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Editorial

Legal market overview

The past few years has seen Paraguay emerge as something of a bright spot in the regional economy, with GDP rising by a staggering 14.2% in 2013 and a further 4% in 2014. Few countries, in Latin America or elsewhere, have matched this recent performance, although Paraguay’s success is in part attributable to a bumper agricultural crop in 2013. Agriculture and the agricultural services sector account for much of the country’s economic output; according to the World Bank, soybean and beef made up some 40% of its exports in 2013. Much of this economic activity centres on a small handful of dominant agribusinesses (controlling not only the agricultural crop but also the transport infrastructure serving it) and domestic conglomerates. Examples of the former are Archer Daniels Midland Paraguay (ADM) and Cargill, while the latter include Grupo Cartes, owned by Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes, who came to power in 2013.

The size and scope of Paraguay’s commercial legal market is partly reflective of the economy. It is largely dominated by a small group of full-service firms, many of which are essentially family businesses with close ties to Paraguay’s largest commercial entities. Estudio Juridico Gross Brown, Fiorio, Cardozo & Alvarado, Attorneys at Law, Moreno Ruffinelli & Asociados, Olmedo Abogados and Vouga Abogados all enjoy prominent positions across the key practice areas. In each of these firms, the younger generations coming through have generally attended the best US law schools, and in many cases have worked at leading international law firms, so clients can expect a slick service. Despite their entrenched market positions, however, these firms are not completely untouchable. Ferrere, which has its origins in Uruguay, is a key player in most core sectors and has a particularly good reputation for corporate and commercial work; while some traditional boutique firms are successfully moving into full-service territory, the most prominent example being Berkemeyer Attorneys & Counselors, which started out in IP. The increasingly important areas of environmental and labour law are also served by superb boutiques in PGK Abogados y Consultores Ambientales and Irún & Villamayor Asesores Laborales de Empresa respectively.

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