Arias’ San Salvador office is the jewel in its regional crown. The firm easily leads the Salvadorian market by size and dominates much of the country’s cross-border transactions. It owes much of its success to pioneering the regional model that so many of its competitors have sought to emulate. However, its status as market leader is also down to its lawyers, a very impressive number of whom are recommended in LACCA Approved, in-house counsel research conducted by Latin Lawyer’s sister publication, the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association. Clients single out diligence and professionalism as their hallmark qualities.
Arias’ high level of service extends beyond the transactional space to areas like tax, labour, litigation and intellectual property. Again, the firm’s prestige in each of these disciplines is widely recognised, helping ensure an offering that is truly full service.
In 2016, Arias’ co-founders in Costa Rica split from the firm, ending the 18-year Arias & Muñoz alliance and resulting in its rebranding. A large number of lawyers left for the new entrant in San José, but no departures occurred outside of the country. Arias, which was co-founded in El Salvador, is now undergoing a consolidation process. It is in a good position to emerge fit for the fight, having retained the bulk of its partnership in Costa Rica as well as its presence in every other Central American jurisdiction.
Arias has seven offices: in the capital cities of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and an additional office in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Alliances & networks
The firm is member of the Pacific Rim Advisory Council and the World Law Group.
Big clients include development bank Bladex, sportswear maker Nike, Honduran realtor Grupo Terra and Salvadorian retailer Unicomer.
Banking & finance
Key partners: Armando Arias and Zygmunt Brett, both of whom are recognised in LACCA Approved, and Roberta Gallardo.
Analysis: Arias’ banking and finance practice is one the country’s best. Its highly-rated lawyers invariably land a place on El Salvador’s biggest cross-border financings. The team’s expertise extends to the insurance and reinsurance sector as well. Clients come from both sides of the table, although Arias reports more deals as counsel to lenders.
Corporate and M&A
Key partners: Lilian Arias, who is recognised in LACCA Approved, Zygmunt Bret and Ana Mercedes López.
Analysis: Another superb offering, Arias’ corporate and finance team is among the country’s busiest and best. Clients have recently come from the real estate, finance and retail sectors as well as the private equity world. If there is a big-ticket acquisition in the country, chances are that members of this team are involved.
Most recent deals
Key partners: Luis Barahona, who is recognised in LACCA Approved.
Analysis: Arias’ sizeable tax department has an impressively high work load. Its lawyers work with the transactional team on the tax aspects of acquisitions, and are more than capable of finding successful solutions to complex tax scenarios.
Work highlights: Arias’ San Salvador branch recently helped a plastic manufacturer operating in a Salvadorian free trade zone retain special tax treatment in Costa Rica and Guatemala under DR-CAFTA rules, setting an important precedent for other countries governed by the treaty.
Key partners: Eduardo Angel
Analysis: Arias is one the most respected firms for arbitration in Central America and the San Salvador branch is no exception. Notably, it helped Italian power company Enel win a US$280 million award from the government in 2015 after proceedings lasting seven years.
Key partners: Eduardo Angel, who is recognised in LACCA Approved.
Analysis: Arias has an excellent ligation department. The firm’s cross-border reach and international awareness is flagged by clients as a powerful asset in this area of law.
Key partners: Morena Zavaleta, who is recognised in LACCA Approved .
Analysis: Arias’ IP office is well-respected and very capably led. In addition to registration and copyright counsel, the firm also provides litigation services.
Analysis: The firm is listed by Latin Lawyer as a Leading Light for its pro bono work. Arias’ recent work centres on the impoverished town of Tacuba in western El Salvador, where its lawyers have been providing legal assistance to local families that want to formalise long-term partnerships through marriage. Other recent beneficiaries include Banco de Alimentos, SOS Aldeas Infantiles, Fundación Afecto, Fundación Exodo, Funpres, the Asociación Pro-Ropero Hospital Benjamín Bloom and the Medical Missions Foundation.