Peru has one of Latin America’s more competitive legal markets. Firms are large given the economy’s size, and many have full services offerings. There is also a range of high-quality smaller outfits to choose from for those clients seeking 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 made good on promises to open in the country by merging with Pizarro, Botto & Escobar Abogados, Grau Abogados and Gallo Barrios respectively. All three are now busy consolidating their operations. Another player breaking into the legal market is professional services firm EY, which hired an experienced group of lawyers from an established firm.
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 now appear on a large chunk of Peru’s transactions. In the past year, another Iberian heavyweight, Cuatrecasas, entered too, poaching from some of the best in the market. 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 some years. Firms also have deep benches in other practice areas 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, which will welcome a recent rebound of commodity prices.
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 for nearly every single practice area. Other candidates to the crown include Miranda & Amado Abogados and Estudio Echecopar, a member firm of Baker McKenzie, while Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados, Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría and Rebaza, Alcázar & De Las Casas are increasingly in the picture. Tabs should also be kept on Hernández & Cía Abogados, which has sailed up as a worthy competitor due to substantial expansion over the past few years.
The outcry over corruption that erupted in 2018 and saw the toppling of the Kuczynski administration continued well into 2019. As a result, project finance opportunities are still scarce, while private equity investment remains down. The Vizcarra administration appears to have gained ground and won public support in the fight on corruption, but political conflict and deadlock left Peru with a difficult year in which growth was low and projects were put on hold. Law firms felt the effect of recent political developments and were not spared public scrutiny. Three of the largest firms were raided by police during 2019, part of the investigation into alleged bribes made by Odebrecht to government officials related to gas pipeline projects. While no firms are being investigated, these developments made law firm leaders realise the importance of reviewing their compliance and know-your-client processes.
Despite a complicated year, some of the largest transactions in the region took place in Peru. Notably, Chinese companies and investors are present on many of these.
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 12 offices in Peru.