Clifford Chance LLP fields a highly rated service offer across the board that has afforded it a leading position among international firms in Latin America. Of the UK firms operating in the region, Clifford Chance is one of the most visible and committed.
Finance work is the firm’s bread and butter. The Clifford Chance name is heavily associated with highly structured finance transactions, the level of sophistication of which few firms can match. An indisputably top-tier project finance offering is at the forefront of innovative infrastructure financing across Latin America, with a large market share of renewables projects. The team has excellent relations with lenders of all shapes and sizes, including commercial banks, investment banks, private equity players and multilateral lenders. Meanwhile, the capital markets and M&A practices are equally noteworthy. The firm’s global experience and workforce make it well-positioned to do cross-border mega-deals and partners from around the world are often found working on transactions in the region.
Clifford Chance stands out for its broad representation of major multilateral and commercial financial institutions in the region. Research led by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association – which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer – found that the firm counts a striking 17 of the region’s biggest 50 banks among its clientele. These include Brazilian behemoths Itaú Unibanco, Banco do Brasil and Banco Bradesco, as well as Colombia’s Bancolombia and Mexico’s BBVA. The firm is also regularly retained by leading multilaterals such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) in top-tier project financings. Clifford Chance also has good relationships with several sovereigns in the region.
The firm prides itself on never taking its foot off the pedal in Latin America, ensuring it adapts to the region’s headwinds and takes advantage of opportunities in local markets. In Brazil, for example, lawyers have spent time in Brasília to position the firm to take advantage of a spike in demand for energy and infrastructure financing. Higher interest rates and depreciating currencies also mean that multilaterals are becoming far more involved in the region and the firm is right there with them to help with lending, refinancing and capital markets work.
The pipeline of work relating to environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters is also steadily increasing for the firm. The team has been helping clients not only comply with ESG-related obligations but also developing best practices in the field to capitalise on ESG value creation opportunities.
More generally, the firm makes it its mission to take advantage of opportunities in smaller markets, a strategy that has led lawyers to pick up the lion’s share of innovative advocacy in those places; for example, it is shaping project finance deals in places like Paraguay and Uruguay – working on mega, first-of-their-kind projects in both countries. This considered adaptive approach enables Clifford Chance to continue to build upon its Latin American practice by finding new markets and new ways to present its services to the market.
Capital markets partner Jonathan Zonis and project finance whizz Fabricio Longhin co-chair the large group, which has recognised names in the region stationed in London, Madrid, New York, São Paulo and Washington DC, who work well together. The firm has a large and well-established team in Brazil led by Anthony Oldfield, who works alongside two other partners within one of the oldest foreign law consultancies in the country. Boasting rock-solid relationships with local corporations, the São Paulo office is a cornerstone of the Latin America practice and counts loyal clients such as LATAM Airlines, Cosan and Eletrobras. The firm advised the latter on its $6.9 billion equity offering – the second-largest equity deal of 2022, and the largest in the western hemisphere so far.
In recent times the Latin America practice has experienced a handful of key defections: it lost a former practice co-chair and another partner to a US rival at the start of 2021, and a partner in the project finance team followed suit later that year. This came after the firm’s disputes head for the region left to go solo. Still, there remains a strong cohort of highly capable and established figures whose talent the firm can continue to draw on for Latin American mandates. Clifford Chance has also made some notable additions to the partnership over the past year, adding firepower to its regional arbitration, capital markets and project finance offerings and more growth is set to come.
It pays attention to future generations in a bid to protect its position and has made sure to include Latin American-born talent in its organic growth. This helps it penetrate markets across the region, as does the number of fluent Portuguese and Spanish speakers within the Latin America practice, which is close to 40.
Latin America-focused practitioners in Brazil and the United States continue to work closely with Clifford Chance’s office in Madrid, where the firm has a leading spot to target Spanish companies looking for corporate and infrastructure opportunities in the region. It takes a similar position towards its base in China. It is increasingly common to see teams working on Latin American deals drawn from a range of locations.
The firm was an early opener in São Paulo and the base is a central part of the practice. New York houses the rest of the practice’s finance and corporate capacity, while the projects and disputes teams sit in Washington, DC. Beijing and Madrid are playing an increasingly significant role, and Clifford Chance pulls in resources from London, Paris and elsewhere.