Legal market overview in Uruguay
In an increasingly volatile regional market, Uruguay continues to stand out as a relatively safe haven. Although GDP growth slowed from 2.6% during 2017 to 1.6% during 2018, the performance marked the country’s 16th consecutive year of expansion, which represents the longest growth run in its history. It is a particularly solid outcome in view of the economic challenges currently being experienced by neighbouring Brazil and Argentina, two of its top five export partners.
Uruguay, which is classified by the World Bank as a high-income country, has an export-oriented economy, with beef, vegetables, dairy products and chemicals among its key exports. Uruguay is also characterised by its strong middle class, which is the largest in Latin America in relative terms and represents over 60% of its population. Notably, extreme poverty has essentially disappeared over recent years, falling from 2.5% in 2006 to 0.1% in 2018.
Uruguay houses a compact but mature legal market. Two firms consistently overshadow their smaller peers: full-service powerhouses FERRERE and Guyer & Regules have the extensive resources, and the domestic and international relationships, to dominate in all the main areas of business law.
The firms in the chasing pack are considerably smaller and tend to utilise flatter structures than their larger competitors. However, the group comprises several reputable small to medium-sized firms with a multi-practice offering, namely Posadas, Posadas & Vecino, Hughes & Hughes, OLIVERA Abogados and BERGSTEIN. In a notable development as of September 2019, another of this group, Jiménez de Aréchaga, Viana + Brause, announced its association with global player, Dentons.
(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.)