Legal market overview in Uruguay

Uruguay in 2023 remains prosperous and politically stable, relative to the region. While the country has not been immune to the disruption caused globally by the pandemic, inflation and war in Ukraine, it has been felt less acutely there than in more advanced economies. Nonetheless, Uruguay’s economy is projected to grow by only 2.7% over the course of the year, down from 4.8% in 2022. A severe drought has impacted exports and is another factor that has contributed to the economic slowdown.

The administration of President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou of the centre-right National Party has continued to encourage foreign investment with business-friendly policies. It announced a reduction to personal income taxes on the 2nd of March 2023, and also passed a social security reform bill in the Senate on the 27th of April 2023 which raised the retirement age from 60 to 65; the latter has proven controversial. On the 11th of April, a bill was passed that created a new register of workers’ and employers’ organisations within the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS); existing organisations will have 180 days to register. Uruguay’s next presidential elections will be held on October 27th 2024.

Agribusiness and forestry transactions remain key for lawyers, in addition to residential and rural real estate work, renewable energy, and infrastructure projects. UPM’s Paso de los Toros paper mill, the largest private investment in Uruguay’s history, has continued to generate work for lawyers across a range of practice areas. Also of note in the projects arena are the Ferrocarril Central railway project linking the paper mill to Montevideo’s port, and major highway projects Circuito Vial 5 & 6. Investment in recent years has pushed Uruguay to a world-leading position for renewables, with wind and solar projects continuing to feature heavily. The government’s summer 2022 green hydrogen roadmap paves the way for further innovation in the sector. On the June 8th 2023, the government announced a $4bn investment in a green hydrogen plant in Paysandú: construction will begin in 2023.

With regards to dispute resolution, the new arbitration regulations of the Centro de Conciliación y Arbitraje de la Bolsa de Comercio de Uruguay have been in effect since the 1st of January 2022; these aim to make the arbitration process more efficient, transparent and flexible.

The bulk of the year’s labour work related to negotiations with Uruguay’s powerful unions, including collective bargaining agreements. On the real estate front, Montevideo, Punta del Este and Colonia have seen a steady flow of residential construction projects. Timberland attracts significant foreign investment, including from pension funds. Tax lawyers have been increasingly busy advising foreign high-net worth individuals seeking tax residency in Uruguay.

In the legal market, two key players offer expertise across the range of practice areas: Guyer & Regules; and Ferrere, which additionally has offices in Bolivia and Paraguay. The market continues to be dominated by domestic firms, with a few exceptions, notably Dentons Jiménez de Aréchaga, which counsels clients across the core business law practice areas, and Deloitte S.C. (tax). Spanish full-service firm ECIJA announced its arrival in the country on the 16th of March 2023, increasing its international presence to 17 countries; and in an additional international move, June 2023 saw Argentine corporate and tax boutique Salaberren & Lopez Sanson (SyLS) open an office in Montevideo in conjunction with former Posadas partner, Eduardo Ferrari.

A group of small to medium-sized firms demonstrate strength in a variety of practice areas: Hughes & Hughes (labour and employment, banking and finance, dispute resolution), Posadas (projects and energy, corporate and M&A, real estate), Olivera Abogados (dispute resolution, corporate and M&A), Brum Costa Abogados (tax), Bergstein Abogados (tax), Rueda Abadi & Pereira (dispute resolution), Castellan Abogados (corporate and M&A), Bragard Abogados (corporate and M&A), and Andersen Tax & Legal Uruguay (corporate and M&A) are the names to note here. Boutiques Fischer Abogados, Cervieri Monsuárez, Fernández Secco & Asociados and ClarkeModet cover IP matters.

(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.)

Work highlights

Practice Areas