Peru has one of Latin America’s more competitive legal markets. Firms are large given the economy’s size, and many have full-service offerings. There is also a range of high-quality smaller outfits to choose from for those clients seeking specialists or flexible and cost-efficient alternatives.
Tough competition has led traditional outfits with prestigious reputations to adopt more modern styles of management as the dynamic younger firms snap at their heels. In recent years, the market has also seen more specialised boutiques pop up, catering to clients in the evolving tech and start-up sectors. There are examples of both in the top tier of Peru’s marketplace. However, the newer firms that have now established their names cannot rest on their laurels. They too face a new round of competition, this time from a wave of international firms prepared to pour money into solid local outfits.
Foreign arrivals have come from several places. Three global players, DLA Piper, 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’ experience in the local market. Professional services firm EY broke into the local legal market recently too, and counts experienced lawyers in its team following hires from established firms.
Spanish firms have also targeted the country and are now firmly established. Both Uría Menéndez (through cross-border law firm Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría) and Garrigues have made a splash since establishing their presence in the country and regularly appear on transactions in Peru. In 2019, they were accompanied by another Iberian heavyweight, Cuatrecasas, which poached from some of the best in the market. Since then, it has slowly grown its profile, landing transactional mandates. Meanwhile, the Affinitas group of firms, which includes Peru’s Miranda & Amado alongside top-tier counterparts in Chile, Colombia and Mexico, has laid out a strategy to forge closer ties.
Companies requiring legal services in Peru will find a large supply of talented lawyers capable of handling sophisticated work in a wide range of practice areas. Peruvian law firms have highly capable project finance teams, which have built up experience in cutting-edge financing transactions thanks to earlier administrations’ infrastructure investment plans. There is also a large pool of highly skilled transactional lawyers who have had ample experience of complex deals given that Peru has been high on investors’ list of priorities for several years. 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 expertise is another constant of the Peruvian legal market; it remains excellently catered for by several full-service law firms and boutiques. Some firms are branching out into other specialised fields, such as agribusiness and fishing law, both of which are key sectors in the country’s economy.
For those firms that have the summit of the market in their crosshairs, Rodrigo, Elías & Medrano Abogados remains the gold standard. It is widely considered the best in the market in nearly every single practice area. Other candidates for the crown include Miranda & Amado Abogados and Estudio Echecopar, a member firm of Baker McKenzie, while Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados is also in the picture. Increasingly gaining ground are Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría and Rebaza, Alcázar & De Las Casas, and an eye should also be kept on Hernández & Cía Abogados, which has expanded rapidly over several years and is determined to compete with the very best.
Political turmoil has continued to permeate Peru. After an outcry over corruption toppled the Kuczynski administration in 2018, his successor, Marín Vizcarra, stepped down in 2020 following alleged involvement in corruption. The country saw three presidents in a week in November 2020 (including Vizcarra), with Francisco Sagasti leading the country until the 2021 elections. Left-wing Pedro Castillo assumed the presidency in July, following a narrow electoral victory over right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori. The tumult has hit deal flow: corruption and political instability have led to fewer project finance opportunities, while private equity investment remains down.
As in several other left-leaning governmental regimes in Latin America, Castillo has pledged to rewrite Peru’s constitution, while claiming a practical approach towards economic policies. Many are sceptical as to whether he can ride out Peru’s political turmoil and get the economy back on track, including attracting the foreign investment that Peru needs – this does not look too promising given Castillo’s narrow congressional support. Moreover, the Fujimori-led opposition is likely to do what it can (as it has with previous governments) to get Castillo out of the picture and take power itself.
Until the covid-19 pandemic started in 2020, the political situation had little negative impact on the country’s GDP, which has grown steadily for several years. However, Peru is one of the countries most severely hit by the pandemic. The covid-19 death rate per 100,000 people is among the highest in the world and, according to the IMF, the economy contracted by over 11% in 2020 – one of the highest contraction rates in Latin America. While the IMF predicts an 8.5% bounce back in 2021, uncertainty remains over the political situation and investors’ interest in the market.
Lima is the heart and soul 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, has a total of 11 offices in Peru.