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With Chile’s economy highly reliant on copper mining, the country’s economic growth has decelerated recently, as a result of both lower prices/demand, and a reduction in local copper production due in part to strike activity at the world’s largest copper mine, Minera Escondida.

Elsewhere, in the energy sector, the country’s leading energy lawyers are increasingly involved in renewable energy matters as international investors seek to invest in Chile’s growing solar energy industry; while dispute resolution practitioners, particularly those with white-collar expertise have been much in demand following a rash of high-profile investigations, such as Cascadas, Corpesca and La Polar.

The country has also seen a raft of new legislation, including a new labour law, which will change how companies interact with Chile’s unions, as well as aspects of individual negotiations; and recently approved competition law amendments that greatly impact upon the current merger control regime, notably re-classifying “interlocking” as anticompetitive conduct. Major changes from Chile’s 2014 tax reform also came into effect during 2017, resulting in significant advisory work for the country’s tax law practitioners, who have been busy analysing how the new rules will apply to clients’ businesses, as well as assisting clients with a recent tax amnesty programme. Other growing areas for Chile’s legal practitioners include corporate law compliance, with several firms now fielding specialised compliance lawyers.

Market movements and the trend towards the regionalization (and globalisation) of legal-service platforms, saw the signing of a co-operation agreement between Bahamondez, Alvarez & Zegers and global law firm DLA Piper LLP (US) during 2016; the new firm is known as BAZ|DLA Piper. International law firm CMS also significantly expanded its presence in Latin America; establishing offices in Colombia, Perú and Chile where it associated with Carey & Allende to establish CMS Carey & Allende, with a 70-person team and over 13 practice areas.

A number of divisions and spin-offs also occurred; in late 2016, Barros Letelier & González split into three firms: disputes and antitrust boutique González & Rioseco, which was formed by Francisco González and Andrés Rioseco; Letelier & Núñez Abogados, which was founded by Max Letelier and David Nuñez and is focused on commercial issues, arbitration and competition law; and Enrique Barros & Cía, which focuses on arbitration, legal opinions and advising family companies. The dissolution of the former Reymond & Fleischmann also saw the founding of boutique firms Fleischmann & León Abogados and Reymond & Cía.

And at the start of 2017, the highly-related disputes firm Harasic & Lopez closed its doors; Davor Harasic and Iván Harasic , along with civil law specialist Gissella López, formerly at Bordoli Doren y López (now known as Bordoli Doren Abogados), joined up with penal specialists Dal Pozzo & Medina Abogados to form Harasic Medina Dal Pozzo & López; while Julián López and José Ignacio Escobar opened up López Escobar Del Río with a former DyP Abogados’ partner, Jorge Del Río.

Other developments saw Baker McKenzie Chile’s former competition co-head José Joaquín Ugarte and senior associate Santiago Ried, together with Pablo Correa, a former Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría senior associate, open new firm Ugarte Ried y Correa, which focuses on antitrust, competition and arbitration matters.

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