Jones Day relocates Latin America management from NY to Madrid" />Jones Day has shifted the management of its Latin America practice from New York to Madrid at a time when firms are reviewing their coverage of the region.
Increased investment in Latin American infrastructure from European companies has forced law firms to change their focus to pick up work from big Spanish clients as they invest in the region.
Jones Day Spain managing partner Luis Riesgo has taken over the reins of the Latin America practice following a review that saw its management shift to Madrid.
Jones Day is now the only US firm to manage Latin America from Spain, although Riesgo believes others may follow suit.
"For many years, and for most US law firms, the Latin American practice was about getting US securities work from Latin American insurers. Now it's much more about trying to do the same thing there as you do in any other part of the world," he said. "We're looking at doing work on energy projects, toll highways and infrastructure in Latin America. The clients are companies like Acciona - big Spanish infrastructure names."
Jones Day's move to Spain also takes advantage of the cultural ties between the European country and its former Latin American colonies.
Riesgo said: "It's a matter of culture, not just the language, as many Anglo-Saxon lawyers speak Spanish. In Latin America it's good if you can deliver not just legal advice, but a kind of general consulting."
Latin finance is developing. This summer Clifford Chance's São Paolo office advised Brazilian energy company Energisa on a deal that will see the company repay a loan to the Inter-American Development Bank in its local currency for the first time.
Clifford Chance is unusual in having an office in Latin America. Many UK firms run their Latin America practices out of Paris to allow them to focus on arbitration. Riesgo believes that those firms could soon join Jones Day in a shift to Madrid.
"Arbitration is growing, but I'm not sure that Paris is still the forum for this," said Riesgo. "More and more cities like Madrid, Mexico and other parts of Latin America are becoming the places of arbitration."
Most international firms operating in Latin America use local firms in the different jurisdictions because of regulatory barriers that stand in the way of opening offices.
Increased activity in Latin America has prompted firms to strengthen their ties with local firms. This year Garrigues synchronised its HR and IT processes with its Latin America network, with a view to bolstering its connections with the region.
Meanwhile, Spanish rival Cuatrecasas is considering sending a corporate partner and a team of associates to Mexican relationship firm Creel García-Cuéllar y Müggenburg.
Jones Day has taken a different approach, keeping its relationships informal.
"We have a list of preferred firms, not just one per country," said Riesgo. "This is because you might get a firm that's good in one area, but not so good in another."