Garrigues’ Latin quarter

Garrigues looks to South America for relief from home market gloom

Latin America is a key growth region that many international firms have been trying to break into for some time. Arguably, the most successful have been the big Iberian firms, which have been leveraging their shared history, culture and language with counterparts in south America for years to build up sizeable client bases.

Garrigues’ client base in the region now accounts for 26 per cent of its total client list. The European giant has been present in Latin America since 2004 through a network of associated firms, but has now decided to pull out of the alliance, Affinitas, in favour of setting up its own offices.

The firm plans to begin with Colombia, Mexico and Peru but also wants to open offices or merge with local firms in other jurisdictions in the region, including those that were not covered by Affinitas. This could see it expanding into places such as Bolivia, Uruguay or Venezuela.

The challenges of the strategy, which fits into the firm’s plan to be an integrated international player, are many. Local regulations can be a barrier in some countries and, in others, the market is fairly saturated with good domestic players.

Garrigues will also have to compete with an increasing number of Anglo-Saxon firms in the region. Norton Rose gained offices in Colombia and Venezuela through its Canadian mergers, and DLA Piper has offices or associations in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.

But if the gambit pays off Garrigues stands to gain a share of the work in markets that – unlike Spain and Portugal – are growing.