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Legal Market Overview

Recent years have been nothing if not turbulent for Latin America’s largest country. Lawyers in Brazil are accustomed to adapting to a changing political, economic and legal environment, and their versatility and resilience are among the factors that have allowed them to weather the storm brought by Covid-19.

President Jair Bolsonaro has drawn fierce criticism both at home and abroad for his mishandling of the pandemic, which has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Brazilians since its arrival in the country in 2020. Amidst the staggering figures there has been both heartbreak and anger, with many Brazilians taking to the streets to protest and call once more for Bolsonaro’s impeachment.

In another major crisis, studies published in 2021 showed that the Amazon is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it can absorb. Worrying increases in deforestation during Bolsonaro’s presidency are a major cause for concern, not least for the threat they pose to Indigenous communities.

Against this backdrop, the stage appears set for a possible return of Lula, whose corruption convictions were overturned by the Supreme Federal Court in 2021, leaving the Workers’ Party leader free to challenge Bolsonaro in the upcoming elections.

Turning to Brazil’s legal market, the pandemic brought significant challenges to companies operating in the country, many of which have relied on Brazilian law firms for support on commercial, regulatory and labour law matters.

In terms of M&A, after transactions came to an almost complete standstill around March and April 2020, deals have slowly come back to the table. In 2021, M&A trends showed Covid-19 bringing an acceleration of activity in certain sectors, so that technology, healthcare and education-segment transactions are now very much at the fore. Venture capital is an increasingly attractive area of focus for many firms, some of which have dedicated significant resources to cater to Brazil’s impressive technology and start-up scene.

Elsewhere, dispute resolution lawyers have been busy providing pre-litigation advice to clients, particularly those participating in construction and infrastructure projects. Litigation and public law experts also noted an uptick in disputes brought against the government in relation to concessions and public contracts. Data protection advice has also been sought after by many companies in Brazil, with the administrative sanctions associated with the country’s General Data Protection Law (LGPD) coming into effect in August 2021.

Restructuring and insolvency lawyers in Brazil, who had already been in such high demand in recent years due to economic decline, will likely remain busy in the months and years to come, as the economic fallout of the pandemic continues to be felt by many businesses.

ESG has become more than just a talking point for businesses and law firms in Brazil, many of which are looking to implement strong ESG policies. Renewable energy is another positive trend in the country, with some projections anticipating 32% of Brazil’s electricity being generated from photovoltaic sources by 2040.

Brazil’s competitive legal market is home to a large number of full-service firms. Among the best known are BMA – Barbosa, Müssnich, Aragão; Cescon Barrieu; Demarest Advogados; Lefosse Advogados; Machado Meyer Sendacz e Opice Advogados; Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga Advogados; Pinheiro Neto Advogados; TozziniFreire Advogados; and Veirano Advogados.

Boutique firms are also having success in the country, particularly in the areas of competition and antitrust, white-collar crime and intellectual property.

Close cooperation between Brazilian and foreign law firms is prohibited by the Brazilian Bar Association, but a select few international associations do exist. Chief among them: Trench Rossi Watanabe, which maintains an association with international powerhouse Baker McKenzie; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados. Vella Pugliese Buosi e Guidoni Advogados also benefits from its strategic alliance with Dentons, while Campos Mello Advogados cooperates with DLA Piper.