The Legal 500



Legal market overview

Colombia has undergone far-reaching social, economic and political transformations over the course of the last decade and these processes continue. While foreign business interest in Colombia remains very healthy, the strength of economic activity forecast has not fully materialised due to a number of factors. Perhaps foremost is the limited number of new infrastructure projects actually initiated, robbing the economy of a motor that would have driven both economic and legal activity in multiple sectors. It remains to be seen if these will begin before elections scheduled for mid-2014. Mining sector activity, too, has remained limited, awaiting the establishment of an effective new regulatory and administrative body. The government has been far from idle (see the reforms, below), but has also had the extraordinary distraction of peace talks, upon the success of which, the country’s medium-to-long term growth and security depend. Despite these difficulties, the business market –and with it, legal activity– has remained relatively dynamic, with considerable transactional activity, such as Carrefour’s $2.6bn sale of its Colombian holdings to Cencosud, holding centre stage.

With the implementation of the US-Colombian free trade agreement (May 2012), firms have sought to prepare themselves for increased trade with the US, and a new axis of commercial activity, focused upon the country’s northern coast, is evident. Full-service firm prietocarrizosa opened a new office in Barranquilla last year, and leading labour boutique Godoy Cordoba Abogados recently followed suit. The FTA has also had a number of unforeseen outcomes, most notably in the labour sector where, at US insistence, the agreement enshrines union rights. Reform and liberalisation is occurring in other sectors too: in the dispute resolution sector, courts are in the process of moving from written to oral procedures, while the arbitral codes, both domestic and international, have been reformed to bring them more in line with international norms. With domestic arbitrations at the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce growing approximately 40% year-on-year from 2011 to 2012, these are timely modifications. If the arbitral reforms have been well received, reactions to reforms in the tax sector have been somewhat more circumspect. In the IP sector, where the FTA has brought the Madrid Protocol into effect, a controversial new copyright law is likely to be declared unconstitutional. In the insurance sector, Law 1328 (2009) came in to force in July 2013 substantially liberalising the market; and in the competition arena, stronger enforcement has been interrupted by the resignation of José Miguel de la Calle as Superintendent of Industry and Trade.

The arrival of new international players notwithstanding, the market remains firmly dominated by what has been dubbed the Colombian ‘magic circle’, comprising four prestigious full-service firms: Brigard & Urrutia, Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta, Posse Herrera Ruiz and prietocarrizosa. If the former pair long enjoyed a slight edge in corporate and financial matters, there is certainly a suggestion that the latter, in turn, enjoy a similar advantage in projects work, and to a degree, in the energy sector too. On their shoulder, sits a second group of, generally smaller, full-service firms, led by Cárdenas & Cárdenas Abogados and the ever-present Baker & McKenzie Colombia S.A., but also including Lloreda Camacho & Co., Sanclemente Fernández Abogados S.A. and Cavelier Abogados. Recent market arrivals Norton Rose Fulbright and Holland & Knight LLP, are both seeking to develop genuine full-service capability in the local market. And while the much rumoured ‘invasion’ of numerous other full-service firms has not, as yet, fully materialised, Garrigues has moved swiftly to open a Bogotá office (planned as the first of a number in the region); and various boutiques have developed alliances to strengthen their market positions: De la Torre & Monroy with DAC Beachcroft LLP in the insurance sector; and Godoy & Hoyos Abogados with Ryan in the tax sector. Such developments have had their costs: having lost a number of lawyers to start up Castro, Leiva, Rendón & Criales in 2011, the recent departure of founding partner Luis Carlos Neira and his team to Norton Rose Fulbright marks the end of Holguín Neira & Pombo Abogados.

Within this changing scenario, the boutique sector remains vibrant. The additional legal requirements around much big-ticket work (particularly environmental and community issues) have made it more difficult for such firms to participate in major transactions and financings, although some, notably Martínez Neira Abogados and Rodríguez Azuero Abogados, continue to do so. At the same time, such shifts have opened new specialist sub-areas which boutiques can frequently explore more fully than their generalist competitors: Durán & Osorio Abogados Asociados and Palacios Lleras, for example, on work relating to the state and, along with Muñoz Tamayo & Asociados, in certain aspects of projects work. Certainly boutiques continue to occupy the role of protagonists in a whole range of sectors: Esguerra Barrera Arriaga in competition; Araujo Ibarra & Asociados S.A and Ibarra Abogados in international trade; OlarteMoure in IP; Godoy Cordoba Abogados in labour; Pinilla, Gonzalez & Prieto in real estate; and Lewin & Wills, Abogados in tax, among others.

Press releases

The latest news direct from law firms. If you would like to submit press releases for your firm, send an email request to

Legal Developments worldwide

Legal Developments and updates from the leading lawyers in each jurisdiction. To contribute, send an email request to

Press Releases worldwide

The latest news direct from law firms. If you would like to submit press releases for your firm, send an email request to
  • Exempted Limited Partnership Law, 2014

    The Exempted Limited Partnership Law, 2014 (the New ELP Law ) has replaced the Exempted Limited Partnership Law (2013 Revision) (the Previous Law ). The New Law includes significant changes to the Cayman Islands' statutory framework regulating exempted limited partnerships ( ELPs ) that will increase the attractiveness of ELPs and will be appreciated by managers, investors and creditors alike. Private equity sponsors in particular will notice substantial improvements that are indicative of Cayman's continuing commitment to balanced and commercially sensible legislation. Read more...
  • Restructuring and insolvency in Luxembourg (part 2)

  • Enhancements to the Companies (Jersey) Law 1991

    On 23 May 2014, the States of Jersey passed the Companies (Amendment No. 11) (Jersey) Law 201- (the Amendment Law ).  This will now be sent to the UK Privy Council for consideration, then laid before the States of Jersey for a final time before coming into force.  The latest information we have is that the Privy Council will be approving the law on 19 July 2014 and it may come into effect as soon as 4 August 2014.
  • Joost Fanoy appointed partner at BarentsKrans

    The Hague, 4 July 2014 - BarentsKrans has appointed Joost Fanoy as a partner in the Antitrust & Public Procurement department, effective as of July 1, 2014. Joost specializes in European law in general with a particular focus on European and Dutch competition, public procurement and state aid law and is the head of the Antitrust and Public Procurement Practice Group. Joost is also a member of the Cartel damages team of BarentsKrans.
  • PineBridge Acquires 50% Stake in Romatem

    PineBridge Investments Middle East, a global multi-asset class investment manager with regional headquarters in Bahrain, and nearly 60 years of experience in emerging and developed markets, has acquired a 50% equity stake in Romatem, the leading physical therapy and rehabilitation services chain in Turkey.
    - Paksoy
  • Isbank Issued USD 750 Million Notes

    Isbank issued 750 million USD notes under its GMTN programme established in 2013. The notes are listed on the Irish Stock Exchange and bear interest at the rate of 5 % with a maturity date 2021. Mr. Omer Collak (partner) and Mr. Baris Kencebay (head of tax practice) have acted for the joint lead managers Barclays, Citigroup, HSBC, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and The Royal Bank of Scotland.
    - Paksoy
  • Halkbank Issued USD 500 Million Notes

    Halkbank issued five-year term fixed interest rate US currency notes, with a total amount of USD 500 million  with an interest rate of 4.765 %  and an annual coupon rate of 4.750 %. The notes offered the lowest borrowing rate in the first five-month period of 2014, and total demand rose nearly nine-fold due to high investor interest. The note issuance drew great interest from international investors settled in the Middle East and Asia, as well as those investors based in the US and Europe. Mr Omer Collak (partner) and Mr Baris Kencebay (head of tax practice) have advised the joint lead managers.
    - Paksoy
  • Turkiye Finans to Issue Ringgit Sukuk to Raise Up to MYR 3 Billion In Malaysia

    Turkiye Finans issued the first ringgit sukuk originating from Turkey. The bank initially raised MYR 1 billion with a five-year commodity sukuk on June 30, with an annual return of 6 %. The sukuk under the programme will have tenure of one to 20 years. Funds raised will go towards general corporate purposes. The sukuk will be issued through TF Varlik Kiralama A.S., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Turkiye Finans. Malaysia's RAM Ratings has accorded the programme an indicative long-term rating of AA3. HSBC Amanah Malaysia and Standard Chartered Saadiq were the joint advisers. Mr Omer Collak (partner) and Mr Baris Kencebay (head of tax practice) have advised Turkiye Finans and the issuer TF Varlik Kiralama A.S.
    - Paksoy
  • Ziraat Bank Established GMTN Programme to Issue Bonds Worth USD 2 Billion

    Ziraat Bank, the largest state owned bank of Turkey, established GMTN programme on 21 May 2014, for the notes to be issued up to  USD 2 billion listed on Irish Stock Exchange. The notes are unconditional, unsubordinated and unsecured obligations, and rank  pari-passu with Ziraat Bank's other senior unsecured obligations.
    - Paksoy
  • Vakifbank Sells EUR 500 Million Notes Under USD 5 Billion GMTN Programme

    Vakifbank issued EUR 500 million 5-year unsecured and unsubordinated notes under the first GMTN programme of Turkey established in 2013. The notes are listed on Irish Stock Exchange and bear interest at the rate of 3.5 % p.a. with a maturity date 17 June 2019. This is the very first EUR denominated RegS offering of a Turkish entity.
    - Paksoy