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The International Bar Association (IBA) has opened its first international office in São Paolo, Brazil.
Former Ernst & Young lawyer Rodrigo Lopes do Espiroto Santo has joined the IBA to head up the São Paolo office.
The move comes as the IBA embarks on a globalisation programme that will see it open offices around the world as part of a push to diversify its membership. It is understood that the organisation plans to open outposts in Africa in the near future and in the Middle East and Asia within the next two to three years.
Brazil has the third-largest market of lawyers in the world after the US and India.
The IBA operates a commercial function as well as a separate human rights strand. On the commercial side, the group works to educate lawyers and lobbies for legal efficiency. Among its programmes, the IBA has published guidelines on conflicts of interest in international arbitration, and it is pushing for greater uniformity in competition regulations. The group also uses its influence in the fight for the rule of law and human rights and is set to embark on a human rights campaign in Ecuador.
While the IBA boasts a global membership of more than 16,000 lawyers and 190 bar associations and law societies, it has thus far confined itself to a single office in London.
Tim Hughes, deputy executive director of the IBA, said: "The region of Latin America was chosen because of the rapid growth in our membership there coupled with the great potential of its legal community."