Cescon, Barrieu, Flesch & Barreto Advogados is one of Brazil’s younger firms, but its age certainly does not reflect its might. This transactional titan has carved out its position among the country’s transactional leaders in record time and often takes part in landmark Brazilian – and indeed, international – deals, especially in the M&A, restructuring, equity and debt capital markets fields.
Cescon Barrieu’s transactional muscle remains among the best in Brazil. Its senior partners are market leaders in their areas and the firm continues to be frequently retained by clients for the sophisticated work that many others in the market could only dream of.
Aware of its broad and deep bench for transactional work, the management has focused the past few years on strengthening the firm’s full-service offering. Most recently, the firm hired a partner to lead its technology, data protection and intellectual property group, while it also launched an administrative law department in 2021 with a partner hired from Tauil & Chequer Advogados in association with Mayer Brown. The firm also promoted an environmental lawyer, marking the firm’s first-ever partner in that field. That nicely complements its environmental, social and governance (ESG) desk that was set up in 2020 to respond to clients’ ever-growing demand in that area.
Cescon Barrieu believes it is important to consider long-term growth and strategic expansion, with the fruits of its labours paying off. Three years ago, it absorbed a mining boutique in Minas Gerais, hiring highly respected mining lawyer Marcelo Mendo Gomes de Souza as a partner. With that team now fully integrated, the firm has a sizeable Belo Horizonte office (which finally can make full use of its new modern premises after years of lockdown during the health emergency) and an excellent mining practice that makes it stand out among competitors. Another area that has gone from strength to strength is disputes, where Cescon Barrieu is increasingly active in arbitration proceedings, while its litigation department now has the same headcount and revenue as the firm’s capital markets and banking groups.
Cescon Barrieu set up an office in Toronto in 2021, becoming the first Brazilian law firm to do so. However, the partner hired for that office left, although he is still helping the firm through a transition period. The partnership intends to rebuild the office as it proved useful to maintain existing clients and gain new contacts, especially in the mining sector. The firm intends to grow its offices in Salvador and Brasília, both of which remain small, and the management admits those require more resources. Cescon Barrieu maintains a policy to include all other offices of the firm in large due diligence work, a strategy it claims helps create a single identity across all offices.
As part of its full-service business strategy, the firm aims to further diversify its client base across industries and between local and international clients. It also wants to grow its profile in specific industries, such as agribusiness. Additionally, it is working hard on cross-selling between practice areas to convince clients to enlist the firm for advice across more legal fields.
After a break from making lateral hires or promotions in 2020, Cescon Barrieu returned to the expansion path the year after. It promoted six partners at the start of 2021, only to appoint another seven before the year-end. On top of that, it has made several lateral hires to the partnership, strengthening areas such as litigation, tax, technology and public law. Not all have been plain sailing, there have been some departures in the technology, infrastructure and tax practice groups.
Cescon Barrieu has not only invested in talent but also moved into completely new premises in São Paulo in 2022. It kept a close eye on the waves of change in working practices during the pandemic and now has an open-plan office with plenty of collaboration areas. It also made an important investment in technology, changing any remaining computers to laptops and allocating more resources to cybersecurity.
Major local and foreign companies comprise this firm's client base. Brazilian clients include mining giant Vale, food processing company JBS and energy group Cosan. Its list of international clients is just as impressive. French supermarket chain Carrefour, Mexican drinks business FEMSA and Italian energy business Enel are just a few household names that work with the firm. According to a study, ‘Who Represents Latin America's Biggest Companies,’ published by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association, which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer, Cescon Barrieu represents 45 of the 100 biggest companies in the region.
The firm is also popular among the region’s largest financial institutions. According to research ‘Who Represents Latin America’s Biggest Banks,’ conducted by LACCA, the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association, which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer; Cescon Barrieu works with 11 of Latin America’s largest banks. That makes it the second most hired firm in Brazil among those clients.
Cescon Barrieu is vehemently committed to improving its ESG and social responsibility achievements: its dedicated desk is helping clients make more ethical and considered investments, as green bonds and social issuances become increasingly the norm, certainly for international investors. Internally, the firm is proud to promote involvement in its social responsibility efforts, with designated policies and committees in place to promote women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ and disabled team members. There are also initiatives to help those in protected groups outside of the firm through pro bono work.
Cescon Barrieu maintains a modified lockstep compensation system that shares the firm’s profits according to the performance of each partner following a transparent assessment process. Partners with more than eight years of partnership experience and at least three years are eligible for its executive committee, which oversees the firm’s strategy and is elected by all partners every three years. The current formation includes some of the firm’s prominent founding partners, alongside two non-founding partners for the first time, which is a clear sign that there is space for a younger generation. It also shows that senior newcomers who embrace the firm’s culture can find a space in management.
Due to its smaller headcount, compared to its competitors, Cescon Barrieu claims it can deal with clients in a personal way. Indeed, this is backed by client reviews. One describes the firm’s lawyers as hands-on, client-oriented and with a good ability to clearly understand their needs. Another highlights lawyers’ attention and engagement with clients, while pragmatic approach, high quality and great business vision are all singled out as strong attributes too.
Managing partner Joaquim Oliveira is in the second year of his three-year mandate. He sits on the firm’s executive committee alongside Roberto Barrieu, Fábio Rosas, Carlos Braga, Frederico Viana Rodrigues and Ronald Herscovici.
The firm's headquarters are in São Paulo, with other bases in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasília and Salvador. The firm also has a small outpost in Toronto.