K&L Gates has opened an office in Sao Paulo, its first foray into South America and 39th office overall.
The firm recently received a license as a foreign legal consultancy, as required by the Brazilian Bar Association. The new location will initially be led by New York finance partner Marc J. Veilleux and Washington- and London-based corporate and securities partner Alan J. Berkeley.
K&L Gates Chairman Peter J. Kalis said in an email that the firm has been working for the better part of a year to achieve full compliance with the regulatory requirements of both the bar association and the Brazilian government.
"We carefully followed the advice of our Brazilian legal counsel, accountants and others and were rewarded with our license not long ago," Kalis said.
Compared to other leading legal centers such as London and Hong Kong, there are certainly fewer U.S. law firms in Brazil. But Kalis said the number continues to increase in light of Sao Paulo's growing significance. He said in a statement that Brazil has been "propelled to the forefront of the 21st century marketplace for legal services."
To start, K&L Gates' Sao Paulo office will allow the firm to assist clients in establishing, developing and managing their operations in Brazil as well as expand the firm's existing work for Brazilian and international industrial and financial services clients globally. The office will have capabilities in the areas of international finance and capital markets, investment management, construction and project development, intellectual property, tax and arbitration. The firm said the Sao Paulo office will benefit from K&L Gates' existing energy, infrastructure and resources practice as well as its Asia-based business and investment practices.
Kalis said in an email that Veilleux and Berkeley are actively interviewing lateral candidates. Because of bar limitations, the offices of foreign firms in Brazil are not permitted to practice domestic Brazilian law. That means the firm's recruits will focus on advising Brazilian clients in various international disciplines and help global corporations outside of Brazil manage and understand the Brazilian marketplace, Kalis said.
"Brazil is a dynamic and growing economy, home to many of Latin America's most significant companies, its largest stock market, and, in recent years, its most ambitious infrastructure projects," Veilleux said in a statement. "Many of our clients have identified Brazil as central to their global operations and strategy and we fully expect the country to be a continued recipient of significant inbound investment. We also believe that the trend of Brazilian companies investing abroad will only continue to accelerate in future years. We are excited that our Sao Paulo office will allow us to better serve our clients in this important economy and throughout Latin America."
Sao Paulo might not be the last stop for K&L Gates in South America. Kalis said the firm has been recruiting lateral partners in various offices outside of that market with a view toward increasing its Latin American practice. He pointed to Xavier Ruiz in New York and Adolfo Garcia and Alejandro Fiuza in Boston.
Ruiz focuses his cross-border mergers and acquisitions practice on South America and Spain. Garcia, a corporate partner, has handled a number of deals in South America recently.
"Latin America is strategic to any global law firm, and we'll continue to review market options in the region," Kalis said.
K&L Gates is the first Pennsylvania-based firm with a presence in South America. A number of other local firms have focused on expanding their Latin American practices by ramping up attorneys with connections to the market but who are based in either Florida or New York.
For example, Cozen O'Connor has expanded its Florida location with an eye toward entry into Latin America. Firm Chief Executive Officer Thomas A. "Tad" Decker said in September that the firm's five-year strategic plan calls for closely examining the possibility of an official office launch in South America.
Other U.S. firms with offices in Sao Paulo include Jones Day, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and Proskauer Rose. DLA Piper recently created an alliance with Brazilian firm Campos Mello Advogados.