2021 Latin Lawyer Elite firm
Morales & Besa is one of Chile’s finest transactional firms, with excellent banking and finance, capital markets and corporate divisions that make even bigger and longer-established rivals jealous. This firm is well-rounded too: its non-transactional areas, especially antitrust, dispute resolution and real estate mean clients often stay for a full-service experience, trusting Morales & Besa to handle all its needs under one roof. Its leadership makes sure to foster a strong sense of community between its lawyers across the board and is constantly looking for ways to improve its offering and environment.
The firm’s transactional muscle was flexed in 2020 when demand for its banking and finance, project finance and restructuring groups soared, according to senior management. Towards the third and fourth quarters of 2020, it noted an uptick in M&A work while its non-transactional departments had a spotlight shone on them too. It promoted its antitrust head to partner, now the firm’s youngest partner, earlier this year. 2020 was also the year the firm strengthened its regulatory and environmental practice group, which is increasingly active, by promoting a lawyer to director. Environmental institutions have consolidated in Chile over the last decade and the firm feels well prepared for the continued sophistication of the regulatory landscape it expects will impact projects across the country.
Morales & Besa launched a separate capital markets and financial regulation practice group in 2019, targeting clients with regulatory and compliance requirements related to financial and capital markets rules. Not many Chilean firms in this chapter offer advice with this specialisation. Meanwhile, its three-year-old compliance practice remains popular with clients, who are turning to the firm to establish prevention models and compliance programmes.
Looking ahead, the firm wants to remain focused on its projects and energy practice areas, as well as its compliance and regulatory groups. These areas are growing in importance as transactions become more sophisticated year on year.
Morales & Besa is acutely aware of the importance of keeping millennials engaged. The firm runs a mentoring programme with associates twice a year, allowing them to share feedback. The firm’s diversity committee organises meetings for associates to share their concerns and it is reviewing internal procedures to see if there are any areas where unconscious bias prevails, with a view to removing it.
Prior to the covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the firm introduced recycling points in the office. There has been a significant reduction in waste, including the removal of single-use plastic items. The firm’s environmental department even helped to obtain the necessary permits to place recycling bins outside the office. Once the pandemic is over, the office aims to continue with these environmentally-friendly measures.
The firm’s remote working programme, which allows lawyers to work flexi-time, is the first of its kind to include both men and women in the Chilean legal market and was the 2020 winner of Latin Lawyer’s Diversity Initiative of the Year Award. Through this initiative, the firm encourages all its lawyers to have a good work-life balance and for parenting responsibilities to be spread more evenly between men and women. In 2021 Morales & Besa elected its first female managing partner – Macarena Laso – becoming one of the very few local firms with a woman in charge.
Morales & Besa makes sure it is up to date with cybersecurity measures and other technological advances: in early 2020 it implemented a remote e-sign platform to allow lawyers to generate, send and receive signed documentation online, which clients have appreciated. This meant that the firm was ready to work remotely when lockdown measures were imposed in Chile during the pandemic.
In 2021, Morales & Besa elected Macarena Laso as managing partner. Laso is the first woman to be appointed to that role at the firm.