While economists predict that Brazil's economy will contract further this year, some of the country's largest law firms are still busy and are expanding their partnerships in anticipation of an increase in their workloads.
Brazil's economy is expected to shrink by 2.8 per cent in 2016, on the heels of a 3.7 per cent contraction last year. However, while the macroeconomic situation may have dispelled some foreign investors, many law firms remain busy. Four of Brazil's heavyweights have appointed new partners for 2016, targeting practice areas such as corporate, litigation, tax, antitrust and administrative law as they try to keep up with client demand.
One firm upping its partner count is one of Brazil's older law firms, Demarest Advogados, which has appointed four new partners. Two of the new appointments – Carlos Eduardo Orsolon, 34, and Luis Augusto Gomes, 41 – work in the tax department, while Camila Biral Vieira da Cunha Martins, 33, and Newton Marzagão, 35, are litigators. "These practices traditionally call for an organic growth," says managing partner Paulo Coelho da Rocha. "All of them have been 'bred' at Demarest and have become extremely talented professionals that will help their respective practices continue to grow." The firm has just ended a strategic five-year plan aimed at doubling revenue in its core areas, such as corporate and finance. A new five-year plan will see it prioritise M&A work as well as tax, which Orsolon and Gomes' promotions will help further. Demarest has also looked outside of the firm to bolster its tax offering, recruiting Rodrigo Ferreira from Ulhôa Canto, Rezende e Guerra - Advogados in November.
Tax in Brazil is notoriously complicated and highly litigious, making it an area law firms are often looking to expand in, no matter the state of the economy. Another large, full-service firm choosing to strengthen its tax offering is Rio-born Veirano Advogados. Tax practitioner Flávio Paranhos, 38, is one of five promoted to partner this month, as the firm organises itself to meet growing demand. "The tax system in Brazil is not easy to understand," says former managing partner Pedro Freitas, who has just been replaced by Ricardo Veirano. "There are many taxes and more and more tax authorities claiming against companies, so there is demand." Like Demarest, Veirano has also chosen to up its game in litigation, promoting Priscila Sansone, 37. Other areas to benefit from the promotions round include the administrative department, where Leonardo Duarte, 37, was made partner. "He has been involved in antitrust and compliance investigation matters, something that is in high demand right now," says Freitas, alluding to the massive investigation into cartel activity involving state-run oil explorer Petrobras that has gripped Brazil – and contributed to its economic recession – over the past 12 months.
Veirano has also chosen to concentrate on its corporate practice, appointing two new partners in the area: Paula Surerus, 35, and Julio Dubeux, 39. Surerus also has administrative, electricity and infrastructure experience, while Dubeux works in capital markets and private equity. Although Brazil's contracting economy has reduced activity on the capital markets, demand for corporate lawyers is strong, partly due to increasing demand for compliance counsel. "Although you don't see much capital markets activity as far as equity is concerned, there has been a lot of activity and demand for M&As related to public companies, as well as structured financings in the local market and, on the compliance side, administrative proceedings going before the regulator," says Veirano. Demarest's Rocha agrees, explaining why his firm's corporate team has been particularly busy of late: "Assets in distress and non-core assets being sold by large groups make for good acquisition opportunities, and the exchange rate is particularly attractive for foreign investors," he explains.
Veirano's five new partner appointments are on top of the three it made in July. However, 2015 also witnessed the departure of a handful of partners departing the firm, including energy partner Alexandre Calmon, criminal lawyer André Gustavo Isola Fonseca and energy and infrastructure partner Roberta Bassegio left. Earlier this year antitrust partner Olavo Chinaglia also opted to leave, joining Pereira Neto | Macedo Advogados.
Optimism going into 2016 is felt across the legal market. Effective this month, top-tier Pinheiro Neto Advogados appointed three new partners: corporate, private equity and capital markets lawyer Eduardo Paoliello Jr, 35, bankruptcy and litigation practitioner Andre Moraes Marques, 35, and project finance, banking and corporate lawyer Caio Ferreira Silva, 35. Meanwhile, Souza, Cescon, Barrieu e Flesch - Advogados has promoted corporate, private equity and corporate governance lawyer Cristina de Freitas Bueno, 36. "Our M&A, financial restructuring, insolvency, compliance and tax areas are probably the busiest," says managing partner Marcos Flesch. "Most likely, directly or indirectly, all of those have been affected by the economic and political situation of the country. In light of the current scenario, our clients have been requesting our services in those areas under heavy stress, which can mean opportunities for some."
In other news, Souto Correa Advogados – the firm formed when a group from Veirano's Porto Alegre office spun off in 2013 – has also promoted, making labour lawyer Joel Gallo and administrative lawyer Roberta Feiten its newest partners.