São Paulo-based firm Barretto Ferreira & Brancher – Sociedade de Advogados has launched an energy practice under the leadership of energy specialist Leonardo Lerner, former general counsel at Comgas, a private company and Brazil’s largest gas distributor. The practice will be further complemented by three additional lawyers.

Ricardo Barretto Ferreira da Silva, a founding partner of the firm, said having a team dedicated to energy in Brazil is of critical importance at the moment because the country faces a serious energy crisis that will force the improvement of its physical and legal infrastructure in the areas of energy exploration and production, generation, transmission, transportation, and distribution, increasing the demand for highly skilled legal services and expertise.

“BKBG intends to have a properly sized team, to comply with the present demand, and will grow according to the needs,” Barretto said. “The energy team will be backed up by the other BKBG legal teams, specially the regulatory, public procurement, public law, PPPs, corporate, tax, labor, environment, litigation, arbitration and mediation. BKBG will offer a complete solution as a one-stop shop, what will differentiate BKBG´s full solutions, when compared to some energy boutiques which limit themselves to energy law. Besides, BKBG team would be available to provide legal services on Brazilian laws to the foreign law firms/consultants providing services in Brazil on foreign law.”

Lerner said he believes that “there is room in both the Brazilian and the international legal services’ market for a qualified team operating from a respected platform such as BKBG, focused in the Brazilian energy environment; in that connection, we are aiming to become an active player therein.”

“My observations are that the current energy environment in this country will necessarily change significantly within the next few years, in order to cope with the need for more private investments from both inside and outside sources, which will only occur in a more competitive regulatory and legal condition,” he said. “I plan to utilize the experience of more than 40 years as inside counsel for large corporations and more specifically as general counsel in the last 18 years, as a tool to make my role a successful one in coordinating efficiently a group of qualified specialists. Brazil has a privileged situation as far as energy resources are concerned, and will remain as a necessary option in the strategic portfolio of the most important groups active in such areas.”

Lerner also served as General Counsel in Brazil at ABB and other heavy equipment manufacturers, for almost 20 years. He worked in EMBRAER’s international legal area for seven years and advised on aviation law and regulations and related international agreements.