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When Daniel Rotsztain left his native Argentina for Miami in December, he says, he felt like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars escaping the exploding Death Star. Rotsztain, an entrepreneur who participated in the start up of the Latin American Internet site El Sitio, came to South Florida five months ago to join Global Consulting Group. He is one of many Argentines who have come to South Florida as a result of the worst financial crisis to ever hit South America’s second-largest economy. But some U.S. lawyers and law firms are moving in a counterintuitive direction. They’re flying to Buenos Aires to open new offices or do business there. Speaking from Buenos Aires, Raul Valdes-Fauli, a partner at Steel Hector & Davis and the former mayor of Coral Gables, says his firm has reached an agreement to acquire a 20-attorney law firm in Buenos Aires. “We see coming here as a tremendous opportunity,” says Valdes-Fauli, who declines to reveal the name of the firm Steel Hector is acquiring. Barry Craig, a partner at Steel Hector who has also been involved in the deal, said Monday that the firm is close to making a formal announcement. In December, Argentina defaulted on $155 billion in debt payments, in what one U.S. economist called the “largest sovereign debt default ever.” But some South Florida law offices are seeing strong short-term business increases as a result of the crisis — as well as solid long-term prospects. In immigration, real estate, international arbitration, contract renegotiation, and debt restructuring, attorneys in Miami are reporting upticks — in some cases dramatic ones — as a result of Argentina’s woes. “It has been a bonanza for our law firm,” says Leoncio E. de la Pe�a, a senior partner at De la Pe�a & Bajandas in Miami, which does immigration, real estate and corporate transactional work. BAD NEWS IS GOOD NEWS In the short term, Steel Hector anticipates its new Buenos Aires office will do business in two areas — renegotiating contracts and debt restructuring, say Valdes-Fauli and Craig. But in the longer term, they anticipate it will become a full-service office. Steel Hector is not alone in its desire to have a presence in Buenos Aires. Francisco Gonzalez, director of international services at Miami-based Adorno & Zeder, has spearheaded his firm’s effort to establish a network of law firms called the Law Firm of the Americas. He says the LFA plans to have a law firm in Buenos Aires within two months. Underlying Steel Hector’s and Adorno’s efforts to establish an Argentine beachhead is optimism about the country’s future growth prospects. “In the longer term, Argentina will be one of the wealthiest countries in the hemisphere,” Valdes-Fauli says. He makes that statement despite Argentina’s recent series of debacles, which included a major currency devaluation, a freeze on bank accounts, five presidential changes, and street riots. For law firms, of course, bad news for others can be good news for them. De la Pe�a says his 13-attorney firm has seen a marked acceleration in business with Argentine clients during the past 12 months. “It started a year ago,” says de la Pe�a. “We now have 60 percent to 70 percent more applications for business visas than we did a year ago.” Immigration figures show that asylum requests for Argentines are up 187 percent over the last year. Immigration from Argentina has increased so much that in March the State Department changed its policy and now requires that Argentines obtain travel visas to come to the U.S. Attorneys report that there also has been a big increase in Argentines trying to move their money to the United States and make investments. “We’re seeing increased business in Argentine investors looking for safe-haven investments,” says Adorno’s Gonzalez. HELPING CLIENTS COLLECT Clients also are seeking help in protecting investments and savings stuck in Argentina due to the government restrictions established to stabilize the economy. “We’re helping investors limit their liability and ride the crisis out,” Gonzalez says. According to Troy Rillo, a senior associate at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in Miami who represents a U.S-based import-export company that does business in Argentina, a major challenge has been to assist U.S.-based clients in collecting from Argentine customers. He says one way is to have Argentine customers convert their profits — which they can’t pull out of banks in the form of cash because of withdrawal restrictions — into products that can be exported or bartered. Observers expect many international legal disputes as a result of these payment problems and general investments. Jose Astigarraga, a partner at Astigarraga Davis in Miami, says he anticipates an increase in international arbitrations against Argentina as a result of the financial crisis. “We have been consulted about a number of cases that will be heard at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes,” he says. Other lawyers say their volume of Argentina-related business hasn’t necessarily increased — but it has changed significantly. “We’re doing the same amount of work, but just different work,” says Jim Myers, a partner at Kilpatrick & Stockton in Miami. “We now do negative work.” By negative work, Myers means that instead of orchestrating business deals, his firm is renegotiating contracts and helping companies restructure debt. Victor Alvarez, the managing partner at the Miami office of White & Case, reports a similar trend in his firm’s practice. He says the recent dramatic increase in Argentina-related business merely has brought the volume back to what it was a year ago, when the Argentine economy was booming. “The volume has not changed but we are seeing more and more restructuring in Argentina-related work,” adds Jose F. Valdivia, a partner in the international finance group of Hogan & Hartson in Miami. But the warming trend Valdes-Fauli is hoping for — clients seeking to invest in Argentina — hasn’t convincingly materialized yet. “It would take an exceptional company to go bargain hunting in Argentina right now,” says Eugene A. Rostov, a partner at Baker & McKenzie in Miami who specializes in foreign financing and trade, and practiced in Brazil for 14 years. “It will take three to six months to see what is happening, and then you will start to see trends and begin to see activity.” “The situation has not stabilized,” agrees David Konfino, president of the Florida International Bankers Association. “The final chapter has not been written.”

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