Legal market overview
Colombia remains an attractive destination for investment, supported by a strong economy, political stability and receding security concerns, albeit against the background of to date inconclusive peace negotiations led by President Santos. Despite worrying predictions of a slowing economy, the country generally fared well during 2014, with the country’s GDP above average in the region, and ahead of that of Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru. This has been driven by healthy credit expansion and also by local public expenditure and investment.
Construction remains the country’s most dynamic sector and infrastructure projects its main engine of growth, a situation that looks set to continue with the ‘fourth generation of road concessions’ programme now being implemented. Mining continues to face problems, however, due to limitations on obtaining new concessions, the confirmation of titles and social conflicts associated with major mining projects; and while the agricultural sector has performed positively thanks in part to high coffee production and the commodity’s increased value due to poorer yields in Brazil and Central America, the year nevertheless had a sting in the tail with the collapse in oil prices and a disappointing tax reform. The country’s reliance on the price of exports remains a challenge, as does the possibility of political events creating anxiety among foreign investors who have purchased sovereign debt.
Banking and finance remains an active sector of the market, particularly in terms of acquisition and project finance, and the corporate transactional area has also remained relatively buoyant, with foreign companies increasingly interested in expanding their businesses in Colombia and local companies expanding into neighbouring countries in the region.
The legal market is led by the so-called ‘big four’ of Brigard & Urrutia, Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta, Posse Herrera Ruiz and Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uria; the latter is the product of the novel merger of two Latin American legal giants, Colombia’s Prietocarrizosa and Chile’s Philippi Yrrázaval, Pulido & Brunner, in association with prestigious Spanish/Portuguese firm Uría Menéndez: a ground-breaking move in the Ibero-American legal world, and one with clear regional intent, its development is being monitored.
Highly competitive, the market is home to an array of other services providers, both local and foreign; the Colombian office of international behemoth Baker & McKenzie S.A.S. and local full-service firm Cárdenas & Cárdenas Abogados both stand out. Other local players of note include Lloreda Camacho & Co. and Sanclemente Fernández Abogados S.A.; an array of recent arrivals includes Norton Rose Fulbright, Holland & Knight LLP, Garrigues, and DAC Beachroft Colombia; and a strong boutique sector includes DLA Piper Martinez Neira, Rodriguez – Azuero Abogados, Durán & Osorio Abogados Asociados, Palacios Lleras, and Muñoz Tamayo & Asociados.