Market overview

Argentina might be home to a World Cup-winning football team, but it has also witnessed persistent economic and political uncertainty in recent years. Argentina is a serial...

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Argentina might be home to a World Cup-winning football team, but it has also witnessed persistent economic and political uncertainty in recent years. Argentina is a serial debt defaulter and struck a US$57 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2018, which failed and was replaced in 2022 with a new US$44 billion programme. Despite this, Argentina is once again at risk of missing debt payments.

In June 2023, economy minister – and possible presidential candidate – Sergio Massa visited the Washington, DC lender to try to unlock more IMF funds. Inflation in the country is expected to reach 145% in 2023 and the peso has fallen almost 40% against the US dollar on the black market. The IMF forecasts a pitiful 0.2% GDP growth in 2023. Safe to say that the outlook is not bright for Argentina in 2024.

In addition to the economic uncertainty, October 2023 will see general elections to replace incumbent President Alberto Fernández, who will not seek re-election. Many expect Argentina’s Peronist ruling party to win the election, with Massa as the most likely winner.

Although Argentina has been cut off from international markets since 2020, several top-tier firms have been kept busy helping Argentine provinces, including Chaco, Tierra del Fuego, Neuquén and Chubut issue debt.

Renewable energy continues to be a budding sector in Argentina, much like elsewhere in Latin America. Coupled with this burgeoning business area, lawyers in law firms’ banking and capital markets practices have been increasingly active advising on green bond offerings. Energy companies YPF Luz, Genneia and Luz de Tres Picos are just three recent examples of local players raising funds though green bond offerings, with proceeds earmarked for renewables projects across Argentina.

Work in Argentina’s traditionally lucrative oil sector is also expected to ramp up as state-owned energy company YPF announced its intention to double its oil production within the next five years. One of the world’s largest commodities traders, Trafigura, also recently entered into a US$150 million investment agreement with Mexico’s Vista for the development of three oil wells in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta.

Foreign companies looking for opportunities here will find firms that are well equipped to oversee complex deals. A number of full-service firms in Argentina offer an incredible breadth of legal services to their clients and remain keen to expand their offerings. As well as containing top-tier dealmakers, there are exceptionally strong energy, mining, administrative, litigation, arbitration, labour, intellectual property and tax lawyers within the firms in this chapter.

Argentina has a large legal market, dominated by well-established and big law firms. Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal is the largest by headcount, with more than 280 lawyers. There are only a few other firms that are home to more than 100 lawyers. While the majority of firms in this chapter are full-service, there are several respected boutiques, specialising in intellectual property and restructuring law, among others.

The leading firms in this chapter are not afraid to make eyebrow-raising moves to diversify their service offerings and add skilled lawyers specialised in non-transactional groups. In one such recent example, Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi merged with local labour boutique Funes de Rioja & Asociados, increasing its partner count by more than half. Elsewhere, Bomchil absorbed tax boutique Teijeiro & Ballone in recent years.

A handful of international firms have a presence in Argentina. Dentons and DLA Piper arrived through combinations with local firms in recent years, while Baker McKenzie (Argentina) is a more established name in the local legal market.

Most of the firms in this chapter have not explored expansion beyond Buenos Aires. However, a few have additional outposts in the cities of Córdoba, Neuquén, Mendoza, Rosario and Tigre. Others have opted for an international approach and have opened offices in New York, including Marval, Pérez Alati, Grondona, Benites & Arntsen (PAGBAM) and Alfaro Abogados. Alfaro Abogados also stands out for having a Beijing base, while PAGBAM opened an office in Santiago via an integration agreement with Chilean law firm Schwencke & Cía.

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