daniel Posse (LACCA Approved) is held in high regard as head of the firm’s disputes practice. Posse’s experience, intelligence and negotiation skills have won praise from clients.

Analysis: Posse Herrera’s strong name in litigation extends to arbitration. This is a well-stocked team that is comfortable handling high-profile international cases. The US$2 billion ICC claim the firm is currently working on suggests the calibre of this firm’s arbitration department.

Work highlights: The department is acting as local counsel to Reficar, a unit of state oil and gas company Ecopetrol, which filed a US$2 billion ICC claim for fraud and gross negligence in connection with one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects – the upgrade of an oil refinery in the port city of Cartagena. At the same time, the firm is representing a bioenergy company in an ICC arbitration over a contract to build an ethanol plant. Another case involves a dispute over damage to runways at a local airport.

Mining & metals

Key partners: Partner Álvaro José Rodríguez and Francisco Urrutia, who is now counsel at the firm.

Analysis: A leader in mining, Posse Herrera leverages a large team to staff a wide variety of work linked to the sector - from defending companies in administrative proceedings and helping them find strategic partners for projects, to providing day-to-day advice or help buying and selling mining titles. The firm’s dedication to providing good service is such that it places lawyers on secondment in clients’ offices.

Work highlights: Posse Herrera is helping one client vet partners to help develop a copper project. This involves reviewing and organising the data room and clarifying issues of interest to potential partners, such as prior consultation with ethnic communities and conflicts between mining activities and city zoning plans.

Energy

Key partners: Álvaro José Rodríguez is commended for his understanding of the internal requirements of publicly-listed companies. One client says Rodríguez is “very knowledgeable [and] very good in the oil and gas sector”. He and Francisco Urrutia, now counsel, are recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: As in most of what it does, Posse Herrera is one of the best when it comes to energy, advising clients in the oil and gas, power generation and renewable sectors. The department’s expertise in developing greenfield projects, negotiating farm-out contracts, drafting EPC contracts and devising strategies to secure the best fiscal terms available for projects is in high demand.

Work highlights: US petroleum company Anadarko has hired the firm to work on several projects, including the drilling of two offshore deep-water wells, and for assistance in applying for free trade status for nine of its offshore exploration blocks. The firm is also helping Australian investment manager Macquarie Capital with a greenfield development of three run-of-river power generation projects.

Environment

Key partners: Álvaro José Rodríguez leverages his first-hand experience advising the Ministry of Environment during the Kyoto negotiations.

Analysis: Traditionally, the energy sector is a steady source of work: the team provides defence in administrative environmental sanctioning proceedings, and covers legal proceedings relating to permitting, consultation with ethnic communities, land use and the implementation and enforceability of environmental licences for energy projects.

Work highlights: The team is currently providing environmental advice to the concessionaire in charge of the Bogotá international airport expansion project, representing an oil and gas company in administrative environmental sanctioning proceedings related to a naphtha spill, and helping a client with the permits related to a coal-fired power station.

Tax

Key partners: Name partner Juan Guillermo Ruíz leads the department and comes recommended by LACCA Approved and clients; one praises his “ability to identify solutions to complex situations through thorough analysis of all possible courses of action”. In 2016, he became the new president of the Colombian Tax Law Institute, where he played a key role in structuring the much-vaunted tax reform. Ana Lucía Barrientos takes the reins in Colombia’s second city of Medellín, while Felipe Aroca (LACCA Approved) oversees the firm’s tax offering in the Barranquilla office.

Analysis: Posse Herrera has one of the larger, most highly-regarded tax departments in Colombia, with teams based in three cities across the country. The firm is known for its knowledge of transfer pricing litigation processes, while oil companies regularly hire the tax team to structure the tax and customs aspects of their offshore oil operations in Colombia. Other clients that have drawn on the team for tax planning advice include financial institutions, such as Banco Itaú and Scotiabank, as well as investment funds. The tax department also includes a wealth management practice, which advises high net worth individuals on tax issues.

Work highlights: Posse Herrera Ruiz is giving tax advice to Grupo Sura regarding its acquisition of JP Morgan’s stake in its affiliate Sura Asset Management.

Intellectual property

Key partners: Helena Camargo and Ernesto Cavelier (LACCA Approved) lead the area.

Analysis: Posse Herrera offers a complete range of services to clients, including patent and trademark prosecution, copyrights, health registrations, enforcement of rights and litigation. The respected team handles the worldwide trademark portfolios of well-known Colombian companies.

Work highlights: The firm recently provided Danish conglomerate Maersk with patent advice regarding an offshore drilling method and trademark protection for a bank. The firm is also helping local cosmetics company Prebel carry out an audit of its domestic and international trademark portfolio and recommending protection strategies.

Trade

Key partners: Juan David Barbosa, who has more than a decade of experience in customs and international trade and has authored a book and several academic papers on the subject. He is assisted by a team of associates.

Analysis: The team handles a growing roster of clients, due in no small part to the Colombia–US free trade agreement. US companies across various industries have turned to the department, while the firm’s clients in other practice areas have retained the team for advice on import taxes and to draw up efficient export strategies. Interpreting free trade agreements, such as that of the Pacific Alliance, from an international and local context is one of the team’s specialties. The firm has assisted foreign exporters and importers in the sportswear industry and a footwear manufacturer during antidumping investigations in Colombia. Customs valuation and customs classification litigation have also generated revenue.

Labour

Key partners: Carolina Camacho is recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: An 11-strong department is testament to time and money Posse Herrera has invested to build its profile in labour law. The team provides advice on social security issues, compliance, immigration compensation plans and management of expatriate staff. Acting for companies in labour litigation and collective bargaining processes, and assisting the transactional departments with due diligence are strong suits for the team.

Work highlights: The team negotiated settlements with employees on behalf of a cable manufacturer, also saving the client more than US$1 million by helping it change its hiring practices. An Australian engineering company hired the firm for representation in a lawsuit filed by an employee. Lawyers also acted for a Chilean retail company in a claim against the local pension authority.

Antitrust & competition

Key partners: Jaime Herrera, who handles merger approvals, and Daniel Posse, who covers restrictive business practices.

Analysis: This team provides in-depth antitrust analysis for clients’ M&A deals, as well as defending multinational companies against allegations of anticompetitive behaviour made by local authorities.

Work highlights: The department recently helped Mexican retailer Femsa seek approval from Colombia’s antitrust body for its acquisition of Chile’s leading pharmacy chain, Cruz Verde. This was a complex filing that involved an in-depth analysis of Femsa’s geographic coverage. The team is also helping a large drinks company file a lawsuit against a local authority that accuses it of anticompetitive conduct.

Administrative law

Key partners: Alessia Abello, who is recommended in LACCA Approved, leads the practice.

Analysis: The practice area works closely with the firm’s busy project finance department to provide clients embarking on infrastructure projects with a one-stop shop. The team also represents clients in administrative proceedings.

Work highlights: A focus on infrastructure work has seen Posse Herrera Ruiz’s administrative lawyers negotiate with the National Agency of Infrastructure on behalf of an airport runway concessionaire and structure a PPP project for a train company. On the contentious front, the firm is representing Brazilian aircraft constructor Embraer in administrative proceedings against the Colombian defence ministry.

Insurance & reinsurance

Key partners: Oscar Tutasaura

Analysis: This large team is regularly called on by international insurers looking to incorporate offices or buy assets in the country. Claims, the drafting of policies, and litigation proceedings are also covered by the department.

Work highlights: The department helped US insurer The Travelers Companies and its local subsidiary J Malucelli Seguradora buy a controlling stake in Colombian counterpart Cardinal Compañía de Seguros, and acted as Colombian counsel to Royal and Sun Alliance of the sale of its Latin American businesses to Suramericana.

Pro bono

Analysis: The firm is the permanent legal advisor to Fundación Puentes por la Esperaza, an NGO that builds pedestrian bridges for rural communities to improve their access to hospitals, schools, banks and other public entities.


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