Am Law 200 firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy announced Thursday that it is continuing its global push by adding a total of five offices in three countries: Brazil, Mexico, and Switzerland.
The new offices are located in Mexico, Zurich, and the Brazilian cities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and Säo Paulo. Fragomen—which has 306 lawyers and ranked 102nd on The American Lawyer‘s most recent Am Law 200 list with gross revenues of $289.5 million in 2011—now has 42 offices worldwide. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the firm’s lone outpost in Latin America was in Costa Rica.
Austin Fragomen, chairman of the immigration-centric firm’s executive committee, tells The Am Law Daily the new offices will allow the firm to expand its services to clients—some of which have been relying on Fragomen affiliates in Mexico and Brazil—while offering a consistent experience across locations. "From our standpoint, [having] more places we can provide our own service is something that is highly desired. And this is a step in that direction," he says.
The firm’s latest expansion comes as the firm’s primary focus, immigration law, appears to be on the verge of undergoing major changes in the United States. (Earlier this week, The Am Law Daily spoke to Fragomen partner Bo Cooper, who heads the firm’s government strategies and compliance group, about the potential impact immigration reforms could have on the firm and its domestic and international clients.) Whatever happens on the domestic front, Austin Fragomen says, won’t have much of an effect on operations in the new overseas offices, which are mainly geared toward dealing with inbound immigration work governed by the laws of their respective countries.
Heading the Zurich office is partner Dirk Nuyts, who previously served in Fragomen’s Brussels office. While there, Nuyts led the firm’s Benelux practice, which focuses on immigration into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Nuyts will now advise Fragomen’s Swiss and multinational clients on immigration law matters.
In Mexico City, meanwhile, the firm has added partners Juan Carlos Aguilar Noble and Rodrigo Salgado, both of whom previously worked with Fragomen as local counsel in the area. The pair bring with them a roughly 20 person staff composed of lawyers and professional support employees.
Diana Quintas, who joined Fragomen as a practice leader in October from Ernst & Young’s human capital services group, will lead the firm’s Brazilian operations. (While there will be three separate physical offices in Brazil, Austin Fragomen says the same group will run all operations in the country.) Quinta will work with Breno Torquato and Gustavo Kanashiro, both of whom joined the firm as senior client services managers from local Fragomen affiliate Azevedo Sette Advogados. The Brazilian offices will also be staffed by a group of roughly 20 lawyers and professional employees joining from Azevedo Sette.
The new offices, which all opened during January, did not launch at roughly the same time by design, according to Austin Fragomen, who describes it as a coincidence tied to the different processes involved in winning approval to practice in the three countries. He notes that the firm took the first formal steps toward entering the Brazilian market nearly two years ago, and the preparations for the Mexico City location began a few months after that.
Plans for the Zurich office came together within the past year, in part, Fragomen says, because the approval process for opening in European countries is not as lengthy as it is in Latin American nations. "The only one that was fairly quick from the time we decided to go this route was Switzerland," he says. "Mexico and Brazil were both situations where we were in discussions over a period of time with existing entities in the two places. And they just happened to have completed at pretty much the same time."
Fragomen says the timing of the openings is fortuitous, especially in Latin America, where the firm previously had just one permanent location: "It’s definitely advantageous to open offices simultaneously in the two largest Latin American locations, Brazil and Mexico. That’s definitely a positive statement to the market."
The firm, Fragomen adds, had considered opening in Switzerland for roughly two years, but delayed doing so in order to sort out whether it was better to launch with a lateral hire or an internal transfer. In the end, the latter option won out. Fragomen says the firm is already looking to expand that office through lateral hiring.
One side effect of launching multiple offices at the same time: the firm is likely done announcing new locations for the foreseeable future. "The fact that [the Brazil, Mexico, and Switzerland offices] all came to fruition simultaneously would be indicative of our waiting a period of time before we did anything additional, because we want to be sure that we get all three of these properly staffed," Austin Fragomen says.