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Editorial

Argentina remains a country in transition following the 2015 election of centre-right President Mauricio Macri. The government’s comprehensive agenda to open up the economy and overhaul the country’s business framework has already had some high-profile successes (not least, Argentina’s successful return to the international capital markets), but its ambitious long-term plan dictates that change may come more gradually than some expected.

With that said, the treasury forecasts gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 3% during 2017, following a 2.3% fall in 2016. Importantly, the economy exited recession in the final two quarters of 2016 and expanded by 0.8% in the first quarter of 2017 – it seems that recovery is well underway.

In a further boost to the economy, the government’s introduction of a new tax amnesty programme proved extremely successful. The amnesty –which allowed wealthy Argentines who secreted funds abroad to report their undeclared assets and avoid tax evasion charges– led to over $97bn in assets being declared by the end of 2016, which helped to push tax receipts up by 35% on 2015. Tax practices across the market have kept busy advising high-net-worth individuals, family businesses and other entities on the new regime.

Among the other key headlines, lawyers continue to record a rise in regulatory matters as the new government attempts to tighten up Argentina’s approach to regulatory enforcement. In the competition area it recently released a draft of the new antitrust law, which will provide for a self-governing National Antitrust Authority and tougher sanctions for competition violations, among other proposals.

On the energy side, Argentina continues to prioritise renewable power following the 2015 enactment of Law No. 27,191, which commits the country to obtain 8% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by the end of 2017. In October 2016, Argentina held an auction to award 17 renewable energy projects, which will generate around 1109MW of power for Argentina – as well as a significant volume of work for law firms.

There is no doubt that the improving economic backdrop is being reflected in the country’s legal market, which has also become increasingly dynamic.

Traditionally a real estate firm, Zang, Bergel & Viñes Abogados went on a veritable hiring spree over the past year, adding a trio of key new people across different practice areas as it seeks to position itself at the forefront of the mid-market: new public law head Emilio Battioli arrived from Paolantonio & Legon Abogados; Amalia Sáenz joined from Brons & Salas; and capital markets specialist Maria Cecilia Pasman came over from LCM Abogados.

In another high-profile move, Allende & Ferrante bolstered its bankruptcy practice with the addition of Rodrigo Alegria from insolvency specialist Estudio Alegría, Buey Fernández, Fissore y Montemerlo.

Argentina’s highly competitive legal market is dominated by several full-service heavyweights namely Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal, Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi, Pérez Alati, Grondona, Benites, Arntsen & Martínez De Hoz, Jr, and Beccar Varela, along with the slightly smaller Allende & Brea and M & M Bomchil. The chasing pack includes sophisticated medium size firms such as Mitrani, Caballero, Ojam & Ruiz Moreno, and Estudio O'Farrell.

As in all mature markets, Argentina also houses a core band of more specialist firms that excel in certain niche areas. For banking and finance work, Salaverri, Dellatorre, Burgio & Wetzler Malbrán and Tavarone, Rovelli, Salim & Miani – Abogados continue to impress. On the IP side, an area where boutiques often shine, Ferrer Reyes, Tellechea & Bouche, G. Breuer and Richelet & Richelet are among the stand-out performers. In the energy and natural resources field, Heredia, Lede Pizzurno & Terrel Abogados (HOLT) (on the mining side), and Alliani & Bruzzon (in oil and gas) are leading names. In addition, Funes De Rioja & Asociados shines in labour and employment, while Rosso Alba, Francia & Asociados and Teijeiro & Ballone, Abogados both command respect in the tax area.

Few global firms have a base on the ground in Argentina – at least as yet, with a number of firms keeping the jurisdiction under close consideration. Acting on both local and cross-border work Baker McKenzie has a long-standing presence in the country and has notably bolstered its market position of late. In addition, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Curtis – Fernandez Quiroga, Ayarragaray & Ocampo (connected to Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP) also maintain local offices.

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