Global firm DLA Piper is stepping into Puerto Rico with the opening of a new office in San Juan. The firm is hiring Nikos Buxeda as managing partner who specialises in corporate and securities transactions, José Alberto Sosa-Lloréns who focuses on securities and banking regulatory work, Miriam de Lourdes Figueroa who has a specialty in infrastructure and Manuel “Nolin” López-Zambrana who focuses on tax.

Before coming to DLA Piper, Buxeda worked at Adsuar Muñiz Goyco Seda & Pérez-Ochoa. Sosa-Lloréns came from Fiddler González & Rodríguez; López-Zambrana hails from Lopez Sanchez & Pirillo and De Lourdes Figueroa worked at Allen & Overy in New York and Tokyo and also served as General Counsel and executive vice president of the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico.

After receiving his JD from Stamford, Buxeda began his legal career in New York, working at Curtis Mallet-Prevost and Morgan Lewis & Bockius where he focused on Latin American transactions.

“When I returned home to Puerto Rico, that pipeline was lost and my work was limited to Puerto Rico matters. I feel that Puerto Rico has underused talent,” Buxeda said when explaining why he was driven to move to DLA Piper. “For Puerto Rico to grow, it has to find a way to do business beyond its shores. DLA Piper is giving us that opportunity, for which we are very grateful. We also have relationships with non-Puerto Rico investors with operations in Puerto Rico who we can now potentially assist with their non-Puerto Rico transactions as a result of DLA Piper’s global network.”

DLA Piper’s expansion into Puerto Rico comes at a difficult time for the island, which in addition to facing economic crises, has defaulted on its debt. Buxeda noted that M&A and securities transactions had gone down while restructuring work has increased. “We have also seen the emergence of a private equity and hedge fund industry as a result of professionals in these fields moving to Puerto Rico to take advantage of certain tax incentives and the enactment of laws incentivising these businesses. In general, Puerto Rico is looking for ways to move from an economy largely dependent on manufacturing to one that is more diversified, and with an increasing focus on services and the exportation of services,” he said. He added that a rise in infrastructure PPP (public-private partnerships) transactions is likely, since the government will have difficulties financing the projects by itself. “We as lawyers constantly have to reinvent ourselves, and I see parallels in the broader economy, as Puerto Rico seeks to reinvent itself,” he said.

According to Buxeda, uncertainty remains the biggest challenge in financial and corporate work for Puerto Rico. “The shifting landscape is in some ways reminiscent of Brexit, although Great Britain is of course an economic powerhouse and one of the world’s most developed countries,” Buxeda commented. “Puerto Rico’s uncertain political status underlies much of this uncertainty and is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.”

Buxeda emphasised that the firm is seeking to remain politically neutral during this time. “DLA Piper is studiously agnostic in this regard and is not affiliated with any political party. We do want Puerto Rico to succeed, however, and as such we will not be representing any clients in adversary proceedings against the Government of Puerto Rico,” he said. “We feel we are unusually well-positioned to meet these challenges, however, as all our local partners have had successful careers during this difficult period, adapting to changing circumstances, and we now have the institutional backing and support of one of the world’s leading law firms.”