Legal market overview
Defying regional economic trends, Argentina continues to isolate itself from its burgeoning regional neighbours. One aspect of this is the series of foreign exchange regulations enacted by the government, which severely restrict the ability to move capital out of the country. Originally brought in to curb the flight of capital in anticipation of a possible currency devaluation, the regulations have disincentivised new entrants to the Argentine market.
However, new regulations aimed at reducing the number of major transactions conducted using cash should help to raise taxes from undeclared transactions (an estimated 40% of the total), that previously went under the radar of the fiscal authorities. The Argentine administration has also compelled importers to match imports with exports of domestic produce in order to redress the balance of trade. All this, among a myriad of other issues, has made Argentina an unpredictable place to invest in spite of a wealth of natural resources and a desperate need for major infrastructure investment.
As always in Argentina, the ability to provide a diverse range of legal services while remaining flexible before the vagaries of economic and political change is what characterises the market’s leading firms. The market appears increasingly polarised between the top full-service firms and the premier smaller and boutique firms; with the mid-market an increasingly difficult ground to occupy due to the currently uneconomic relation between overheads and work flow.
At the top end of the market, local behemoth Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal remains the predominant player, both in the limited transactional work available, and in a range of other sectors. Behind it, the market’s other full-service heavyweights Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi, Pérez Alati, Grondona, Benites, Arntsen & Martínez De Hoz, Jr and a resurgent Estudio Beccar Varela retain their market position in the adverse economic climate. Numerically slightly smaller, Allende & Brea and M & M Bomchil have also both shown their resilience. Among other noteworthy firms, Mitrani, Caballero, Ojam & Ruiz Moreno, Baker & McKenzie and the recently restrucutured Zang, Bergel & Viñes Abogados, all remain constants in the market.
Notable boutiques include Heredia, Oneto Gaona, Lede Pizzurno & Terrel Abogados (HOLT) and Zaballa – Carchio Abogados in the mining and infrastructure sector; Alliani & Bruzzon, Bazan Cambré & Orts and Martelli Abogados in the oil and gas sector; and Teijeiro & Ballone, Abogados and Bulit Goñi & Tarsitano in tax.
Amid the dearth of transactional activity, and despite the severe financial stress that many firms are enduring, the market remains largely unchanged. Exceptions include Nicholson y Cano Abogados’ absorption of a large part of legacy firm Cárdenas, Di Ció, Romero & Tarsitano, substantially augmenting the firm’s service offering with the addition of six partners; and the closure of former commercial firm Errecondo, Salaverri, Dellatorre, González & Burgio, which split into Errecondo, González & Funes and Salaverri, Dellatorre, Burgio & Wetzler Malbrán.