Legal market overview
Chile remains one of the most competitive economies in the region and its substantial mining resources and economic stability make the country of continuing interest to the international business community. Michelle Bachelet’s re-election for a second non-consecutive term in December 2013 has brought a raft of reform bills to Parliament, which has filled business players with worry at a time where the Chilean economy is slowing down (forecasted growth is 3.4%). The new government’s most polemical proposition at the time of writing is an extensive tax reform, which has led the area to become many law firms’ key focus during early 2014, and the widespread creation and reinforcement of dedicated tax groups to meet clients’ needs in the sector.
The country’s reliance on energy imports is one of the greatest challenges to its continued growth, and as a consequence investment in energy projects continues to expand, particularly in the renewable energy sector. The falling price of commodities during 2013, along with stricter emission targets, has made it more difficult to raise funds for new mining projects. This, coupled with increased judicial opposition to new exploration projects, has somewhat dampened mining activity over the past year, but has made power transmission and generation even more attractive to potential investors.
Banking and finance remains one of the most lucrative legal sectors in Chile, with significant activity related to acquisition and project financing, IPOs on the local market, and stock and debt issuances. Corporate M&A activity has been on the rise, with an increased volume of mid-size foreign companies starting operations in Chile, and local companies investing abroad (particularly in the Latin American region). Construction, regulatory, environmental and litigation instructions have all also been significant sources of instructions for firms.
Chile’s five powerhouses – Carey, Claro & Cia., Philippi Yrarrázaval, Pulido & Brunner, Barros & Errázuriz and Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos – remain at the pinnacle of the legal market, picking up a good chunk of the country’s high-value legal work. Behind the leading five is a chasing pack of smaller firms distinguished for their expertise: full service outfit Morales & Besa has a first-class finance practice, Prieto y Cía. shines in energy, Baker & McKenzie heads the mining market, while Guerrero, Olivos, Novoa y Errazuriz has top-end corporate capabilities; all of them field large dedicated teams and have international credibility.
The Chilean market also houses highly specialised boutiques, including Estudio Carvallo for insurance, Alessandri & Compañía Abogados for IP, Pellegrini & Cía. for competition and antitrust, Núñez, Muñoz, Verdugo y Cía. Ltda. Abogados for mining, and Uribe, Hubner & Canales for labour law.