Legal Market Overview in Philippines
Having experienced one of the longest and most severe lockdowns of any country globally, it is inevitable the Philippines has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Court closures, transportation issues, and the suspension of business have led to a slowdown in economic activity and, by extension, the legal market. Immigration work in particular has been severely reduced. New arrivals into the country have almost entirely ceased, and so work is limited to visa renewals and applying for exemptions for executives to come into the country.
On the other hand, much of the work in infrastructure and energy projects continues; the Metro Manila Subway remains on track to be fully operational by 2025, while the already strong interest in renewable energy sources is likely to be boosted by the impending removal of foreign ownership limitations. Outside of projects, the media sector was rocked by the decision not to renew the congressional franchise of ABS-CBN, the largest broadcasting network in the country, thereby forcing it to stop broadcasting. The decision, upheld by the Supreme Court, is likely to substantially affect the sector moving forward.
The domestic market is dominated by a fairly small number of firms that advise on the most important and innovative matters across most practice areas. These include Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALaw), SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, Quisumbing Torres, Villaraza & Angangco (V&A Law) and Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano. Beyond this, there are some firms that have made an impression on the market in recent years; Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra has quickly developed a strong TMT practice and is now developing a reputation in other non-contentious areas, while Insights Philippines Legal Advisors (IPLA), Member Firm of ZICO Law Network, despite being recently established, has strong expertise in banking-related matters. As regards international firms, many have taken the opportunity to act as foreign counsel on infrastructure and mining projects, while there is also activity in other areas such as capital markets and dispute resolution.