Machado Meyer is not just a big name in the Brazilian legal profession, it is a matriarch. Some of the major firms in this competitive market were born directly from Machado Meyer’s extremely productive talent factory, which says something about the calibre of lawyers here. The firm has a leading reputation across a wide range of practice areas, both transactional and non-transactional. It has built up an enviable track record advising international investors from a wide variety of sectors. There is particularly strong expertise in areas such as infrastructure, banking, tax, labour antitrust and M&A.
Machado Meyer has a remarkable capacity to reinvent itself and start new innovative trajectories. As part of its 50th anniversary in 2022, the firm launched a non-profit organisation – Instituto Machado Meyer – through which it aims to promote education in Brazil. The institute is part of the firm’s fine and long-standing efforts in social responsibility and is funded by partners at the firm. Meanwhile, recent years have seen the firm undergo a comprehensive modernisation process that witnessed prominent senior partners transfer power to a talented, younger generation. The move also entailed significant changes to the firm’s partner compensation system. Such steps can be tricky for any law firm to navigate, but Machado Meyer has been able to do so smoothly and with superior results.
The firm’s adaptability has been demonstrated through its implementation of novel strategies designed to make the firm more efficient. Machado Meyer is applying artificial intelligence to due diligence processes with the help of a sizeable group of non-legal professionals dedicated to this field, as well as training lawyers to use these technology platforms. Moreover, the management is looking at how to incorporate client experience tools and concepts in its day-to-day activities.
Another initiative involves centralising secondary activities routinely performed by lawyers and developing standardised procedures, to cut down the time spent on administrative tasks. Among its back-office staff, Machado Meyer has also rolled out training using Lean Six Sigma, a team-based management approach that relies on data to improve performance. All these steps have been taken in the direction of creating a more efficient law firm model. In fact, allocating resources to the administrative structure of the firm is increasingly important for management, which is leading the change to transform the outfit into a corporate business structure. These developments complement other efforts made by Machado Meyer to boost its support functions, which have seen it invest in human resources, IT and marketing.
The firm is also evolving in more conventional ways: in early 2021, it unveiled a new office space in São Paulo. This was followed by a relocation of its Brasília outpost halfway through the year. The new premises in the capital include integrated, multi-purpose spaces such as a reversible auditorium. Similar moves had been made previously at its Belo Horizonte and New York outposts.
Machado Meyer continues to pursue organic growth to increase firepower in established practice areas. Promoting lawyers is not unusual, but the size of Machado Meyer’s last two groups of partner appointees has been. In 2021, the firm promoted nine lawyers to its partnership across its banking, capital markets, M&A, projects, litigation, real estate and tax departments. This followed a similarly sized round the year prior.
Machado Meyer sees the benefit of bringing experienced partners through lateral hires as well, something it has done several times since the start of 2021. Most recently, a disputes practitioner joined from Campos Mello Advogados in cooperation with DLA Piper, which followed the hiring of an infrastructure partner (former GC of construction group ASTM) and the addition of digital law and consumer protection partners from other local counterparts.
Like all other firms, Machado Meyer sometimes becomes the target of a poach, and occasionally they are difficult to compete with. For example, a partner of the firm departed last year for the São Paulo office of Paul Hastings LLP.
Nevertheless, these partner appointments reflect what was a highly productive year for Machado Meyer. The firm experienced an influx of work related to the impact of covid-19 but was also kept remarkably busy on deals and cases unrelated to the pandemic. The firm’s corporate and M&A department saw an increase in work throughout 2021, particularly in new and challenging areas such as fintech, digital platform businesses and start-ups. The firm’s debt capital markets mandates grew too, which allowed it to further expand and consolidate its offering to more complex mandates. In that respect, Machado Meyer recently launched a multidisciplinary ESG group, which often pulls its heavy guns in sustainable financing transactions. In one excellent example, the firm advised the underwriters in B3’s US$700 million sustainability-linked issuance. The transaction won Latin Lawyer’s 2021 Deal of the Year Award in the ESG category.
Other deals warrant a special mention. As a general rule, Machado Meyer continues to handle many of Brazil’s most prominent deals, and this remained the case in 2021 and further into 2022. It acted for Telefónica when the telecom multinational joined forces with Brazil’s TIM and Claro to complete the US$3 billion purchase of Oi’s mobile services business. Long-term client Petrobras has leant on the firm several times in recent divestments, including a US$2.2 billion sale of offshore assets to PetroRio. Multiple privatisations have figured lately. Machado Meyer acted for state-owned BNDES in the sale of several power assets in Rio Grande do Sul.
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, Machado Meyer represents 42 of 100 of the largest companies in the region by revenue. That makes it the fourth most popular firm in Brazil. Regular customers include Telefónica, Odebrecht, Ford, Cemig and Petrobras, together with a host of other significant names such as Vale, Braskem, Magazine Luiza, JBS, Cosan, Enel, Companhia Brasileira de Distribuição (GPA - formerly Pão de Açúcar), Ambev, Grupo Cargill and Neoenergia. It is hard to think of a large investment bank in the market with which the firm has not worked on a regular and long-term basis, including Caixa, Itaú Unibanco, Bradesco and Citibank, among others.
Machado Meyer places considerable focus on high-quality standards and client relationships. Its leaders are conscious that talent, especially nowadays, is not only motivated by financial gain – there must also be a purpose. Acknowledgement of this fact has seen the firm double up on its social responsibility efforts. Internally, it has three affinity groups championing gender, racial equality and LGBTQ+ rights. Externally, the firm is investing in its pro bono practice, structuring its services so that its lawyers can further engage in these activities. Machado Meyer’s pro bono group, which is recognised for its excellent work, now consists of some 100 members, a mix of partners, lawyers and interns.
The pandemic moved the firm to take other internal steps designed to improve the working life of its employees. To combat the issue of social isolation amid lockdown measures – and to encourage lawyers to switch off – Machado Meyer made several mental wellness treatments and initiatives available online, including access to a psychologist. The firm turned this initiative into a face-to-face benefit that lawyers can access while in the office in 2022.
Machado Meyer stands out for eliciting a great deal of high praise year after year from customers pleased with the services provided. When describing the firm’s lawyers, a client from a global conglomerate singles out their “responsiveness, commitment, business-oriented approach and the fact that they always think outside of the box.” A renewables company working with Machado Meyer is impressed by the firm’s “deep knowledge about regulatory matters.” The strong feedback continues. One in-house counsel says the firm is very client-centric and capably manages work across practice groups. Clients also highlight the confidence and support they get when working with Machado Meyer, knowing that the firm will do anything it can for the client to meet its goals.
Antitrust and compliance lawyer Tito Amaral de Andrade has overseen the firm since 2018. He was elected to a second, two-year mandate in 2020. Besides Andrade, the firm’s executive council includes Adriana Pallis, Adriano Schnur Ferreira, Fernando Tonanni, Glaucia Coelho, Marcelo Fortes, Maria Flavia Seabra and Mauro Penteado. Founding partners Antonio Meyer, José Roberto Opice and Moshe Sendacz are now fully retired.
The firm’s headquarters are in São Paulo, but has offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and Belo Horizonte. It also has a presence in New York.