Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy’s decision to poach Shearman & Sterling’s Brazil head and capital markets star Andrew Jánszky to open a São Paulo office marks the culmination of a five-year courtship with the country.
Milbank Latin America chair Mike Fitzgerald said the firm had been looking at Brazil since 2005 and had been “aware of the possibility of Andrew’s movement for some time”.
“We’ve hit the ground running with what we think is the most pre-eminent practice of any US lawyer working in Brazil,” he added.
Shearman Latin America practice leader Antonia Stolper is insistent that Jánszky’s exit does not affect the firm’s country strategy.
“Our Latin America strategy remains absolutely the same. We’re sticking to our business plan - we want to be [in] the growing markets,” she said.
Nevertheless, someone of Jánszky’s standing could be hard to replace. He worked on Brazil’s biggest IPO to date - the $8bn (£5bn) listing of Banco Santander’s Brazilian subsidiary (The Lawyer.com, 7 October 2009), in which he was assisted by Tobias Stirnberg, who will also join Milbank as a partner.
Shearman partner Rob Ellison, who was also involved in that deal, will take over from Jánszky as Shearman’s Brazil head and sole partner on the ground.
Jánszky’s departure is part of a wider game of musical chairs in Brazil. It follows Proskauer Rose’s hire of longstanding Linklaters partner David Fenwick.
DLA Piper, which this year formed a cooperation agreement with local firm Campos Mello Pontes Vinci & Schiller, is also understood to be in hiring mode.
Former Shearman partner Richard Aldrich left for Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, replacing Jonathan Bisgaier, who went in-house shortly after relocating to Brazil.
“You can definitely see a big fight happening,” said Pedro Dinkhuysen, managing partner for Latin America at Laurence Simons International.
“It’s a tense market. There’s not that many people with Brazil experience available.”
The reasons for this conflict are threefold. First, economic growth of 5 per cent a year means that more firms have opened there in the past few years.
Second, restrictions imposed by the Brazilian Bar - the Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil - on international firms practising local law mean that those that remain independent are potentially fighting for what is already a small slice of the cake.
Third, the appreciation of the real means that Brazilian lawyers are not as cheap as they used to be.
But Shearman is stoic about both the bar restrictions and the influx of international firms into the market.
“Local law has never been part of our business plan,” argued Stolper.
Ellison, who is currently advising Indústrias Romi on its hostile bid for US company Hardinge - the first unsolicited bid by a Brazilian company on a US rival - thinks that the quality of the work means the market can sustain the entry of an increased number of firms.
“As long as the market keeps growing I don’t see that making any significant difference,” he commented.