2021 Latin Lawyer Elite Firm
Machado Meyer is not just a big name in the Brazilian market, 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, antitrust and M&A.
Machado Meyer has a remarkable capacity to reinvent itself and come out stronger than ever. This is a skill it has put to the test as Brazil grapples with the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, adapting to unforeseen challenges remarkably quickly and championing growth. 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.
In recent times, this adaptability has been evident in the firm’s adoption of novel strategies designed to make the firm more efficient. It is applying artificial intelligence to due diligence processes with the help of ten non-legal professionals dedicated to this field, as well as training the lawyers to use these technology platforms.
Another initiative has been for the firm to centralise secondary activities performed by lawyers and develop standardised procedures, to cut down the time spent on administrative tasks. Among its back-office staff, the firm has also rolled out training using Lean Six Sigma, a team-based management approach that relies on data to improve performance. All of these steps have been taken in the direction of creating a more efficient law firm model. 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 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.
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 latest group of partner appointees was. In 2020, the firm promoted nine lawyers to partner rank across its corporate, projects, labour and tax departments, more than many of its peers did and a slightly larger group than in previous years.
Amid an atypical period the world over, 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 has held strong throughout and, despite a brief blip in the immediate aftermath of covid-19’s spread to Latin America, so has the capital markets group. Other departments – like restructuring, litigation and tax – have also been extensive sources of work for the firm.
Among these bright spots, certain deals warrant special mention. As a general rule, Machado Meyer continues to handle many of Brazil’s most prominent deals, and this remained the case in 2020. The firm advised Brazilian rent-a-car company Unidas on its 12 billion reais (US$2 billion) proposed takeover by counterpart Localiza, for example. It acted for Telefónica when the telecom multinational teamed up with Brazil’s TIM and Claro to make a 16.5 billion reais (US$3 billion) bid for Oi’s mobile services business. In the restructuring field, Machado Meyer was retained by Itaú Unibanco and Banco Bradesco for Odebrecht Group’s restructuring, which was the largest in-court reorganisation in the history of Brazil. Elsewhere, a major source of work comes from Petrobras, which has regularly retained Machado Meyer for a mammoth and ongoing divestment programme, particularly deals involving complex, sensitive asset sales.
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, this has led to the launch of three affinity groups championing gender and racial equality and respect for 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 now consists of 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. It also hosted various social online events. A big push was also made to provide training online that had been previously available at the firm’s offices. In so doing, Machado Meyer was able to offer more courses than it had done before, while also expanding the syllabus to contain more training on soft skills.
Machado Meyer has successfully moved through the often-difficult succession process. It is a firm that invests heavily in talent, evidenced by its regular championing of organic growth and the steps it has taken to make Machado Meyer a rewarding place to work. Few firms have invested in the future with the determination of Machado Meyer. A defining feature of the firm’s current leadership has been this drive to push the firm towards greater modernisation.
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 33 of 100 of the largest companies in the region by revenue. That makes it the third most popular firm in Brazil and regionwide among that type of client. 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, Ambev, Shell 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, Credit Suisse and Citibank, among others.
Machado Meyer stands out for eliciting a great deal of high praise from customers pleased with their services – more than 30 spoke to Latin Lawyer for this edition of the guide alone. “It is a very client-centric firm, and they are always building cross-functional work,” says one, while according to another “they can think outside the box and find the best solution for the company.” Another in-house counsel describes the firm as reliable and the delivery of its services as bold. “Whenever we work with Machado Meyer, we’re certain that we’ll have consistent support to achieve our goals,” vouches another client. Lawyers’ availability is repeatedly cited in client feedback. “They are true business partners and always provide quick and precise advice,” according to one customer.
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, Arthur Penteado, Marco Behrndt, Mauro Penteado, Nei Zelmanovits, Roberta Danelon Leonhardt and Rodrigo Takano. 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.