Diogo Pereira. Courtesy photo.

Diogo Pereira, a former associate at Paul Hastings and a pair of Magic Circle firms, is formally opening a new firm in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, with a sibling firm already active in São Paulo, Brazil.

Pereira’s new firm, De Almeida Pereira, will handle cross-border investigations, international disputes and international project finance, public international law and white-collar criminal matters alongside its Brazilian counterpart, De Paula Dias, led by Thiago de Paula Ribeiro.

Pereira and Ribeiro met at Paul Hastings in D.C. while working on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act matters and investigations spawned by the “Lava Jato” scandal in Brazil. Operacao Lava Jato, aka Operation Car Wash, and other corruption probes beginning in 2014 led to prison sentences for many of Brazil’s powerful elite.

Pereira joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Washington in 2013 from Allen & Overy’s London office. He said he left Freshfields for Paul Hastings when the Brazilian corruption scandals hit amid a push for Portuguese-speaking lawyers in Washington.

Now, he said those scandals have created an opportunity for a small, younger, and more nimble firm to fill a market gap left open by larger firms. Had the Brazilian corruption scandals not developed, he said he would likely not have formed the new firm, but would have continued to leverage his expertise to respond to the market and his clients’ needs.

“Life takes you in unexpected directions,” Pereira said. “There’s really fascinating and interesting work that can come from interesting places.”

Paul Hastings did not offer the varied practice he wanted for himself, Pereira said, and he thought many of the partners were increasingly siloed on various matters. He left Paul Hastings last year and continued to represent clients on an individual basis, but said he thinks there are advantages to his clients by his forming his own firm.

Given Brazilian regulations—only Brazilian-residing lawyers can practice Brazilian law—Pereira and Ribeiro’s working relationship provides clients resources in both Brazil and the U.S. that many other firms do not offer. Pereira said he was “sort of open” to the idea of building such a cross-border practice inside another big firm, but his clients’ pressing needs led him down a different path.

Pereira said De Almeida Pereira expects to have two to three partners and several junior associates within the first year in Washington. The firm’s work will not be limited to cross-border investigations and disputes in Latin America, however, and Pereira noted that one of his clients is a government in the Middle East involved in a matter that includes terrorist financing and money laundering.

The joint venture between De Almeida Pereira and De Paula Dias touts that their lawyers “have worked and lived on five continents and worked in locations ranging from Bahrain and Angola to Ecuador.” Pereira, himself, was born in California to parents from Portugal, studied law at the University of Miami in Florida, and he has worked and lived throughout Europe and Latin America.