2021 Latin Lawyer Elite firm
Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal is at the pinnacle of the legal industry in Argentina, leading the way in terms of size, breadth of service and client satisfaction.
Marval is unlike any other outfit in the Argentine market, due to the sheer amount of legal firepower it has managed to assemble under one roof. It excels in a myriad of practice areas, which is a remarkable feat for a notoriously tricky market. There is a homogenous quality to each department, with no weak spots. It routinely analyses the market for opportunities to expand or add value to its offering. Another distinguishing factor is its adaptability to changing circumstances; Marval lawyers take a flexible, opportunity-driven approach that sees the firm through both good times and the bad. Adaptability has allowed Marval to thrive through several leadership transitions. Now under the helm of its fifth chairman – the illustrious Santiago Carregal – this is a firm ready and willing to embrace change.
Marval prides itself on its highly talented group of lawyers, which wins the lion’s share of sophisticated legal work in Argentina. Skilled transactional partners attract an impressive volume of high-stakes work year on year and the firm’s niche is complex deal-making. In one example of the calibre of the mandates Marval handles, the firm had a role on SoftBank’s US$1 billion investment in food delivery start-up Rappi, the largest ever made in a Latin American tech start-up at that time. The transaction won Latin Lawyer’s private equity deal of the year in 2019.
While the firm’s highly capable corporate and M&A and capital markets teams are standouts, several other practice areas excel. Transactional clout is accompanied by solid litigation, arbitration, labour, IP, tax, trade and white-collar crime practices, further complemented by sector-focused mining, energy and insurance departments.
In another display of Marval’s strength and relevance in the market, it advised Pfizer on the relevant legal matters required to enter the third stage of trials of its covid-19 vaccine in Argentina.
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, Marval is the most popular firm in Argentina among major corporations in the region. Some of Marval’s clients include tobacco company Philip Morris, French multinational food company Danone, airline Delta, Santander and oil major Shell.
As Argentina, and indeed the world, hunkered down at the start of the health emergency caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Marval reacted quickly and tightened its belt, as a firm accustomed to facing challenges and thinking on its feet. It cut partner distributions by half in the first three months of the emergency; however, it then raised these above the usual threshold from July onwards. This was how Marval was able to maintain balance over such a difficult period, and the leadership reports it did much better than expected.
Marval’s management wants to take as many lessons as it can from the pandemic, such as hybrid office working and greater flexibility for the younger generation of partners.
With its pioneering spirit, Marval keeps a close eye on the legal market for new areas of focus. It invests resources, time and strategy into honing its services – the firm never opens a practice area simply for expansion’s sake, it takes new ventures seriously. It is currently investing in developing AI programmes that will allow it to more efficiently service simple or bulk legal work. One area this has taken off in is the labour department; the firm is using AI software to provide drafted responses to a wide variety of different claims. It is also applying those tools to improve efficiency in handling mass litigation claims.
Marval is an expertly run organisation under the control of forward-thinking partners. This is a firm that believes in strength in numbers: Marval is much bigger than its nearest competitors and has the right talent retention policies in place to stay that way. In 2020, the firm made no partner hires or promotions. International trade and tax partner Horacio Daniel García Prieto retired at the age of 65, while anti-corruption, compliance and corporate partner Pedro Serrano Espelta took a sabbatical.
The leaders of the firm pay a lot of attention to making Marval an enjoyable place to work. The firm has revolutionised its office culture in recent years, implementing a work/life balance policy that encourages associates to leave the office no later than 6pm every day, even if their partner is working late. Associates get to work on cutting-edge deals and a lot of time is devoted to holding seminars and putting other training in place for them.
Promoting diversity is close to this firm’s heart. There is a mentoring programme for female lawyers’ career development, and it has a diversity committee designed to protect all forms of diversity within the firm.
Banking and finance practice head Santiago Carregal is chairman of the firm. Javier Patrón is the managing partner, with overall responsibility for the day-to-day management of the firm.
Marval occupies an entire building on Buenos Aires’ Avenida Leandro N Alem. Beyond its base in Argentina’s capital city, Marval has a long-established presence in New York.
Alliances & networks
Marval belongs to the Latin American network set up by Spain’s Uría Menéndez, which has significantly upped its stake in the Latin American legal market in the past few years, by supporting a cross-border merger between Chilean, Colombian and Peruvian firms. Marval is also linked to Demarest Advogados in São Paulo and is a member of the Lex Mundi network.