Persistent economic and political uncertainty has caused international investors to turn their backs on Argentina. In March 2022, the country secured an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to refinance $US44 billion in debt, averting an immediate crisis. This sense of assurance quickly unravelled, however, with the departure of the country’s finance minister just months later, as the result of obvious divisions within the current administration. This move has undoubtedly spooked investors. Inflation rates add to the volatility of the situation; they climbed as high as 64% in June 2022.
However, Argentina’s economic picture is not entirely negative, GDP is expected to grow 3.6% in 2022 after the country reported a bounce back in 2021.
Meanwhile, support for the current president’s agenda among the Argentine public and members of his cabinet has been unstable since taking office. There is a historically hostile attitude to the IMF and its policies, and many Argentines feel that the debt repayments stifle the government’s ability to spend on pressing social issues.
Although public borrowing looks increasingly unsustainable it does create work for law firms in this market. In 2022, several firms kept busy helping the Argentine provinces of Tierra del Fuego, Río Negro and Buenos Aires issue debt.
Elsewhere, the growth of renewable energy projects is a positive for the Argentine economy. After the government attracted unprecedented investor interest in the renewables sector from the 2019 launch of its RenovAr strategy, a growing number of Argentine companies have injected capital into sustainable and environmentally friendly projects – a trend that has gained serious momentum across Latin America in recent years. Law firms are, therefore, able to advise on sophisticated transactions in the renewables sector. In a 2022 example, the renewable energy subsidiary of state-owned energy company YPF raised US$75 million in its first-ever green bond issuance. Argentine power generator Luz de Tres Picos also issued green notes.
Firms were also busy with more traditional energy and natural resource work. Rio Tinto acquired a lithium project in northern Argentina from Australian counterpart Rincon Resources, and Mexico’s Vista Oil & Gas bought a 50% stake in two concessions in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation. Pan American Energy also secured the largest domestic credit facility obtained by a local company in the past decade.
Foreign companies looking for opportunities here will find firms that are well equipped to oversee complex deals. Full-service firms in Argentina offer an impressive breadth of legal services to their clients and continue to diversify their offerings. As well as containing star dealmakers, there are exceptionally strong energy, mining, administrative, litigation, arbitration, labour, intellectual property and tax lawyers within the firms listed in this chapter.
Argentina has a large legal market, dominated by well-established and big law firms. Size-wise, Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal is the largest by far, with a headcount of more than 280 lawyers. There are a handful of other firms that number more than 100 lawyers. Most firms in this chapter are multidisciplinary, but there are several highly rated boutique-style firms.
Notably, these leading law firms are not afraid of making bold moves in their quest to diversify their offering and add skilled lawyers specialised in non-transactional practice areas. 2022 saw Elite firm Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi merging with respected local labour boutique Funes de Rioja & Asociados, thus increasing its partner count by more than 50%. Another interesting move was Bomchil bringing local tax boutique Teijeiro & Ballone into its fold.
Compared to other Latin American markets, international firms have a modest presence. The combination of Dentons with local firm Rattagan Macchiavello Arocena was, however, recently finalised. Dentons follows in the footsteps of DLA Piper, which arrived in 2018 via a combination with local firm Cabanellas Etchebarne Kelly. Baker McKenzie (Argentina) has also had an office here for decades.
Most Argentine corporate law firms have opted not to expand beyond Buenos Aires, but a handful of firms also have offices in the cities of Córdoba, Neuquén, Mendoza, Rosario and Tigre. Others take an international approach and have opened offices in New York, including Marval, Pérez Alati, Grondona, Benites & Arntsen (PAGBAM), Alfaro Abogados and EGFA. Alfaro Abogados also stands out for having an office in Beijing, while PAGBAM recently opened an office in Santiago via an integration agreement with Chilean law firm Schwencke & Cía.