Panama

Market overview

Following some challenging years, Panama’s economy is set on the path to recovery – with the Inernational Monetary Fund showing the country with a more than healthy...

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Following some challenging years, Panama’s economy is set on the path to recovery – with the Inernational Monetary Fund showing the country with a more than healthy growth of 7.5% in 2022. This positive economic outlook is supported by growth in investments in the mining and infrastructure sectors, among others.

Incumbent president Laurentino Cortizo has made good on campaign pledges to fight corruption and has introduced stringent know-your-client and anti-money laundering rules since taking office, alongside solidifying the country’s trade ties with the US. Meanwhile, the economy is facing external headwinds that are pushing the cost of living and that has generated protests throughout the country in 2022.

Unfaltering in their promotion of high ethical standards, law firms across the country continue to reinforce the message that Panama makes a good place to do business. As such, leading law firms have, over the past few years, overhauled compliance structures, as well as know-your-client measures in line with recently implemented rules. Robust cybersecurity and data-protection systems have also been a key priority.

Panamanian law firms here form part of a compact and well-established market, and, as such, most of them are a quarter of a century old if not more, meaning many are firmly woven into the fabric of the society.

Traditionally, Panama has been a popular pick for many companies establishing regional headquarters, leading to an increased demand for corporate and finance matters, alongside other transactional work, for firms here. The Panama Canal expansion project further heightened demand for this area, bringing significant investment and complex cross-border transactions into the economy. Complex capital markets work also continues to occupy firms in this chapter.

The year 2022 has been no exception, with sophisticated cross-border transactions remaining active, as well as capital markets and finance mandates continuing to come in. Thankfully, there is a strong pool of lawyers across firms in this chapter, who are more than capable of catering to these needs.

An increasing number of firms in Central America have included Panama within their regional models. Panamanian firms, however, continue to be busy enough with local work so as not to feel the need to expand into Central America. As well as traditional transactional work, firms here have also been especially busy across administrative law, IP and labour law matters. The recent introduction of new data protection legislation, obligating entities in Panama to attain user consent before processing data, is also becoming an important source of work.

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