Mexican litigation boutique launched by White & Case team

Four partners are due to leave White & Case’s Mexico City office to launch a firm that will focus on administrative litigation matters.

Juan Pablo Rico, the head of the firm’s disputes practice group, alongside litigation partners Gustavo Robles Cuevas and Eugenio Bernal as well corporate M&A partner Iván Libenson Violante, are due to leave the firm in the coming weeks, Vicente Corta Fernández, the executive partner of White & Case’s Mexico City office, has confirmed.

The departures will be a blow to the Mexico City office which has been struggling for some time against internal problems, according to market sources. The departure of department head Rico in particular also marks a worrying déjà vu for the firm, which lost its head of restructuring and star banking partner, Thomas Heather, in 2010, when he left to set up his own firm Heather & Heather alongside his sons Andrew and Thomas (25 January 2010).

Bernal is also a founding partner of the disputes practice and he and Libenson were only just promoted to partnership in the firm’s 2011 global promotions rounds (30 November 2011). It is understood that a number of associates will be following the partners to their new firm.

Ismael Reyes Retana will head the firm’s administrative litigation practice, while Enrique Espejel will head the civil and mercantile litigation practice.

It is uncertain how the departure of Libenson Volante will affect the firm’s corporate and M&A practice. The Lawyer recently revealed that although between 2007 and 2012 White & Case handled 14 M&A transactions, the deal value was comparatively low, at just over $7bn (£4.45bn) (19 March 2012).

Commenting on the departures, Corta said: “We can confirm that Juan Pablo Rico, Iván Libenson, Gustavo Robles and Eugenio Bernal have resigned from the firm. We wish them all the best in their new endeavours.”

“We have had a strong year on the back of a number of noteworthy deals in Mexico and continue to be at the forefront in helping clients navigate complex domestic and cross-border matters relating to corporate M&A, banking and financial services, financial restructuring and insolvency, capital markets and derivatives, project and equipment finance, antitrust and dispute resolution,” he added.

White & Case was one of the first foreign law firms to set foot in Mexico, originally opening its doors in Mexico City in 1991 and later opened an office in Monterrey, Mexico’s second-largest city, in 2002.

The latest departures from White & Case are indicative of growing restlessness in the market and follow the dramatic chain of events earlier this year when DLA Piper kickstarted its launch in Mexico by swiping the entire legal team from Thompson & Knight’s Mexico City office (14 February 2012).