Legal Market Overview
Uruguay continues to be seen as a bastion of relative stability in the region, both in relation to the pandemic and for its political continuity. 2021 saw the pandemic take more of a hold in the country than it had done previously, but despite the higher prevalence of the virus, an early and effective vaccination campaign helped the economy recover by 4.4%.
Luis Lacalle Pou’s government held off opposition attempts to repeal large parts of its omnibus reform bill, strengthening its standing to pass planned social reform legislation. Stability is being threatened somewhat following the Russian invasion of Ukraine as commodity prices, particularly for fuel, rise sharply. An increased global demand for Uruguay’s agricultural exports may mitigate this to some extent.
In the legal market, Uruguay’s position as a solid investment for other South American nations, and a destination for high-net-worth individuals, has kept corporate and M&A practices busy, particularly as they increasingly act for international companies looking to set up operations. The meat and soy industries remain prominent, as do energy production and infrastructure. Real estate practices have also been growing as wealthy individuals look to move residence to Uruguay and often business operations too. Agribusiness and forestry sectors have a strong relevance here and are doing well.
Labour restructuring was one of the big focuses for clients across the board in 2021. New teleworking legislation has come in, resulting in a lot of work for firms’ labour and employment departments, with extra complexity in the free trade zones as different rules are being negotiated for those areas. There are also new rules for migrant workers and this area is likely to remain busy through 2022 as real wages are expected to stagnate with the high cost of fuel. On that front, the country is a keen investor in renewable energy and will hope to increase its domestic supply capabilities.
The legal landscape is generally consistent and the pool of firms in Uruguay befits the size of the country, but the market is nevertheless sophisticated. Ferrere fields a host of specialised teams that excel across the range of practice areas, leveraging its presence in Paraguay and Bolivia to draw international clients looking to streamline advice in the region. Standout full-service firm Guyer & Regules competes with Ferrere, with both dominating in all main areas of business law.
Several small to medium-size firms make up a “chasing pack” of sorts, all providing services in multiple practice areas. The firms to look out for here include Dentons Jiménez de Aréchaga, Posadas, Bragard Abogados, Olivera Abogados, Bergstein Abogados and Hughes & Hughes. Castellan Abogados also has solid offerings in corporate and labour law.
A small number of boutique firms also make their presence felt, particularly in the intellectual property arena, with Fischer Abogados, Fernández Secco & Asociados and Cervieri Monsuárez among the key players there.
(Note: Unlike accountants, Uruguayan public notaries (escribanos) have the same educational requirements as lawyers. For the purposes of this chapter, such notaries are thereby included herein.)