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Despite the Brazilian adage that the year doesn’t truly begin until Carnival finishes, 2018 got off to a busy start from January; law firms reported an active first quarter, particularly in corporate and M&A. The inevitable uncertainty thrown up by the 2018 elections was a cause for caution from some investors, but others were not perturbed, focusing on the long-term prospects of the country over short-term gains. Chinese investors in particular have shown strong interest in Brazil, most notably in the infrastructure and agribusiness sectors.

During the economic crisis there were unsurprising difficulties in closing transactions. Lawyers have noted that M&A deals became easier to close from the second half of 2017, with many being optimistic about a continued positive trend for 2018.

In the TMT sector, Brazil’s ride-hailing app 99 was acquired by China’s Didi Chuxing. The start-up company became Brazil’s first "tech unicorn", showcasing the country’s start-up potential. In response to this developing field, several law firms have launched or bolstered technology and venture capital/start-up practices.

Among the most significant legislative developments in recent years has been the labour law reforms – part of President Temer’s economic programme – which were approved in July 2017. The overhaul of the system was controversial, and a reduction in employment-related claims is expected due to the new financial liability of claimants.

The real estate market finally showed signs of life after a couple of dismal years; new real estate developments were few and far between from 2015 to 2017. Though there may not be a sudden reversal of the tide, specialists in the country predict that the market will improve around 2019 or 2020. Proposals to open rural land to foreigners failed to come to fruition in 2017, although some commentators remain hopeful for a future change in the regulations, which could stimulate foreign investment.

The Brazilian tax system is elaborate, involving complex federal, state and municipal taxes, and tax lawyers are in constant demand; the Tax ranking in this chapter is among the most competitive. In the current economic climate, tax litigation is on the up. On one hand a cash-strapped government is looking to augment its revenues, while on the other companies of all sizes are looking to increase their efficiency. In an already litigious tax environment, law firms report an increase in mandates to defend clients again tax assessments from the government. In 2017, President Temer announced his proposal to join the OECD, and such a move would require a significant change to the country’s tax system to align it with OECD standards. There have been calls for an overhaul of the country’s tax system for years, though current political uncertainty makes the prospect of serious change unlikely.

In banking and finance, firms report an increasing volume of infrastructure financings, and the higher number of Brazilian IPOs as compared with previous years was another positive sign for the market.

With the Lava Jato investigation still ongoing, compliance has taken on a crucial role in transactions and companies’ day-to-day operations, with Brazilian law firms in turn strengthening their compliance teams to respond to client demand. We have this year incorporated ‘compliance’ into the Corporate and M&A ranking, and have added ‘white-collar crime’ to the Dispute Resolution ranking.

The Brazilian legal market is dynamic, with each year heralding numerous partner moves. Among the most significant changes in 2017 were the establishment of Caminati Bueno Advogados by former partners at TozziniFreire Advogados and Lino, Beraldi, Belluzzo e Caminati Advogados; and the merger between Navarro Advogados and Caselli Guimarães Advogados to create CaselliNavarro Advogados.

Soares Bumachar dissolved, and Laura Mendes Bumachar took her bankruptcy and dispute resolution practice to a new home at Dias Carneiro Advogados. Felsberg Advogados hired several new partners; among them was Miriam Machado, who joined from KLA-Koury Lopes Advogados in 2018.

Leading domestic firms include BMA - Barbosa, Müssnich, Aragão; Cescon, Barrieu, Flesch & Barreto Advogados; Demarest Advogados; Lefosse Advogados; Machado Meyer Sendacz e Opice Advogados; Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga Advogados; Pinheiro Neto Advogados; TozziniFreire Advogados; and Veirano Advogados.

Despite Brazilian Bar Association regulations which inhibit close cooperation between domestic and foreign law firms, several successful international associations do exist. Key among them are Trench Rossi Watanabe and Tauil & Chequer Advogados in association with Mayer Brown. Vella Pugliese Buosi e Guidoni Advogados has maintained a strategic alliance with Dentons since 2017, and Campos Mello Advogados works in cooperation with DLA Piper.

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