Echecopar has long been a member of the elite in Peru. As part of Baker McKenzie, it can build on its stellar reputation at home with the backing of a worldwide platform, several regional offices and resources that a global firm can offer. Furthermore, as Peru and Latin America increasingly become the focus of international firms’ growth strategies, Echecopar has found its early adoption of such a model, combined with a long-standing name in the region, to be potent selling points.
Echecopar was already a highly respected firm before the tie-up with Baker McKenzie. Its broad, high-quality practice offering includes excellent banking and finance, M&A, capital markets, natural resources, and public law teams. Disputes is another stronghold where the firm’s international arbitration profile is rising.
It is not only Baker McKenzie’s international reach that benefits Echecopar. Being part of a big global firm gives it access to cutting-edge IT infrastructure, out of reach for many independent firms in the country owing to initial high investment costs. Recently implemented software includes iManage, for the efficient administration of documents across the global firm, and ServiceNow. Lawyers claim new systems like these make them more efficient and better able to offer innovative billing solutions to clients. Having everything stored on the cloud also means practitioners can access their work wherever they go through dedicated computing and software transfer programmes, maximising efficiency and remote working.
Meanwhile, its leadership is working hard to ensure Echecopar’s future. It has championed an industry-based approach thought to be more in tune with modern businesses’ specialist needs. More recently, it has initiated a multidisciplinary approach to provide 360 solutions to a client’s problems related to an industry.
Peru was among the most politically stable countries in Latin America for many years. Recently, however, it has felt the shockwaves of Brazil’s Lava Jato investigation, with several corruption scandals, linked to projects held by Brazil’s Odebrecht, surging to the surface in Peru’s construction and infrastructure sector. Presidents have also replaced each other without completing their terms, highlighting instability. The 2021 election of left-wing Pedro Castillo put law firms on alert, as clients raised concerns as the new president talked about increased taxes and potential nationalisation. Together with other Baker McKenzie offices in Latin America, Echecopar put together presentations for clients on topics such as expropriation, international treaties and how to protect foreign investment in Peru, drawing on expertise from countries that have gone through similar political scenarios. The firm’s management reports this initiative as a success. Companies that were not previously clients of the firm asked to see the presentation, while it also generated new legal work for the Peruvian office.
Two new partners were made in 2021 through promotions, adding to its labour and trade law practices. Another two lawyers were elevated to of counsel in the firm’s disputes and banking groups.
While an expanded service offering may draw new business, Echecopar partners realise their efforts will come to nought if they cannot attract and retain talent. The firm is a staunch promoter of gender equality and has a well-established flexitime offering (that includes working from other locations). Travel restrictions imposed due to the covid-19 pandemic made the firm concerned about its talents’ international exposure. As a result, the management took the bull by its horns and launched a commercial committee aimed at improving lawyers’ skills by organising internal and external coaching and training from experts. There is also a new committee made up of younger partners encouraged to bring innovative ideas and think outside of the box on managerial issues. Mentorship programmes for female lawyers, as well as for those returning to work after giving birth, are also in place. Echecopar’s offer of four months of maternity leave is one of the most generous in this market.
On a global level, Baker McKenzie has a global diversity target to split its partnership, senior business professionals and committee leadership positions 40:40:20 between men, women and flexible (which includes women, men or non-binary persons) by 2025. This will impact how the global firm’s offices promote internally in the next few years. In Peru, the firm already stands out among its peers for having over 30% women in the partnership, which is significantly above the average among Peruvian firms. Two women partners also sit on the firm’s five-member executive committee.
Juan Carlos de los Heros oversees the Peruvian operations; he took over from Pablo Berckholtz as managing partner in 2021. Berckholtz remains chair of the firm’s Latin American capital markets group, while Peruvian corporate partner Liliana Espinosa is a member of the firm’s Latin American M&A and private equity committee.
Being part of Baker McKenzie gives Echecopar access to an extensive network of offices. Baker McKenzie’s regional network is unrivalled, with offices in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, and includes Brazilian alliance firm Trench Rossi Watanabe. Several offices in the US and Europe are also integral to the Latin American practice. In Peru, Echecopar moved to new offices in Lima’s San Isidro business district in 2020.