Seven law firms across South and Central America have pooled their resources, the latest example of a trend of firms merging to form regional entities.
LatamLex Abogados, which opened its doors on November 15, is composed of MNA-Martínez Abogados – Colombia, Gómez & Galindo Abogados & Notarios – Costa Rica, Guandique Segovia Quintanilla – El Salvador, Arenales & Skinner-Klée – Guatemala, Matamoros Batson & Asociados – Honduras, Directum Abogados – Nicaragua, and López Villanueva & Heurtematte – Panama. The combined entity includes 80 professionals at offices in Bogota, Colombia, San Jose, Costa Rica, San Salvador, El Salvador, Guatemala City, Guatemala, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Managua, Nicaragua, and Panama City, Panamá.
Alfredo Skinner-Klée and Alejandro Arenales, partners of Arenales & Skinner-Klée in Guatemala, are founding partners of LatamLex.
“Arenales & Skinner-Klée wanted to make available to several of its cross-border clients the possibility of one-stop service,” Skinner-Klée said. “Either doing business from Central America to Colombia or from Colombia to Central America, through LatamLex we have a unique ability to [serve] our existing and future clients.”
Skinner-Klée stressed that LatamLex is a firm, as opposed to a network, and that in all seven countries, the members are either partners or associates of LatamLex.
Ana Patricia Portillo, a partner at Guandique Segovia Quintanilla in El Salvador, said several factors contributed to her firm joining LatamLex.
“Guandique Segovia Quintanilla wanted to go cross border with the legal advice through a legal structure of a regional law firm, and we joined effort with the other seven law firms who are our partners,” she said. “In addition we already have clients that have business in the region, and we wanted to attend to them though a regional firm.”
Six of the firms will still operate in the region under their current name. Directum Abogados in Nicaragua has fully adopted the LatamLex brand and will operate as such.
“At the outset, we are co-branding as the firms that are creating LatamLex are well known in their respective markets,” Skinner-Klée said. “Eventually, we will evaluate the market and the acceptance of the LatamLex brand in order to move into one name.”
“By any measure, to form a 70-lawyer regional firm is not an easy task,” Skinner-Klée said. “We have tried to prepare and anticipate the challenges. We have a centralized administration and are taking steps to move forward.”
Mergers of law firms are a prominent trend in the region. In September, a Colombian firm and a Chilean firm announced that they will merge. Prietocarrizosa and Philippi, in association with Iberian law firm Uría Menéndez, will commence operations on January 1, 2015, as Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría. The merged entity’s resources will include nearly 400 lawyers and ancillary staff, including six partners, and will have offices in Bogota and Barranquilla, Colombia, and Santiago, Chile.