Brigard Urrutia authored the book on market-leading dynamism when it comes to deal-making. It rubs shoulders with the elite, thanks not only to its undeniable transactional excellence but also due to the specialised offering it brings across its vast collection of multidisciplinary legal services. Its approach is business minded but also puts clients front and centre – and it pays off in dividends. The firm lands roles in some of the most significant and landmark deals in Colombia with enviable regularity, while guiding clients knowledgeably through proposed reforms to areas of the economy.
Colombia’s legal market is forward facing and constantly evolving at the top, thus Brigard Urrutia keeps its finger on the pulse to ensure it is always one step ahead. It prides itself on innovative and specialised legal strategy, and consistently reviews that structure to ensure not only that it matches its competitors on new trends – but also that it has the components in place to maintain peak performance. This strategic streak is thanks to several of Brigard Urrutia’s lawyers having a corporate leadership background. As a result, there is a tangible sense of progressive legal thinking radiating throughout the firm, and this reassuring quality rubs off positively on clients, who feel confident their matters will be efficiently handled with the most cutting-edge legal solutions on offer.
This structure has put the firm in good standing amid increased headwinds from socio-political factors. In 2022 Colombia elected the country’s first-ever left-wing president, former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro. The election received a mixed response within Colombia and from the rest of the world – with many foreign investors fearful over major reforms planned by the new administration, while other groups, such as renewables companies, were more positive about the changes. Either way, the sturdy multidisciplinary offering undertaken by Brigard Urrutia has allowed it to continue thriving amid major political upheaval. Colombia has continued to be an attractive economy to global investors, despite the change in administration, winning the firm a place on the top deals taking place. For example, it assisted British automotive company Inchcape in its cross-border purchase of Chilean counterpart Derco for US$1.5 billion. The firm also advised Canada’s Cordoba Minerals in the landmark deal through which Chinese engineering company JCHX Mining Management entered into a US$100 million agreement to develop one of the largest copper mines in Colombia. Meanwhile, Brigard Urrutia played a part in not one but two of the winning operations in the most recent Latin Lawyer Deal of the Year Awards: it acted for Scotiabank as Phoenix Tower International refinanced its loans, a deal which won in the Banking & Finance category, and it also advised LATAM Airlines on its Chapter 11 process, a matter which took home the award in the Restructuring category.
Naturally, Brigard Urrutia performs exceptionally in its core transactional areas of M&A, banking and finance, and capital markets. These adept teams regularly attract cross-border work from high-flying companies across a broad spectrum of industries. As a result, Brigard Urrutia competes fiercely with some of its leading rivals. Its spotless track record and exceptional attention to detail on complex and transactional work means, however, that it more often than not pips those rivals to the post.
An in-house study into “Who Represents Latin America’s Biggest Companies”, conducted by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association (LACCA), which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer, unveiled that Brigard Urrutia advised 35 of Latin America’s 100 largest companies in 2022. That figure is nearly double that of the previous year, and places the firm among the top 10 busiest in the entire Latin American region, beating elite outfits in the United States, Brazil and Mexico. Big-name clients on its extensive roster include Brazilian mining giant Vale, Chilean retailer Falabella, Mexican Coca-Cola bottler FEMSA, Colombian oil group Ecopetrol and Mexican state-owned counterpart Pemex, as well as Argentina’s Mercado Libre. Increased interaction between Mexico and Colombia’s medium-to-large economies was noted throughout the year, with growth in several industries across both jurisdictions. Other key clients here include Mexican media giant Televisa and Chilean miner Grupo Antofagasta.
Brigard Urrutia is a transactional powerhouse by nature but continues to impress in its tax, disputes and project finance offerings too. Familiar clients in its corporate and finance offerings continue to come back to the firm repeatedly for more contentious advice. A total of over 25 lawyers reside in its litigation offering, which has continued to attract work amid government changes and major cross-border work from big-name clients. Brigard Urrutia’s association with Brigard & Castro has continued to thrive. The tie supplies expert IP knowledge on tap and is something that gives the outfit its competitive edge. Anti-corruption work is another busy area of the firm, as claims implicating Colombia continue to pile in from investigations related to the Odebrecht case and others. With President Petro having proposed reforms to the environmental, tax and labour areas, the firm’s regulatory know-how has been put to the test too – and it has passed with flying colours, helping clients navigate murky waters as uncertainty grows around where those overhauls are due to take place.
Fielding a leading offering with some of the busiest legal departments in Colombia does not mean that Brigard Urrutia is done expanding – it has continued to seek areas to grow to meet increased demand. The burgeoning interest in environmental, social and governance (ESG)-related matters saw the firm launch a dedicated practice. Meanwhile, trends in technology have brought forth increased expertise in fintech and technology law. When all is said and done, Brigard Urrutia aims to ensure that all clients receive a specialised service from its team of legal experts, even in straightforward M&A or finance transactions in those industries.
Brigard Urrutia’s carefully conceived business development plan is complemented by a flexible fee structure that clients are thankful for in times of socioeconomic downturn. Brigard Urrutia has consistently kept its pricing options open, which is appreciated – particularly amid the recent political uncertainty and inflation. Meanwhile, an option for a fixed cap on fees provides peace of mind for clients. Customers are thankful for the open-minded and clear communication that Brigard Urrutia provides on fees.
Brigard Urrutia has integrated management and marketing teams into its structure, ensuring that these initiatives run efficiently, and that client feedback is used when making major decisions. This is just one example of Brigard Urrutia’s sharp business mind when it comes to enacting change that has a direct impact on its clientele. An appetite to be the go-to law firm in Colombia means competing on an international scale, and as such Brigard Urrutia keeps a close eye on global trends that will help it excel in this goal. Nonetheless, teams located outside of Bogotá have honed an intuitive understanding of what local clients expect – which often differs from international demand.
The incorporation of a sustainability task force for several years has been a thorough success, with the firm having identified ways to meet ESG targets within its business model. Brigard Urrutia has made strides towards improving diversity too. It teamed up with gender equality organisation Equipares to help devise a strategy that will boost female representation within the firm. Around 60% of Brigard Urrutia’s workforce are women, with just above half of that figure in leadership positions. Recent promotions and lateral hires at the firm have included at least one woman in each move. In 2023 the firm announced the promotion of María Victoria Munévar to partner in the litigation area, after adding real estate director Juanita Bermudez in 2022.
Legal innovation is a top priority for Brigard Urrutia. The outfit’s substantial investment in leading-edge software and technology has ensured its staff are well supported, whether remotely or in the office. Legal staff are afforded flexibility on which method they prefer. The firm even contains its own customer relationship management software, which is tailored to its specific needs, while Brigard Urrutia’s clients can access and process their requests and ongoing legal cases through an app.
Such a forward-thinking attitude would not be possible without the high level of legal training and knowledge available here. Clients praise the technical expertise on offer from lawyers here, while also shouting out the in-depth knowledge and attention to detail that advisers provide. A 360-degree approach to legal advice means that the business-orientated efficiency of its offering is complemented by a careful understanding of each of its client's individual needs. Prolific collaboration between multiple practice areas ensures lawyers are equipped to tackle even the most demanding matters. International flair runs through this firm too; while most of Brigard Urrutia’s lawyers are fluent in at least one foreign language, a large portion are also licensed to practise outside of Colombia.
With a solid global outlook, Brigard Urrutia has widened its horizons even further afield by forming ties with some of the most influential international law firms operating in Latin America. Its membership in top legal networks guarantees it ready access to leading firms worldwide.
Ensuring that market-leading expertise is maintained throughout the generations of lawyers rising through its ranks is paramount for Brigard Urrutia. In recognition of the importance of innovating in leadership and keeping the outfit’s managerial approach refreshed, the firm elected Carlos Fradique-Méndez as the firm’s new managing partner in 2023. The highly revered lawyer has the bright-eyed ambition to help Brigard Urrutia become an unrivalled leader in Colombia’s market. Indeed, it has all the tools to do so. Replacing outgoing managing partner Carlos Umaña Trujillo, Fradique-Méndez believes that fostering a culture of excellence and professionalism in the firm will allow it to contribute substantially to the broader legal community in Colombia. The appointment adds top transactional talent to the managerial structure, with Fradique renowned for his sophisticated understanding of complex finance deals. The partner is passionate and determined in his goal to achieve resounding excellence for Brigard Urrutia during his reign as managing partner.
In recognition of the importance of fostering talent within the firm, Brigard Urrutia has poured time and energy into ensuring the new generation of talent has the resources to succeed. Regular career training opportunities are offered, and that includes internal legal education. Indeed, one of the features that Brigard Urrutia is most proud of is the level of home-grown talent on display. The firm consistently adds new partners from its existing ranks, meaning that a huge portion of senior-ranking professionals have carved out their careers at the firm. In June 2023 the firm announced another four new partners in its litigation, tax and corporate areas – all of whom have risen through the firm’s ranks. The career path that Brigard Urrutia has worked so diligently on has ensured some impressive retention rates, as headcount has continued to grow and departures are few and far between. Naturally, this elite player seeks out only the best of talent and keeps a close watch on any opportunities for strategic lateral hires that can boost its offering substantially. Adding a prominent tax lawyer from local boutique Lewin & Wills Abogados in 2022 is a recent example.
As Colombia’s economic landscape continues to evolve, so does Brigard Urrutia’s forward-thinking legal offering. Thus, the firm envisions a slew of incoming work in 2024 and beyond. While its non-transactional areas continue to see increased work amid government reforms, the flagship transactional team also expects an incoming stream of work, encompassing the vast array of industries thriving in Colombia.
Brigard Urrutia appointed Carlos Fradique-Méndez as its new managing partner from 1 April 2023, for a two-year term. He replaces the outgoing Carlos Umaña Trujillo, who had previously led the firm since 2012.
Brigard Urrutia has its headquarters in Bogotá but has expanded elsewhere in Colombia where there are economic hubs; since 2017 it has had an office in Cali, while it added one in Barranquilla in 2019. Meanwhile, the firm has a notable presence in Medellín through its strategic relationship with a local firm there.
Alliances & networks
Alliances are a key source for ensuring that Brigard Urrutia can provide a full-service offering to the best of its expert abilities. It is a member of prestigious legal networks, such as Club de Abogados, Lex Mundi and Interlex, as well as the Pacific Rim Advisory Council and the World Services Group. The firm is the Colombian representative of Ius Laboris, a global alliance of employment, labour and pension law firms, and is also part of insurance network Insuralex.