2021 Latin Lawyer Elite firm
When other firms retract or stick to the status quo, Cescon, Barrieu, Flesch & Barreto Advogados chooses to push things to the next level, and its leadership’s hard work and strategic vision continues to pay off year on year. One of Brazil’s younger firms, 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.
The firm’s respected partners frequently handle sophisticated deals and compete with peers from Brazil’s most traditional and well-established law firms. Opening an office in Canada at the start of 2021 reflects the daring, ambitious soul of this firm and it is a real hit with local and international companies alike.
The firm is constantly looking at ways it can expand its offering to meet client demand and offer the best tailor-made services for clients. In 2020, in response to the new regulatory environment and concerns faced by companies operating in Brazil, Cescon Barrieu opened three new desks: a covid-19 pandemic desk; an environmental, social and governance (ESG) desk; and a Canada desk (the latter led Cescon Barrieu to become the first Latin American law firm to have a presence in Canada after it opened its office in Toronto in January 2021). Each desk brings together partners from a range of traditional practices to help focus advice for clients impacted by specific matters and who want focused counsel to meet their needs. Meanwhile, Cescon Barrieu plans to market its new Canadian office to clients as a platform from which Brazilian companies – particularly in the mining sector – can “go global” and expand their business to new markets outside of Brazil and Canada. The firm does not practise Canadian law.
The Canadian office will also come into play with the firm’s new cannabis law practice group that launched in 2021. The practice group will handle compliance, regulatory, funding and commercial transactions in this new sector, and will build on the cannabis law expertise of the Toronto resident partner.
After a break from making lateral hires or promotions two years ago, Cescon Barrieu is back on the expansion path. Besides making a lateral hire in the form of a mining partner from McCarthy Tétrault LLP to launch in Toronto, it recently promoted three partners in its capital markets team, while two new corporate partners and one new mining partner also boosted the firm’s partnership in those areas.
The firm believes it important to consider long-term growth and strategic expansion, with the fruits of its labours paying off. Two years ago, it absorbed a mining boutique in Minas Gerais, hiring highly respected mining lawyer Marcelo Mendo Gomes de Souza as a partner. This has now doubled the size of the firm’s Belo Horizonte office, while its Salvador office continues to gain traction with north-eastern clients. Cescon Barrieu also opened an anti-corruption department that has gone from strength to strength in the last 18 months.
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.
One of the main management goals continues to be to consolidate Cescon Barrieu’s reputation as a full-service outfit and raise the profile of its non-core areas such as tax and disputes.
Major local and foreign companies from a broad range of sectors comprise this firm's client base. Brazilian clients include the country’s largest pharmaceutical company Hypera Pharma, Latin America’s second-biggest retail group Grupo Pão de Açucar and Bradesco, Brazil’s third-largest financial institution. US private equity funds The Carlyle Group and Warburg Pincus, as well as Japan Bank for International Cooperation, are examples of international clients. Swedish engineering company Sandvik is also a client. 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 8% of the biggest companies in the region.
Cescon Barrieu is vehemently committed to improving its ESG and social responsibility achievements: its newly created desk is helping clients make more ethical and considered investments, as green bonds and social issuances become more and more 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, LGBT+ 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 at Cescon Barrieu 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.
Cescon Barrieu gets ample good feedback from clients. “[The firm’s lawyers] are very hands-on and client-oriented. They have a great ability to clearly understand clients’ needs and provide specific solutions,” says one client, while another appreciates the “attention lawyers give to [their] company and the engagement they have in every project.” Others highlight the team’s “pragmatic approach” to solving legal issues, and the legal advice one client received was described as “highly-technical, of high quality and with great business vision.”
Managing partner Joaquim Oliveira is in the third year of his three-year mandate. He sits on the firm’s executive committee alongside Roberto Barrieu, Maurício Teixeira dos Santos, Marcos Flesch, Fábio Rosas and Carlos Braga.
The firm's HQ is in São Paulo, with other bases in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasília and Salvador. The firm also has an office in Toronto, making it the first Brazilian law firm to have a presence in Canada.