Steven Immelt.CEO.Hogan Lovells.
Steven Immelt.CEO.Hogan Lovells. (2014 handout)

Hogan Lovells will merge with Mexican law firm Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa on Aug. 1, becoming the latest U.S. law firm to open an office south of the border to boost its Latin American presence.

BSTL, which has 70 lawyers in Mexico City and Monterrey, will be known as Hogan Lovells BSTL following the merger. The offices will give Hogan Lovells 47 office worldwide and four in Latin American. The Washington-based firm has a small office in Venezuela and partnerships in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero.

Other U.S. law firms have scrambled to open offices in Mexico in recent years to capitalize on landmark constitutional and legislative reforms that opened up some industries such as energy to outside investment. The other firms in Mexico include Holland & Knight, Greenberg Traurig and Jones Day.

However, Hogan Lovells is the first to attempt a large-scale merger with an existing, longstanding Mexican law firm. BSTL has been in practice for 66 years.

Hogan, based in Washington and London, knew it wanted a presence in Mexico “because of the needs of our clients and the velocity of the market,” explained firm CEO Steve Immelt. The firm has energy, telecommunications, aerospace and automotive clients doing business in Mexico.

Major Mexico-based client matters in the past year include advising the government of Mexico in its most significant telecom and satellite investment in 20 years; advising Euler Hermes (Allianz) on a joint venture with MAPFRE, which integrated the two companies’ trade-related credit insurance activities in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Spain; and advising Playa Hotels & Resorts B.V., a leading owner, operator and developer of all-inclusive beach resorts in a series of 11 transactions.

The legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa put the two law firms together for a meeting several months ago, and they hit it off.

“We’ve used all kinds of models in opening new offices,” Immelt said. “If you can get the right partners, (merging) can be a much cleaner and effective way of entering a market instead of having to put it together piece by piece.”

For his part, BSTL managing partner Mario Jorge Yanez said he knew at the first meeting with Hogan it was a match.

“We share core values,” he said. “We’ve worked with various attorneys in the various offices, and we know about the quality and responsiveness and nice approach they have to clients and their work. It’s a win-win.”

Hogan Lovells runs its Latin America practice from its Miami, New York, Houston—and now Mexico—offices, and has no plans to open further Latin American offices, Immelt said.

“Never say never, but we are very comfortable with the platform we have,” he said.

Joshua Dull, managing director of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Miami office, expects more U.S. law firm offices to launch Mexican outposts in the coming year.

“Mexico is a market that is really opening up, particularly in the energy space,” he said. “There are definitely others having conversations right now, so you will be hearing about more soon.”