Second only to Panama as the region’s fastest growing economy, the Dominican Republic enjoyed a GDP growth rate of 7% in 2015, with a projected growth of 5.2% in 2016. This has encouraged, and is augmented by, the continuing flow of foreign investment – which is particularly high in the Republic given the ailing economies of Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela. Foreign investment is most visible in the banking, hospitality, leisure and retail sectors; unsurprisingly, the country’s service sector accounts for around 60% of GDP. Moreover, the fall in hydrocarbons prices that has so hampered other economies in the region has been a boon for the Dominican Republic, a net importer of oil and gas.
With a buoyant market, transactions involving fintech are increasingly in vogue, and public and private sector alike are engaging in more debt issues.
The declining reputation of the Republic’s judicial system – thanks to an inefficient, overloaded court system, and the involvement of several judges in corruption scandals – has helped foster a marked increase in arbitration, in addition to which constitutional and criminal litigation are both becoming increasingly prominent. In the intellectual property space, patents are more and more visible, particularly in light of a government plan to promote innovation with the support of the country’s universities. Data privacy continues to grow, while clients are increasingly protective of their trade marks. This is hardly surprising, given the quantity of counterfeit goods entering the country, although the Republic’s trade mark association has been moving to tighten up regulations on such goods.
Trust laws and tax incentives, and the resulting foreign investment, have also helped foster a blossoming real estate market, with construction burgeoning in the public and private sectors; in 2015, the government built more schools and children’s centres than in any other year in the Republic’s history. In the retail sector, malls have been springing up across the country and, on the residential and hospitality front, second or holiday homes have also been proliferating.
The legal market is dominated by full-service firms such as Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernández; Castillo y Castillo; Guzmán Ariza; Jiménez Cruz Peña; OMG; Pellerano & Herrera; and Russin, Vecchi & Heredia Bonetti. The only international firm in the Republic is Squire Patton Boggs, although DMK Abogados | Central Law is the local outpost of Central American network Central Law. Arguably the key movement in the sector occurred as we go to press, with key IP figures Jaime Ángeles and Wallis Pons leaving their firms, Ángeles & Lugo Lovatón and Biaggi & Messina Abogados respectively, to establish new IP boutique Angeles Pons, while, at the same time, Ángeles’ former partner Zaida Lugo Lovaton moved in the opposite direction to become senior partner at Biaggi’s re-branded IP arm, Biaggi & Messina – Lugo IP.