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Colombia > Legal market overview

Editorial

The growth of Colombia’s economy has slowed due to the falling price of oil and other commodities, accentuated by a downturn in Chinese investment. With less revenue available from exports, higher than expected inflation and an unfavourable dollar exchange rate, the economic outlook is not at first sight promising. However, the economy remains one of the fastest growing in the sub-continent, aided by the fiscal and macroeconomic policies that President Santos’ administration continues to implement.

While the government missed its deadline to sign a peace agreement with the FARC and other guerrilla groups, as we go to press a final agreement to end the 50-year conflict has been announced; over time, it is likely to have a positive effect in terms of foreign investment. The long-term challenge for the country is to improve its competitiveness, reduce its dependence on the export of oil and other raw materials, and continue with the infrastructure development necessary to overcome the challenges presented by the country’s natural topography. Manufacturing and construction have been the engines of the economy of late; the former is expected to continue to grow (especially with the re-opening of the Cartagena refinery), and the construction sector will remain active thanks to the ‘fourth generation’ of road concession projects. Commercial and household consumption has also been a driving force, but demand is falling in tandem with rising unemployment and tighter credit. Tax reform appears overdue, as the government’s growing fiscal deficit looks bound to force it to seek new ways to raise revenue.

In terms of the legal industry, the so-called ‘Colombian big four’ – Brigard & Urrutia, Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta, Posse Herrera Ruiz and Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría – continue to dominate the local market. However, as the decision by the former Prietocarrizosa to merge into what is now a tri-jurisdictional service platform suggests, this most competitive of markets is changing with rapidity, and features numerous outstanding alternatives, both local and foreign. International firms include the long established Baker McKenzie S.A.S. (one of its strongest offices in the region); and what is now, following its tie-up with the global player, Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas; along with DLA Piper Martinez NeiraHolland & Knight, Garrigues and Norton Rose Fulbright. Other local players include those with a multi-service offering such as Lloreda Camacho & Co., Sanclemente Fernández Abogados S.A. and Rodriguez Azuero Contexto Legal Abogados; niche specialists such as Durán & Osorio Abogados Asociados, Palacios Lleras, and Muñoz Tamayo & Asociados; and boutiques such as Godoy Córdoba Abogados, Archila Abogados, Suescún Abogados, Godoy & Hoyos Abogados and Ibarra Abogados, among others.

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