The Nicaraguan legal market has been compounded by challenges following the continued political and economic mismanagement of President Daniel Ortega’s government. This has dealt a serious blow to critical sectors of Nicaragua’s economy, which is still recovering from the global health emergency caused by the pandemic and several natural disasters over the past two years.
Following widespread protests against Ortega’s government in 2018 – which left hundreds dead and injured – restrictions on civil liberties remain in place, with many reports of human rights violations, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial imprisonments said to have been carried out by Nicaraguan authorities. A widespread media crackdown has further reduced political transparency within the country, and over the past year, the government has dismantled a large number of civil-society groups, while many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been forced to stop their operations. This has created increasing difficulties for legal practitioners, who, aside from navigating a turbulent business environment, have had to limit or end their involvement with many civil society groups, particularly in the arena of pro bono work.
Having said that, law firms in this chapter continue to bounce back resiliently. Being no strangers to challenging circumstances in Nicaragua, many firms have been focused on strengthening existing client relationships, while also seeking out new business opportunities further afield.
IP work continues to keep firms busy, while competition, due diligence and antitrust matters provide a steady stream of work. Attracting new sources of work has also been high on firms’ agendas, with reports of an uptick in fintech deals, particularly following the Nicaraguan central bank’s issuance of regulations controlling the activities of electronic payment service providers and virtual asset service providers, which were approved in 2022.
Regardless of fluctuating business levels in the country, the legal market in Nicaragua stands out for being one of Central America’s most regionalised and thus, many firms can rely on their counterpart offices during troublesome times. Of all the firms listed in this chapter, only one – Alvarado y Asociados – remains resolutely local, opting to make use of global legal networks instead of expanding. This firm is in a class of its own, an outlier in a market where family-led outfits are no longer prominent.
García & Bodán – one of the few firms to expand throughout Central America from a Nicaraguan base – is deeply entrenched. Regional heavyweight Consortium Legal is also prominent in this market, basing some of its administrative management in Managua. Both firms are the largest in this market and provide a full-service offering.
Another regional force, Arias, may have a more compact office in Nicaragua, but the firm’s stellar partnership and forward-thinking mentality surpasses what it may lack in size. BLP is another good example of this. Both have recently demonstrated their abilities to land places on big-ticket M&A deals, including several cross-border transactions.
Across the board, transactional mandates form the backbone of nearly all the firms listed. While real estate law features prominently, the political and economic crisis has substantially reduced investments in that sector.