Market overview

In the final days of 2022, Dina Boluarte became Peru’s first female president. Her inauguration came just hours after her predecessor Pedro Castillo was impeached for attempting...

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In the final days of 2022, Dina Boluarte became Peru’s first female president. Her inauguration came just hours after her predecessor Pedro Castillo was impeached for attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by degree. While Boluarte’s tenure has not gotten off to the smoothest of starts – having already faced an attempted impeachment – political turmoil and instability is not new to Peru, or its law firms.

Previously serving as Castillo’s vice president, Boluarte became Peru’s sixth president in five years. Her first few months in office were marred by political protests. Some Latin American governments – including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela – have continued to recognise Castillo as Peru’s president and have refused to recognise Boluarte, as the attorney general investigates her administration on allegations of genocide and human rights violations.

The constant turnover of government, social unrest – including violent anti-government protests – coupled with the rotation of senior cabinet members, has left foreign investors weary and dealt serious blows to critical sectors of Peru’s economy. Foreign players are unwilling to invest in the country’s infrastructure, while private equity investment remains low.

But law firms here are resilient. Outfits in Peru’s small but competitive legal market are quick to adapt and have weathered the recent political storm. There are a handful of leading firms that continue to dominate the market, boasting full-service offerings to a healthy, diverse clientele. A series of top-quality boutique firms offer clients specialised, flexible and cost-effective alternatives to the larger, full-service outfits.

Rodrigo, Elías & Medrano Abogados continues to act as the benchmark to which all other Peruvian firms aspire. It remains the gold standard in the market for nearly every single practice area. Miranda & Amado Abogados, Estudio Echecopar member firm of Baker McKenzie International, and Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados are not far behind it, often featuring on the other side of the negotiating table. Other firms – such as Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría (Peru) and Rebaza, Alcázar & De Las Casas – have gained ground in recent years and are now competing for places on mandates with the market leaders.

The Peruvian legal environment has been home to the same top-level players for decades, with these firms winning favour with some of the largest domestic and regional clients. These older outfits are implementing modern management styles and institutionalising their structures as new firms burst onto the scene. Practice area-focused boutiques have also sprung into action recently, with some catering to clients in the tech and start-up sectors.

Nevertheless, international firms – often outfits with more than one outpost across Latin America – continue to invest funds into their Peruvian offices, with favourable results attracting clients looking for a holistic approach to dealmaking. Three global players, namely DLA Piper LLP, CMS and Dentons, have established themselves in the country by merging with local outfits. All three now have solid reputations in the local market for a variety of top-notch offerings.

In recent years, a series of highly regarded Spanish firms have also targeted the Peruvian legal market. Uría Menéndez (through cross-border law firm Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría) and Garrigues have fortified their local offices and are now regularly appearing on big-ticket mandates. Although Cuatrecasas landed in Lima a few years later, a series of strategic – and punchy – lateral hires has quickly placed it among other top contenders in this market.

Lawyers at Peruvian law firms are well equipped to handle a variety of sophisticated work. Corporate and M&A activity has remained strong– despite the political instability – and lawyers in this area are often called upon for financing mandates too. Although project finance mandates are few and far between nowadays, firms here still field highly skilled infrastructure teams, experienced in financing transactions thanks to the prior administrations’ investment plans. Beyond the transactional practice areas, law firms have a wealth of talent on hand to advise on other practices, including tax, labour and intellectual property. Disputes practices have been particularly busy of late, as companies seek recompense on undelivered projects and contracts. Mining remains a core part of Peru’s economy, and lawyers from both full-service and boutique firms are active in this area, despite investment shortages of late.

Lima – in particular San Isidro – is the heart of Peru’s legal market. Just one firm listed in this chapter can be described as having a truly national presence: Muñiz, Olaya, Meléndez, Castro, Ono & Herrera – the country’s largest firm by lawyer count – has a total of 11 offices across the country, an unparalleled feat in this market.

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