Legal market overview
Paraguay continues its economic emergence, enjoying continuous growth and a relatively stable financial system. The country appears to have left behind the recent political turmoil which culminated in the removal of the Lugo administration in 2012. The subsequent general elections in April 2013 were regarded as free and fair and resulted in victory for businessman Horacio Cartes from the centre-right Colorado Party. Cartes, who had entered politics only a few years prior to standing for President, is also owner of the largest conglomerate in the country, Grupo Cartes, which is active in many branches of the economy, including banking, agriculture, transportation and tobacco. Given Cartes’ business background, the legal industry largely welcomed the election result, and expects a further surge in foreign investment. This is underlined by the government’s decision to introduce a 1.5% deficit cap, which, following Ricardian economics, is supposed to bring about greater investor and consumer confidence. In response, Fitch Ratings confirmed Paraguay’s BB- rating. Cartes also turned to legal private practice market for his Attorney General, appointing Moreno Ruffinelli & Asociados’ Roberto Moreno Rodríguez for the prestigious post.
Only months after the new administration took power in August 2013, Congress passed a bill establishing the framework for public-private partnerships. The full effect of this law is yet to be evaluated but considerable investment is expected, particularly in infrastructure projects. Improvements in the infrastructure network are needed to accommodate the wave of foreign direct investment into the country. Indeed, leading corporate law firms such as Fiorio, Cardozo & Alvarado, Attorneys at Law and Peroni Sosa Tellechea Burt & Narvaja report a substantial volume of work from foreign companies seeking to incorporate Paraguayan branches and subsidiaries. This trend spans all industries, although Paraguay’s economy still remains largely agricultural, with cattle and soya being the most important resources. Paraguay’s agribusiness, however, is also being increasingly professionalised, prompting large investment opportunities for biotechnological companies, among others. Furthermore, despite being landlocked, as a strong agro-exporter the country has a sizeable and structurally important maritime-transport sector, generating considerable investment and, for law firms, regulatory, admiralty and commercial work. Renewable energy is also a thriving sector. Increasingly sophisticated environmental regulation cuts across all these sectors and here PGK Abogados y Consultores Ambientales remains the country’s most specialised service provider.
In intellectual property, attorneys are increasingly feeling the positive effects of the National Directorate of Intellectual Property; created in 2012, it handles registrations and other proceedings in a substantially faster manner than its predecessor organisation. IP boutique Zacarías & Fernández and full-service firm Berkemeyer Attorneys & Counselors stand out in this sector.
In the legal industry at large, traditional family-run law firms, which have long dominated the local market, face increasing pressure from regional players, most notably Ferrere, which has its origins in Uruguay. Concurrently, a number of corporate firms are putting increasing emphasis on institutionalisation with corporate and banking heavyweight Estudio Jurídico Gross Brown being the prime example of this trend. On another front, the amicable division of the renowned Vouga & Olmedo has not caused a major disruption in the market, as both had been working with a degree of independence even before the formal split.
In the labour and employment sector, Irún & Villamayor Asesores Laborales de Empresa remains the indisputable master; while in tax Mersán Abogados retains a leading position but is facing increasing competition; notably with the growth of specialised boutique Estudio Nora Ruoti & Asociados.