Nine Chadbourne & Parke attorneys have left the firm's Mexico City office to launch Holland & Knight's first outpost in that country and its second in Latin America.
The group is led by partner Boris Otto, who previously served as Chadbourne's managing partner in Mexico City. Making the move along with Otto are partners Alejandro Landa Thierry and José Antonio Prado, as well as two counsel, Miriam Grunstein and Leslie Palma. The group opening the new H&K office also includes four associates—one of whom had been listed as a legal assistant—from Chadbourne. The attorneys will focus on such matters as capital markets, corporate finance, energy, M&A, private equity, project finance, and securitizations.
Otto, who advises companies and financial institutions based in Mexico and abroad, tells The Am Law Daily that the group of attorneys was won over by both H&K's commitment to Latin America and its platform within the United States. "I'm always really interested in developing more work in the U.S., [and we represent] Mexican companies that are very active in the U.S. market," Otto says.
H&K has 18 U.S. offices and five locations overseas. By comparison, only three of Chadbourne's 12 offices are in the U.S. (Chadbourne's second Latin American office is in São Paulo.)
Prior to Tuesday's announcement, H&K operated in Mexico via a joint venture established with a local firm in 1998 and had only one other Latin American office, in Bogotá, Colombia. With a Latin America practice group that consists of more than 80 attorneys, the firm views Mexico as an attractive market that will serve many existing clients. "The Mexico City office will expand our cross-border capabilities and enhance our existing corporate and commercial finance and energy practices," H&K managing partner Steven Sonberg said in a statement.
Otto says H&K is in talks to bring in additional partners in a variety of practice areas to further expand the nascent Mexico City operation. Though he can not say how many lateral additions the firm might make, Otto adds that the initial goal is to expand in practice areas "where the Mexican economy is more in need of legal services, and those are infrastructure, project finance, energy, finance, and corporate M&A."
Meanwhile, the departures are not the first for Chadbourne in Mexico City this year. Litigation partner Luis Enrique Graham left to join Hogan Lovells earlier this summer along with two other Chadbourne partners in New York. The firm's website currently lists three partners and one counsel in the Mexico City office. The four attorneys, including firmwide corporate head J. Allen Miller, are listed as being based in both New York and Mexico City.
"We wish the departing attorneys well at their new firm," said David Schaefer, a firm spokesman. "We remain committed to a strong cross-border, multidisciplinary Latin America practice, and this includes our Mexico City office."
Chadbourne has endured a string of losses around the globe in recent years and ranked among the firms with the most departures in The American Lawyer's 2012 Lateral Report. Last year, the firm saw a six-partner product liability team in New York and London leave for Herbert Smith Freehills. The firm also lost its Almaty, Kazakhstan, office to Dechert last year, while IP group cochair John Squires took a four-lawyer group to Perkins Coie.
As The Am Law Daily has reported, Chadbourne offset many of its 2012 losses by making lateral hires of its own. Nonetheless, the firm's overall attorney head count dropped nearly 8 percent last year, to 373; the firm's equity partner ranks declined by seven lawyers, to 72, and its nonequity partners ranks fell by six lawyers, to 41.
Amid the lateral losses, Chadbourne also fell out of The Am Law 100 for the first time after seeing its gross revenue dip 5.1 percent, to $290.5 million. Chadbourne's profits per partner dropped 6.1 percent, to $1.24 million. For its part, H&K had gross revenues of $598 million last year and profits per partner of $950,000.