Chambers Latin America Awards 2022: In Conversation with This Year’s Winners

Shortly after the long-awaited Chambers Latin America Awards 2022 in Miami, Chambers caught up with some of this year’s winners to discuss market trends, their strategies in the coming months and years, and their perspectives on D&I issues.

Published on 9 December 2022
Written by Jonathan Block
Jonathan Block

Client Service Award: Argentina

Starting with the key trends observed, Bruchou & Funes de Rioja, winner of the Client Service award in Argentina this year, commented in particular on the country’s energy and natural resources sector. Starting with mining, the firm noted: “In a context of global instability and uncertainty, located in a region with some countries facing significant problems towards present or future development of mining projects (like Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia), Argentina is seen as a potential suitable place to invest in mining.”

Explaining why there is growing interest in the Argentine mining sector, the firm focused on “the important reserves of lithium and the global lithium boom triggered by the global energy transition agenda, the existence of other big multi-billion metal mining projects with feasibility or pre-feasibility in the pipeline (Josemaría, Taca Taca, MARA, and others) and a stable and strong mining legal system.”

Oil and Gas legal analysis

Shifting focus from mining to oil and gas, Bruchou & Funes de Rioja was pleased to report that Argentina was experiencing “a boom of investment in new field developments” and “increasing transactional work…among large international and local oil and gas companies.” The firm also drew attention to the fact that oil production had increased significantly, with one consequence of this being that “current midstream facilities are being expanded for evacuating and exporting this incremental production, which includes the expansion of the main oil trunk pipeline (Oldelval) and port facilities (OTE) at Bahia Blanca.”

On natural gas specifically, the firm was equally hopeful, noting: “All these developments have also boosted the investment and interest in developing a large LNG plant in the port of Bahia Blanca, a project which could be a game changer for the country with an estimated overall investment of more than USD10 billion.”

Who won the Latin America Firm of the Year for Chile and Latin America?

One of the big winners at this year’s award ceremony was Carey, who took home both the Chile and Latin America Firm of the Year awards. For Carey, the energy and natural resources sector is an area of particular interest, especially given the recent vote on major changes to the country’s constitution.

The firm reported: “The areas of practice that are likely to be impacted by these changes are those related to natural resources, projects, mining, energy, and environment. All these are issues that were widely debated during the Convention and aroused the interest of the population. Likewise, our Public Law department carries out a detailed and regular monitoring of this process of constitutional change and reports on its progress.” 

Carey also commented on the firm’s approach to ESG issues, highlighting its five key pillars: sustainability and the environment; pro bono; social service; public service; and diversity, equity and inclusion. When asked what made Carey a standout firm in the region, the firm responded: “Carey’s corporate governance, which dates back to the late 1970s/early 1980s, is the keystone to the strong teamwork culture and collegiality among our partners. This has allowed the firm to develop as a one-firm firm, but at the same time, as a multiplicity of specialised groups which have a boutique-type approach working as a united team, rendering an excellent service and taking advantage of the expertise of other areas and the generosity among all members of the firm. Since the 1990s we have also made important investments in technology and worked on the professionalisation of the firm, incorporating experts who can help us accomplish our goals.”

Thoughts from Mexico Law Firm of the Year on energy

The theme of energy and natural resources was also echoed by Mexico Law Firm of the Year winner Creel, García-Cuéllar, Aiza y Enríquez. The firm noted that “developments in regulated sectors such as oil and gas and electricity have significantly increased demand for services in contentious and regulatory matters.”

Reflecting on Mexico’s recent experience and the effect of this on business, Creel added: “Though the transactional environment does indeed feel somewhat different than in the past, we continue to see great opportunities in our core transactional practices. Having said this, our strategic dispute resolution and regulatory practices have increasingly become a key component of our service offering.” There was also plenty to look forward to according to this year’s top Mexican firm: “On the transactional side, despite global uncertainty and volatility, in relative terms Mexico remains an attractive destination for foreign direct investment (reported to have increased 50% during the first semester of 2022), due to factors like near-shoring and supply chain integration, the growth of e-commerce and the need for infrastructure.”

When asked about why pro bono was so important to the firm, Creel reported that “simply said, pro bono work is one of the most important sources of satisfaction for our team and the firm,” adding: “We believe it is not only our responsibility but also an amazing opportunity for us to use our substantial capabilities to give back and help where help is most needed. We have therefore devoted and will continue to devote substantial efforts through our fully dedicated Social Responsibility team to make sure that our collective talent and attention are available to add value to the many social causes we support.”

The Diversity & Inclusion: Outstanding Firm winner at Chambers Latin America 2022 discusses recent D&I initiatives

We also caught up with Galicia Abogados, who this year won the Client Service Award in Mexico and was named Diversity & Inclusion: Outstanding Firm winner, to discuss the firm’s D&I initiatives. Highlighting the importance of securing leadership buy-in, the firm noted: “The participation of the firm's leaders is essential. D&I is not only something that is nice to have; for Galicia, it is an integral part of our culture in which the backbone is that we are a people-centred business.” Reflecting on its most significant achievements of late, Galicia was keen to foreground its corporate governance changes back in January 2022, as well as the fact that “today more than 30% of our practice areas are led or co-led by women.”

The firm continued: “The participation of women in all corporate bodies, both strategic and operational, will continue to have a strong presence. Today almost 39% of all committees have women members and we are still the only leading Mexican firm to have a woman member in its Executive Committee.” Also of note was the firm’s New Collaboration Model Committee, which in 2023 will begin work on “an office design that provides better facilities for people with disabilities.”

A look at sustainability from the winner of the Environment and Sustainability: Outstanding Firm Award

Given the importance of sustainability to all, we were keen to hear from Cuatrecasas, whose Colombia office took home the Environment and Sustainability: Outstanding Firm Award this year. When asked about the firm’s 69% reduction in carbon emissions between 2019 and 2021, Cuatrecasas pointed to the implementation of the specifications laid down in ISO 14064-1:2019. Focus was placed on: (i) consuming energy from renewable sources with a guarantee of origin; (ii) sustainable offices; and (iii) environmentally preferable purchasing criteria.

On fostering leadership on sustainability issues across the legal industry, the firm stated: “The first step is internal: measuring and mitigating the firm’s environmental footprint. The second step looks at legal services, understanding the science of climate change to ensure legal services provide due support to the challenges clients are facing towards a decarbonised economy and the responsible use of natural resources. Finally, the involvement and commitment of a firm’s management are also key to encourage real change within the organisation.”

What are the issues women lawyers face working in the legal market in Latin America?

Leading Argentine firm Beccar Varela was shortlisted for Argentina Firm of the Year and is home to María Fernanda Miérez, who won the Diversity & Inclusion: Outstanding Contribution Award this year. When asked about the challenges in Latin America that women lawyers and entrepreneurs, Miérez highlighted both paternity leave legislation and access to managerial positions for women.

Commenting on the latter, she said: “In certain circumstances, regulation on diversity and/or quotas provision will be necessary to fulfil the requirement of having women at the top level.” She also pointed to the need to raise awareness about financial instruments such as social bonds that can support women entrepreneurs. Summarising her thoughts on the future of D&I in Latin America, she predicted that “in the future it will be very difficult to survive as law firms if diversity and inclusion are not part of the strategy and on the agenda of every organisation.”

The winners at the Chambers Latin America Awards 2022

To see the full awards shortlists and the winners in each category, please visit our website here.

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