2021 Latin Lawyer Elite Firm
Echecopar, which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year, has long been a member of the elite in Peru. As part of Baker McKenzie, the firm can build on its stellar reputation at home with the backing of a worldwide platform 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 and having such a longstanding name in the region, to be potent selling points.
Echecopar was a reputed firm already before the tie-up with Baker McKenzie. It has a broad and high-quality practice area offering. Its banking and finance, M&A, capital markets, natural resources, disputes and IP teams are just a few examples of the services this long-established powerhouse offers.
The firm benefits from Baker McKenzie’s cutting-edge IT infrastructure, out of reach for many independent firms in the country owing to initial high investment costs. Lawyers claim the new systems make them more efficient and better able to offer innovative billing solutions to clients. It 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 the branch’s future. It has championed an industry-based approach, which is thought to be more in tune with modern businesses’ specialist needs. This tack has been strongly enforced in its energy, mining, real estate, pharmaceutical and TMT practices.
Peru has undoubtfully felt the shockwaves of Brazil’s Lava Jato investigation. Several corruption scandals, linked to projects held by Brazil’s Odebrecht, have come to the surface in Peru’s construction and infrastructure sector. As part of the investigation into alleged bribes to government officials for a gas pipeline, four of the firm’s lawyers were being investigated as individuals for their roles giving second opinion expert advice in the pipeline project. However, the firm itself was never implicated and has been cooperating with the investigation, while it also hired a third party to do an independent investigation. Two of the four lawyers being investigated were removed from the investigation in 2020, one of which has since left the firm.
Two other partners left in 2020, one to become general counsel and the other to join the legal department at a professional services firm. At the same time, several lawyers at senior associate-level have returned to the firm after overseas studies.
Nevertheless, business goes on, and 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 (which includes working from other locations). The same holds for its mentorship programmes for female lawyers, as well as for those returning to work after giving birth. Echecopar’s offer of four months of maternity leave is one of the most generous in this market. During 2020, the firm has taken the opportunity to put several other wellbeing strategies in place. Some of these are new digital talent management and student programmes, which help to monitor talents’ development and give the best possible support to new talent joining from universities.
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 nearly 30 per cent women in the partnership, which is significantly above the average among Peruvian firms.
Echecopar comes in for high praise from multiple clients: knowledge, professionalism and excellence are noted again and again. The firm’s holistic approach to legal issues, understanding of risks and quality are also highlighted. A client from an infrastructure company says lawyers are “professional in their opinions, have good judgment and are quick to serve their clients.”
In October 2020, the firm moved to brand new premises in Lima’s San Isidro business district. The carbon-neutral office, which emphasises collaboration and open-working space, is a fine show of this elite outfit’s continued modernity and wealth.
Peruvian operations are overseen by Juan Carlos de los Heros, who replaced 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, as well as its Brazilian alliance firm Trench Rossi Watanabe. Several offices in the US and Europe are also integral to the Latin American practice.