The lawyers at Shearman & Sterling LLP are attuned to the latest trends and opportunities in Latin America thanks to their close relationships with major corporates and investment banks. This strength is coupled with the firm’s historically deep ties to the region; indeed, it is one of a small group that can really lay claim to having started working in Latin America over a century ago.
The firm has a leading reputation across multiple practice areas. Its long history of working on market-leading deals means it tends to be the first port of call for first of their kind transactions. This trait lends the firm well to explore nascent fields – for example, it has been a steady presence on many of the social and green bond offerings coming out of Latin America in the past couple of years. These forms of sustainable investment are relatively new to the region, making Shearman’s capital markets practice a natural fit for their delivery to the market.
The premier capital markets team is one of the busiest in the region, particularly in sovereign finance work, but also in issuances by corporations. There is also a top-tier project finance team staffed with lawyers who take on complex projects across the region in multiple industries. While there has been some turnover across several areas in the last two years, the firm's M&A, restructuring and banking work remain highly regarded, while its established anti-corruption team is growing busier.
Geographical diversity is another defining feature of this firm’s Latin America practice; in any one year it is difficult to pick out countries where Shearman does more work than in others, such is the breadth of its deal-flow. This combination of real regional reach and a multidisciplinary offering that dates back a long time is an important defining feature and one that goes a long way towards explaining Shearman’s enduring success in the region. It means that Shearman has participated in most deal-types in Latin America at some point or another, giving it a pool of rich experience.
Shearman’s Latin American affinity group is spread across offices in the US, Brazil, Europe and Asia. It was one of the first US firms to open in São Paulo and it has now been there for well over a decade.
A lot can be said about the team’s collaborative spirit and the role it has played in underpinning Shearman’s success. The practice groups work closely together, to ensure cross-selling and flexibility for Latin America’s fast-changing economic conditions. This is something the team works hard at. Partners involved in the region meet every week and strategies are discussed daily to ensure there is seamless coverage. Clients appreciate the familiarity of a team whose members make it a priority to share information between themselves.
The firm’s long presence in Latin America means its relationships with the region’s leading companies, banks and law firms have endured generational handovers. Latin American clients include Chile’s ENAP (for finance work); Colombia’s Ecopetrol and Grupo Sura; Azul and Gerdau in Brazil; Intercorp, InRetail and Alicorp in Peru; and various Carlos Slim-controlled entities in Mexico. Shearman & Sterling’s deep links with investment banks are shown by the flow of sovereign and quasi-sovereign work (notably for Uruguay, Guatemala, Chile and Peru), and are leveraged elsewhere as well – for example in capital markets transactions by Petrobras, Ecopetrol, BNDES, Caixa and the state-owned banks of Costa Rica and Chile. CABEI and the IFC turn to the firm regularly, as do commercial banks operating in the project finance sphere.
The partners at Shearman today studied with the heads of Latin America’s finest law firms, making for genuine, lasting relationships. The length of the firm’s commitment to the region has also allowed it to build one of the largest foreign associate programmes in Latin America. Indeed, there are few leading law firms in the region without a partner who has spent time at Shearman’s New York offices, which means a steady stream of referrals from noted firms. Another marker of the extent to which this firm is embedded in Latin America is its participation in pro bono and diversity initiatives along with leading local firms in various countries. Antonia Stolper, who is now of counsel after many years at the forefront of the team, has been an important driver of this, but several other female partners are also involved in various diversity programmes in Latin America.
Latin America is undoubtedly a continued strategic focus for Shearman. While other firms may be snapping at its heels, they have a long way to go before they can begin to match its quality and breadth of practice.
New York is the firm’s base and the home of many of its most relevant lawyers, while a long-standing São Paulo office is a key part of the team. London, Brussels, Paris, Shanghai, Tokyo and Washington, DC, also contribute to the Latin American practice. Newer offices in Houston and Austen are also relevant.