Legal market overview
Despite Chile being one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations, its GDP growth hit a five-year low in 2014 following reductions in both consumption and investment (especially in the mining sector where metals prices have fallen significantly). This in turn saw a slackening of capital markets and M&A activity and less associated legal work, although restructurings and litigation remained buoyant. In the first quarter of 2015, Chile’s growth has recovered to a limited degree, prompted by increased copper output and government spending, which has translated into more sizeable corporate and projects instructions for the country’s law firms.
The Chilean economy recently experienced a slew of reforms which have provided the legal market with extensive advisory work. A new insolvency law became effective in October 2014, substantially overhauling the country’s insolvency regime, while newly enacted tax legislation introduced significant changes to Chile’s fiscal system, including corporate tax rate increases and anti-avoidance regulations designed to increase tax revenue. The country’s centre-left president, Michelle Bachelet, is also determined to reform Chile’s labour code, boosting union power at the expense of the country’s business sector. Consequently, Chile’s labour and employment practices have been actively preparing clients for the impact of the proposed reform on their businesses.
The legal market also experienced several key developments, most notably the binational merger of Colombian law firm Prietocarrizosa with Chile’s Philippi Yrarrázaval, Pulido & Brunner, and with an additional participation from Iberian giant Uría Menéndez to become Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uria, which marks the establishment of the first multi-jurisdictional Ibero-American law firm. Clearly a medium-to-long term project conceived with a region-wide perspective, its immediate effects on the local Chilean market remain to be seen. A local merger of note saw Lewin & Cia fold itself in to Noguera, Larrain & Dulanto bringing antitrust and real estate practices to the latter, along with new partners, Nicolás Lewin and Cristián Lewin. The market also saw smaller spin-offs and moves: three former Carey associates, competition lawyer Juan Enrique Coeymans, corporate and securities regulation expert Alejandro Edwards and Tomás Poblete, known for real estate and energy law, as well as corporate and M&A and capital markets work, established Coeymans, Edwards y Poblete; and after two decades with Honorato, Russi & Cia, José Luis Honorato formed full-service firm Honorato Delaveau & Cía. with Gonzalo Delaveau and Sebastián Delpiano, formerly of Aninat Schwencke & Cia. Also of note was the 2014 departure from Ferrada Nehme of Carla Bordoli to co-found boutique Bordoli Doren & López Abogados, which covers competition law, regulated markets, telecoms and IT, public procurement and the corporate aspects of those sectors; and the departure of labour specialists Ignacio García and Nancy Ibaceta from Baker & McKenzie to join a restructured Porzio Rios García & Associados that is seeking to broaden its service offering beyond intellectual property.