DLA Piper

Its critics might dismiss it as mid-market and one-size-fits-all, but DLA Piper is marching ahead in its quest to plant flags in new jurisdictions and expand its energy practice across the globe.


Robert Gruendel
Robert Gruendel

The international firm, which prides itself on a network that reaches deep into Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, says energy has played an important part in recent office openings Brazil, Australia and Turkey. Now it is trying on Canada and Mexico for size.

While the firm often gets a ribbing for its distinctly mid-tier reputation and efforts to be all things to all clients, energy group chair Bob Gruendel ­insists the firm’s M&A group and breadth of practices is clinching top energy deals.

“We’re holistic, if you like,” he says. “We have a strong ­securities practice, strong M&A practice, and we’re strong on venture capital and the clean tech market. We also have a sprawling arbitration practice doing all sorts of energy work. I’d hesitate to say we’ve tailored the energy practice around a particular type of deal – we try to be pretty complete in our ­offering.”

Gruendel also points to the calibre of some of DLA Piper’s energy clients and mandates, including project development work for Petrobras, corporate and M&A work for Gazprom, M&A for Valero and advising on joint venture and M&A for Constellation Energy.

With its latest office openings, the firm is continuing to tap into new opportunities in ­natural ­resources and energy ­infrastructure around the world.

Top of the pile has been Brazil, where DLA Piper entered into a cooperation in March 2010 with local firm Campos Mello Advogados, which has about 90 lawyers split ­between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Gruendel regards the practice as a truly local means of ­accessing energy opportunities in Brazil, centring around ­hydropower, ethanol and power transmission and distribution needs.

“You cannot help but want to be down there,” he says. “We also see a number of companies using Houston as a jumping off point to get into the action in Brazil.”

Keen to expand its footprint in Latin America, the firm opened an office in Miami ­earlier this year to service the region, and entered into a ­cooperation with InterJuis Abogados, which has ­offices in ­Caracas in Venezuela.

On the other side of the ­Pacific, the firm has announced its full integration with DLA Phillips Fox in Australia, where it is keen to ­capitalise on the country’s ­natural ­resources, ­mining and mineral market and renewable eletricity ­generation.

“Australia also abuts the biggest growing consumer of natural resources, which is China,” Gruendel adds. “It has a wealth of natural resources and we look at the LNG play there as one which will bring real ­opportunities over time.”

DLA Piper also opened an ­office in Istanbul last June to serve a growing number of clients doing business in Turkey, including acting as counsel to the project company working on the Nabucco pipeline.

Canada and Mexico City are next on Gruendel’s to-do list for potential mergers or office openings, and the energy head expects to announce plans for both of these regions in the first half of next year.

“The firms we’re talking to in Canada will clearly have the ­capacity to add to our energy offerings, and it will result in us having a Calgary presence,” he says.

But one region in which DLA Piper’s reputation has never truly taken off, despite a strong network of offices, is the Middle East.

“By the time we started to ­really build out our Middle East practice, much of the oil and gas work had more or less been spoken for,” Gruendel admits. “It’s been a hard market to crack, but we’ve had more ­success in winning mandates for power projects and other energy infrastructure. That’s been our focus, although if we see an opportunity on the oil or gas side we’d certainly go for it.”

Star partners

Nick Sarad, Jack Langlois, Carlos Sole, Craig Tighe, Charles Morrison, Wan Li, Rob Edel

Top three sectors

Renewables and power

Oil and gas

Mining and minerals

Top three geographical regions

The US

Brazil

Australia

Top deals/projects

Valero’s acquisition of Chevron’s UK and Ireland downstream petroleum business

Client: Valero

Lead partners:Charles Morrison, Carlos Sole

£5.8bn acquisition of EDF’s UK electricity distribution assets

Client: Consortium of CKI, Hong Kong Electric, Li Ka Shing Foundation

Lead partners: Jon Hayes, Kiran Sharma, Christopher Clarke

Development of wind farm zone under UK’s Round 3 offshore wind farm scheme

Client: EDP Renovaveis consortium

Lead partner: Nigel Drew