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Legal market overview
Chile’s sustained growth, minimal unemployment rates and economic optimism ensured a healthy flow of big-ticket investment transactions, mergers and IPOs during the course of 2012. The propitious business environment fuelled a thriving legal market which was also accompanied by a number of significant legal developments.
The year saw vigorous activity in the capital markets arena, as well as the implementation of regulatory and tax changes intended to boost the Latin American Integrated Market (MILA). Made up of the stock exchanges of Chile, Colombia, and Peru, the project aims to foster intra-regional stock trading and currently has a combined market capitalisation of almost $500bn.
Traditional market leaders remain dominant: Carey, Claro y Cia, Philippi Yrarrázaval, Pulido & Brunner, Barros & Errázuriz and Cariola Diez Perez-Cotapos continue to lead the pack, with a number of smaller full-service firms – notably Guerrero, Olivos, Novoa y Errazuriz and Morales & Besa – also providing first-rate advice, particularly in the banking and finance area.
Energy projects have also continued to flourish in Chile (particularly in the renewables sector), largely due to the high costs of energy in the country. In one noteworthy development, a new environmental court in Santiago came into operation in late 2012. It is designed to cater to the increasing stream of oppositions to energy and infrastructure projects emanating from Chilean civil society. Major player Prieto y Cia has maintained its excellent reputation across Chile’s vital energy sector, and Baker & McKenzie continues to impress with its mining credentials.
Tax reforms, including one affecting capital gains applicable to the transfer or sale of shares, prompted an increased need for tax advice. Firms also noted high levels of activity in litigation, labour law, intellectual property and insurance matters, four areas in which highly specialised boutiques challenge the dominance of the largest firms. Notable boutiques include Estudio Carvallo for insurance, Alessandri & Compañía Abogados for IP, and Uribe, Hubner & Canales for labour law.