Legal market overview
The much-heralded ‘Mexican moment’ remains on hold. For all the reform initiatives since the election of President Peña Nieto and the return of a PRI administration in late 2012, as of May 2014, the country, Latin America’s second largest economy, had registered 21 consecutive months of falling economic output according to the national statistics office, INEGI. Nevertheless, the reforms that have been initiated (principally those in the banking, tax, competition and -crucially- energy sectors), have generated considerable expectation; this, in conjunction with the Mexican legal market’s notoriously limited degree of institutionalisation, has driven considerable market movement.
The tax sector demonstrates the extent of these shifts over the last 12 months, changes driven not only by reform in the sector but by the desire of different players to strengthen their offerings ahead of the growth in the workload foreseen by many. These movements include the merger of tax boutique Del Valle Torres into the (then) Jáuregui y Navarrete, to form Jáuregui y Del Valle, SC; and the absorption of Tron Abogados and Ortiz, Sosa, Ysusi y Cía by Ernst & Young and KPMG Cardenas Dosal, S.C., respectively. Elsewhere, Creel, García-Cuéllar, Aiza y Enríquez, S.C. has responded to the loss of its former tax partners to the new Creel Abogados by recruiting Alejandro Santoyo and his team from leading firm Chévez, Ruiz, Zamarripa y Cía SC; and the latter also lost Enrique Ramírez to Ernst & Young. Market perceptions suggest that this tumult has not necessarily come to an end as yet.
Another factor for change has been the arrival of foreign (principally US) firms over the last three years, both those seeking to offer, if not full-service capability then a relatively broad offering such as Greenberg Traurig, SC or the ‘re-booted’ Jones Day; and those providing a sector specific offering such as Littler, De la Vega y Conde SC in the labour sector or DAC Beachcroft LLP in the insurance field. Other relevant foreign firms include Holland & Knight, which took a large part of the team formerly at Chadbourne & Parke LLP’s Mexico office; DLA Piper Mexico, SC, which has struggled to consolidate its local position with new hires (and lost Guillermo Uribe, a key player in the country’s REIT-market to Holland & Knight); the increasingly well-positioned Haynes and Boone, L.L.P.; and longstanding key firm White & Case S.C., which, while still a leading corporate player, has also suffered its losses.
The proliferation of boutiques, largely as a result of splits and spin offs, has also been a notable tendency (although it should be that in some sectors, notably tax, as indicated above, there is a counter current with boutiques being absorbed into larger organizations). Dispute resolution has long been the bastion of boutiques and a number of new firms have been formed in the sector, notably Malpica, Iturbe, Buj & Paredes, S.C., one of several spin offs from Mijares, Angoitia, Cortés y Fuentes S.C.. However, the powerful showing and notable success of prominent corporate-finance boutiques Robles Miaja, SC and Raz Guzmán Abogados appears not to have gone unnoticed and boutique operations have developed in an array of other sectors.
Despite all these fluctuations, a number of key full service and/or transaction-oriented firms retain their market predominance, principally Creel, García-Cuéllar, Aiza y Enríquez, S.C., Galicia Abogados, SC and Ritch, Mueller, Heather y Nicolau, SC, along with Mijares, Angoitia, Cortés y Fuentes S.C., the aforementioned White & Case S.C., and the increasingly relevant Nader, Hayaux y Goebel, SC and Jones Day. Low profile-outlier Von Wobeser y Sierra, SC also retains a seat at the top table with participation in a number of the market’s key deals. More traditional full service players too are increasingly present, notably a re-emergent Santamarina y Steta; the ever-stronger Hogan Lovells BSTL, and the ever-present Basham, Ringe y Correa, S.C.; nor can the five-office market leviathan Baker & McKenzie Mexico be ignored.
As we go to press the long-rumoured merger of Hogan Lovell’s with Mexican full-service stalwart Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa has been confirmed with effect from 7th July.