Peru

Market overview

President Pedro Castillo’s first year in office has been far from smooth sailing. Political inexperience, indecision and a weak mandate have resulted in a year of hesitancy...

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President Pedro Castillo’s first year in office has been far from smooth sailing. Political inexperience, indecision and a weak mandate have resulted in a year of hesitancy and inaction. The political turmoil and instability that has plagued Peru for so many years has not yet dispersed, denting business and investor confidence and ultimately reducing deal flow for law firms.

Castillo’s election – a victory by just 72,000 votes – came as a surprise to many. A farmer and schoolteacher from the Andes, he had no previous experience of public office when he won the election. He campaigned on a platform to rewrite the country’s Constitution and implement far-reaching economic reform. However, since his inauguration, Castillo has made several U-turns on his proposed policies. Castillo is now on his fourth prime minister since his arrival in office, after Guido Bellido and Mirtha Vásquez quit, while the third candidate – Héctor Valer – was prime minister for just four days before resigning. The constant turnover of his cabinet has left Castillo’s left-wing government in disarray. To add fuel to the fire, in June 2022, Castillo himself was questioned by Peruvian prosecutors as part of an investigation into alleged corruption by officials in his cabinet.

With contradictions from senior cabinet members regarding key aspects of the president’s policies, it is no wonder that investment is drying up in Peru. Foreign players are unwilling to invest in the country’s infrastructure, while private equity investment remains low.

Nevertheless, firms in Peru’s small but competitive legal market are quick to adapt and have weathered the political storm in recent decades. A few leading firms dominate the scene with impressive full-service offerings, whilst a wide range of high-quality compact outfits are on hand to provide more specialised, flexible and cost-effective advice to clients.

For firms with their sights set on competing with their top-tier competitors, Rodrigo, Elías & Medrano Abogados remains the gold standard. It is widely considered the best in the market in nearly every single practice area. Miranda & Amado Abogados, Estudio Echecopar member firm of Baker McKenzie International and Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados are snapping at its heels and are quick to pick up work across the negotiating table. Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría (Peru) and Rebaza, Alcázar & De Las Casas have gained ground in recent years and are now competing with the market’s very best. 

The market leaders have been around for decades, winning them prestigious reputations with clients. Now, they are keen to adopt more modern management styles and institutionalise their structures as dynamic young firms pose a threat. The market has seen more specialist boutiques pop up, catering to clients in the ever-growing tech and start-up sectors. However, newer firms cannot rest on their laurels as they face a new round of competition from international firms prepared to pour money into solid local outfits.

Foreign arrivals have come from several places. Three global players, DLA Piper LLP, CMS and Dentons, have established themselves in the country by merging with Pizarro, Botto & Escobar Abogados, Grau Abogados and Gallo Barrios, respectively. All have now accumulated a few years of experience in the local market.

Spanish firms have also targeted the Andean nation. Uría Menéndez (through cross-border law firm Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría) and Garrigues have built strong reputations since establishing their local presence and now frequently appear on transactions. Cuatrecasas came a few years later with an aggressive lateral hiring strategy, poaching top-tier talent from rival firms. Since then, it has slowly grown its profile, winning a seat on transactional mandates.

Companies requiring legal services in Peru will find a large supply of talented lawyers capable of handling sophisticated work across several practice areas. Although project finance work is becoming less frequent, firms here have highly skilled infrastructure teams, experienced in financing transactions thanks to earlier administrations’ investment plans. In addition to transactional lawyers who can oversee a range of corporate and financing mandates, firms also have deep benches in other practice areas that one might expect in an economy of this size, including tax, labour, disputes and intellectual property. Mining remains an integral part of Peru’s economy, and lawyers from both full-service and boutique firms are kept busy by this bustling industry.

Lima is the beating heart of Peru’s legal market, with just one firm in this chapter 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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