Linklaters is known globally as a corporate titan and has made high-value cross-border transactional work a core part of its strategy in Latin America. The firm deploys a compact yet highly skilled group of partners to deliver results. It focuses on the financial industry and boasts an extensive list of loyal, prominent banks as clients.
Linklaters' Latin America team is smaller in headcount than some of its competitors, but this is deliberate. Having a smaller team means greater emphasis is afforded to key client relationships, according to this group’s leaders. The regional group practice also benefits hugely from the firm’s global footprint: it prides itself on bringing together lawyers from across teams in Europe and Asia to work alongside those stationed in New York, São Paulo and London for deals. A consequence of a vast global network is that many Linklaters partners have spent a considerable amount of time working in multiple offices. This has given them valuable experience with different legal products, which they can then apply to other markets.
Despite the region’s persistent volatility, Linklaters believes its fundamentals still have much to offer as a global firm that focuses on cross-border work. Cleverly, Linklaters has built a great amount of experience in deals involving digital infrastructure (it has a global practice dedicated to the industry). As businesses and individuals rely increasingly on cloud services, the firm is in the fortunate position of being able to tap into that demand. Other sectors are also strategically important; oil and gas account for a lot of Linklaters’ mandates, as do retail and telecoms.
While cross-border transactional work continues to be Linklaters’ bread and butter, the firm has also been focusing on boosting its arbitration and disputes practice over the past few years through some notable lateral hires and has been undertaking more contentious mandates involving the region.
Linklaters’ lawyers have practiced in Latin America for decades and the firm was one of the first international firms to open an office in Brazil in 1997. Elsewhere, the launch of the firm’s Mexico group some years ago has not only served to increase its presence in the region but also deepen existing relationships with leading local clients and law firm partners.
The firm is strongest in Brazil, in part because it is the go-to counsel for state-owned energy company Petrobras on international deals. Petrobras’ multi-billion-dollar divestment programme has generated a huge volume of deals for Linklaters in recent years. The firm also has strong relationships with investment funds targeting the region’s largest market.
Practice group leaders anticipate Brazil will continue to be the engine of the Latin America practice group’s machine in years to come. But the firm is also targeting the Andean region, and while Argentina often accounts for a smaller share of its work, Linklaters has been picking up more restructuring and liability management work in the southern cone nation.
In all of these countries, Linklaters represents important local corporations. The firm tapped into the potential of multilatinas as an important client base some time ago, correctly recognising that they would need legal advisers with cross-border capabilities to aid with their expansion and financing needs. Among the firm’s Latin American clients are Argentina’s Telecom Argentina, Genneia and Corporación América; Brazil’s Petrobras, Braskem, Suzano, BRF and Marfrig; Chile’s Falabella, CSAV, Masisa and Sodimac; and Colombia’s Ecopetrol and Isagen. These entities extensively use the firm, alongside recognised European clients and Asian players such as Temasek, Japanese conglomerate Sojitz and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
Linklaters has positioned itself to help companies adapt to changing business scenarios. The firm participates in the UN Global Compact Initiative and has sponsored the Latin American chapter since its inception, for example. As companies embrace sustainable investments that seek to benefit vulnerable social groups and the environment, Linklaters has been at the forefront of social impact bonds in Latin America, a niche that is expected to grow.
The Latin America practice group is led by Matthew Poulter in São Paulo, Conrado Tenaglia in New York, and Christian Albanesi in Washington, DC.
The New York office is the driver for much of Linklaters’ deal-making in the region, particularly outside of Brazil. The firm has a small but highly effective team in São Paulo, having been in Brazil in one form or another for over 20 years. Previously, it had a then-revolutionary local law alliance with noted local firm Lefosse, but now the firms work together on a case-by-case basis in the same way the UK firm might work with other local names.
In addition to the teams in New York and Brazil, Linklaters’ Mexico team is led by managing associate Alberto García Linera, supported by the wider practice. Partners in the firm’s US and Spanish US offices are also key to the group, including Madrid-based partner Íñigo Berrícano.
Linklaters invests heavily in its relationships with local firms and clients, who appreciate its commitment and strategic approach. One from a major engineering group states: “the firm’s global footprint benefits clients by receiving legal advice from lawyers stationed worldwide, besides they have a deep cultural understanding of, and commitment to, Latin America.”
Linklaters has a comparatively sophisticated referral system with Latin American firms, through which it streamlines processes with those it uses most and targets the Latin American banks and companies it does not already represent. The firm requires its associates to specialise in at least two practice areas to cross-sell its services. If a client likes an associate in the capital markets team, he or she can assist them on banking matters too, which allows for continuity of service and deeper relationships, while enabling lawyers to broaden their skills.
New York and São Paulo are the twin bases for the practice. Linklaters is notable for being able to use its European strength for investment into and out of Latin America. The firm’s London home and a strong office in Madrid, with both Spanish and English-qualified lawyers, are also highly involved, while Lisbon, Paris, Brussels and Milan all have Latin American connections. The firm also evidences a growing number of deals with a strong Asian link.