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Despite increased government spending and a looser monetary policy, Chile’s economy expanded by a mere 2.1% in 2015. And with an ongoing decrease in copper prices, exports also dropped for the world’s largest copper producer. In response, in early 2016 the government announced a series of measures aimed at promoting growth.

Meanwhile, Chile’s specialist legal teams have been busy advising on a raft of legislative reforms. A recent labour law reform will significantly alter unions’ current provisions as well as collective bargaining procedures; tax practitioners have assisted clients with enacted 2014 tax legislation that was Chile’s largest tax law reform in 30 years; and in dispute resolution, insolvency work for lawyers increased in 2015 further to legislation that substantially overhauled the country’s prior law. Furthermore, high-profile allegations of tax fraud and illegal funding of political campaigns involving investment banking unit Banco Penta provided many of Chile’s law firms with significant instructions, including the representation of high-level Grupo Penta officers.

Significant legal market news saw Iberian firm Garrigues continue its expansion in Latin America with the March 2016 integration of Avendaño Merino in Chile, now known as Garrigues Chile. The office has a team of 20-plus lawyers, of which five are partners, and is primarily focused on M&A, tax, real estate and energy. Prior to the merger Avendaño Merino experienced the departures of litigation and competition partner José Miguel Gana to establish his own boutique; and Daniel Nassar, who left to establish a small firm with Alvaro Delgado and Cristóbal Fainé called NDF – Nassar Abogados Delgado & Faine.

Meanwhile, two months earlier Latin American firm Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uria launched in Peru by merging with Ferrero Abogados and Delmar Ugarte to become Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría, adding approximately 100 lawyers to the firm; this followed its formation in September 2014 through a merger between Chile’s Philippi and Colombian firm Prietocarrizosa, with a minority participation held by Spain’s Uría Menéndez. Conversely, the firm’s former labour department head Enrique Munita exited in November 2015 to co-establish labour law boutique Munita, Olavarría & Sáez (now Munita & Olavarría Abogados), taking former labour and social security director Cristián Olavarría and a number of associates with him.

Spin-off firms also sprung up; in late 2015 Urrutia & Cía’s former partner Gonzalo Nieto, left to form boutique firm Nieto, Moran & Cía (along with senior associate Jose Ignacio Morán), which specialises in mining, water, energy and environment law and litigation; other new practices include Echeverria Ilharreborde Penafiel, created by three former Claro & Cía. lawyers: environmental law expert José Domingo Ilharreborde, competition law specialist Pedro Echeverría and tax practitioner José Domingo Peñafiel.

Other headline news involved tax department co-head Alex Fischer exiting Carey to establish a boutique tax firm which he subsequently merged into the former Baraona Abogados to form Baraona Fischer Spiess; and Morales & Besa experiencing the departure of former banking and finance department head Pedro Garcia after 16 years at the firm leaving José Miguel Carvajal and Myriam Barahona leading the banking and finance group. Garcia subsequently joined Garrigues Chile as head of banking and project finance and the new firm also brought over Mónica van der Schraft from Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos to lead the firm’s disputes resolution practice. Guerrero Olivos also underwent change; the firm’s head of tax Sebastian Guerrero left after 20 years at the firm, taking tax partner Nicolás Valle and corporate partner Jorge Garcés with him to found new outfit Guerrero Valle Garces Abogados, leaving Guerrero Olivos’ tax department led by senior associate José Miguel Prieto; it also endured the departure of capital markets specialists José Miguel Ried and Cristián Fabres who left with a small group of associates to establish their own practice, Ried Fabres Abogados.

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