Around 10 years ago, Mattos Filho – a then 32-partner firm – phenomenally successful in tax and financial matters but unknown in many other key practice areas, took a bold step. It completely reformed its partner compensation system and undertook an expansion project that altered its fate for good. In addition to making practices more collaborative by adopting a modified lock-step system, the revision paved the way for the addition of new partners, enabling the outfit to grow rapidly.
As with all daring decisions, there were bumps along the way. Partners who disagreed with the internal adjustments left and market commentators questioned how the firm would maintain its culture and quality of service given the speed of its expansion. Determined to continue the strategy initiated by Roberto Quiroga a decade ago, Mattos Filho has now become a corporate institution that has raised itself to the pinnacle of the Brazilian legal market, having just celebrated its 30th anniversary. With 134 partners by mid-2022, it is the largest firm by equity partners together with Pinheiro Neto Advogados. Mattos Filho boasts leading departments in all key practice areas of Brazilian law. It has built an institutional powerhouse, which includes corporate-style departments dedicated to finance, business development, human resources, marketing and information technology. It has surpassed the scope of a traditional Brazilian legal practice, displaying a structural framework common to US and UK players, but rarely seen in Latin America.
As Brazil’s legal market grows, so too does Mattos Filho. This flexibility is a core value of the firm, as is its commitment to creating new opportunities for its talent. Fifteen new partners joined in 2021 (compared to nine in the previous year), with nine of these being promotions. The lateral moves reinforced its corporate, banking, capital markets, competition, mining and life sciences departments. So far in 2022, the firm has announced the appointment of 12 new partners (nine of these were promotions). This has strengthened the tax, technology and disputes groups.
As part of its determination to expand further, Mattos Filho is constantly searching for practice areas to add to its list into and how to best invest in its infrastructure. In 2022, the firm formalised a venture capital practice, which is formed by a multidisciplinary team. Other new practices include education (focusing on regulatory advice in this sector) and agribusiness, while trade is another offering under development. Those groups come on top of a multidisciplinary practice area focused on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), which launched in 2020. In the last year, Mattos Filho has also moved into new and larger offices in Brasília, where the outfit is determined to establish itself as a full-service provider. This is also the plan for Rio de Janeiro. Mattos Filho already boasts some of the largest offices in these two cities of any Brazilian firm. In 2020, it opened a branch in Campinas (known for its bustling technology industry) and relocated a group of lawyers, including two partners, from São Paulo. As a result of the changed approach to office work since the covid-19 pandemic, Mattos Filho has rolled out a plug and play structure across its offices, which means that lawyers no longer have their own offices, but sit in open, collaborative spaces.
Mattos Filho's drive to improve stands out in terms of client relations. It is working with an external consultancy group to implement a strategy to further penetrate the market and to attract more corporate clients.
Mattos Filho has thriving practice groups across multiple areas. The litigation team came out strong last year, while the environment and IP practices tripled their workload. Data protection, life sciences and insurance also performed impressively. The firm has carefully invested in these areas in the last few years, including with lateral hires: it has clearly paid off.
With such an alignment of talent and strategy, it is no surprise that Mattos Filho maintains a top position in the market for transactional matters, often topping the statistics when it comes to deal activity, both for capital markets and M&A. Both departments have recorded strong years recently, benefitting from the rise in M&A transactions across the region as well as companies turning to the market to raise funds through debt and equity offerings. In fact, Mattos Filho advised the underwriters in Nubank’s $2.6 billion initial public offering (IPO) – the transaction won Latin Lawyer’s 2021 Deal of the Year Award in the capital markets category. In addition, the outfit has top-tier teams for tax, insurance, oil, and gas, among others.
In terms of clientele, Mattos Filho represents a phenomenal 49 of the 100 biggest companies in the region, according to the survey ‘Who Represents Latin America's Biggest Companies’, published by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association, which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer. This is more than any other legal practice in Latin America.
Mattos Filho's goals extend beyond Brazil’s borders and it is investing heavily in its lawyers’ international exposure. In 2021, 13 lawyers undertook LLM courses abroad. Usually, the outfit places 30 to 40 lawyers in foreign associate positions in international practices, but due to the pandemic, this number has been understandably reduced in the last two years. In a separate learning initiative, Mattos Filho has launched a training programme in collaboration with Fordham Law School in New York. The programme ran for the second year in 2022 and offers a weekly session for lawyers around the world on structural issues in law firm management, with a vast list of legal service providers and academic speakers.
Mattos Filho is also breaking new ground when it comes to social responsibility. It has a partner completely dedicated to pro bono work, as part of its 100% pro bono initiative through which it provides 20,000 hours of free legal advice every year. It also has an internal diversity focus group – Soma – which promotes racial diversity. This push for greater racial and socio-economic diversity in the legal sector deserves celebrating. The Mattos Filho Institute was launched in 2017 – it is an independent initiative financed voluntarily by partners, which offers scholarship opportunities to students from underrepresented backgrounds. In an industry where black people are severely underrepresented, Mattos Filho has hired 10 black lawyers in the last year, and more than 10% of its practitioners are black. Mattos Filho is determined to increase this number. The firm highlights that the goal of these initiatives is not only to give back to society, but also to attract and retain talent that previously would not have considered the legal industry as a viable career option. A testament that the firm is on the right track with its diversity policies is that several large companies are turning to Mattos Filho for advice on how to implement such initiatives in their own organisations.
In celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Mattos Filhos has reconfirmed its commitment to growth, as well as its intention to contribute to Brazil’s social development and to be more vocal about this going forward. It also rebranded to a more contemporary design and shortened its name.
Quiroga returned to the managing partner position after former head José Eduardo Carneiro Queiroz’s premature death in June 2020. Queiroz’s hard work to reorganise and strengthen Mattos Filho was one of many important legacies he left. The decision to let Quiroga lead the firm once again was an easy choice for the partnership. Few understand the ethos and the evolution the outfit has undergone as well as he. Quiroga’s initiative early on in his last tenure between 2009 and 2015 to introduce a merit-based compensation system was crucial to supporting Mattos Filho’s ascendancy. To sustain this aggressive growth strategy, a structured organisational approach remains paramount for standardising elevated levels of service across different teams and Quiroga is tasked once again with spearheading this plan.
The practice's commitment to transparency is also laudable. In a market in which public discussion of law firm finances is anathema to most, Mattos Filho publishes an annual report with revenue figures.
The significant investment that the firm has made in its training programme is also key to its success. Associates benefit from a clear, structured and frequently reviewed assessment for career progression. Promotions are decided by a committee – never by a single partner. The outfit also supports the development of its teams with frequent training in the Mattos Filho Academy. These sessions take place at one of its new buildings, which is within walking distance from the São Paulo headquarters. Lawyers have training sessions with partners and professors from Brazil’s most prominent business school, FGV-SP, which has a partnership with the outfit.
Mattos Filho puts great emphasis on well-being and has several policies in place to ensure that its staff are happy. It offers sabbaticals at two stages of the partnership career path. The first is after 10 years of partnership when a partner can apply for three to six months of paid leave to dedicate to a personal goal. The second occurs after 20 years of partnership when the partner can apply for up to 12 months of paid leave. This provides a period of reflection and normally takes place when a partner is around 60 years old. To complement the outfit's six-month maternity leave, in 2021 Mattos Filho extended its existing paternity leave scheme for secondary caregivers from 20 to 60 days. It also has a policy that entitles women receiving fertility treatment to between five and 10 days of leave.
Mattos Filho has addressed the often-complex issue of succession transparently. The practice is relatively new, and the only retired lawyers are name partners Ary Oswaldo Mattos Filho, Pedro Luciano Marrey Jr and Otávio Uchôa da Veiga Filho. Their retirement was subject to separate negotiations. Going forward, partners will retire compulsorily at the age of 65. The firm has a pension system that is funded by partners while they are active, meaning that future generations are not burdened by debt. This all builds on the premise of Mattos Filho’s institutionalisation project, where no partner is more than the practice.
Roberto Quiroga was re-elected as managing partner in March 2021 and will steer the practice until 2024. He temporarily held the role from July 2020 following the passing of José Eduardo Carneiro Queiroz. Quiroga held this post between 2009 and 2015. He sits on the 11-partner executive committee, which also features: Eduardo Damião Gonçalves, Fabio Teixeira Ozi, Glaucia Lauletta Frascino, João Ricardo de Azevedo Ribeiro, Marcelo Mansur Haddad, Marina Anselmo Schneider, Marina Procknor, Pablo Sorj, Pedro Whitaker de Souza Dias and Renata Correia Cubas.
In addition to its headquarters, Mattos Filho has a separate building in São Paulo that hosts not only the Mattos Filho Academy, but also a multimedia studio and the new pro bono division, among other departments. Its office in Rio de Janeiro is bigger than all other São Paulo firms in the city and competes well with local rivals in Brazil’s second-biggest legal market. The firm has also offices in Brasília, Campinas, New York and London.