February 29, 2012 7:53 PM
Holland Knight Bound for BogotÃ¡
Posted by Claire Zillman
Eager to expand its Latin America practice, Miami-based Holland Knight announced Wednesday that it will open a new office in BogotÃ¡, Colombia.
In launching the BogotÃ¡ outpost, Holland Knight joins Baker McKenzie as the only major law firm with U.S. roots to establish a physical presence in Colombia. Baker has had an office in the city for five decades, according to its Web site. London-based Norton Rose also has an office in BogotÃ¡, which it established in 2010.
Holland Knight’s BogotÃ¡ office, which is scheduled to open in April, will begin operations with one partner and two associates devoted primarily to providing counsel to non-Colombian companies seeking to enter the local market. It will also advise Colombian companies on outbound work.
Partner Enrique GÃ³mez-PinzÃ³n (left), who has worked out of Holland Knight’s Washington, D.C., office for nine years as part of the firm’s international and cross-border transactions group, will head the BogotÃ¡ office. GÃ³mez-PinzÃ³n began his legal career in his native Colombia and has served as co-founder and director of the Colombian-Japanese Chamber of Commerce, a member of the BogotÃ¡ Stock Exchange board of directors, and director of the Colombian Trade Bureau in Washington, D.C., where he represented the Colombian government and various Colombian industries.
The BogotÃ¡ locationâ€”Holland Knight’s second Latin American office; the other is in Mexico Cityâ€”will serve as the newest outlet for the firm’s 60-lawyer Latin America practice, which was formed in 1981.
“We have been experiencing a lot of increased demand of work in Colombia,” GÃ³mez-PinzÃ³n told The Am Law Daily in an interview Wednesday. Most of the growth, he says, has come from mergers and acqusitions, financings, and other corporate transactions. The firm expects that work to increase given the signing of the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that Congress passed last fall and the planned expansion of the Panama Canal.
Holland Knight has been especially active handling matters connected to Colombia’s hospitality, energy, and retail industries, as well as to the coffee, coal, gold, oil, and gas industries, GÃ³mez-PinzÃ³n says. The firm has represented Drummond Ltd. in acquisitions and joint ventures in Colombia that expanded the company’s operations and infrastructure rail and port projects. It has also advised Colombia-based multinational coffeehouse chain Juan Valdez CafÃ© on its growth in the U.S.
The firm, which recently represented transportation company Express del Futuro in financing two feeder systems that run into BogotÃ¡’s larger public transportation system, also hopes to get a slice of the infrastructure work likely to pop up in the coming years. GÃ³mez-PinzÃ³n says Colombia’s current government has expressed a desire to invest more heavily in airport, port, and road construction as a way of increasing its competitiveness.
In an interview earlier this month, Holland Knight managing partner Steven Sonberg (right) gave the firm’s Latin America practice partial credit for an encouraging financial performance in 2011. Specifically, Sonberg cited the firm’s work with U.S., European, and Chinese companies interested in breaking into the region’s transportation, construction, telecommunications, mineral exploration, and natural resources markets. (Holland Knight saw its gross revenue climb 3 percent and its profits per partner rise 11 percent last year, according to our prior reporting.)
“We’ve been looking at Colombia specifically for at least six months,” Sonberg told The Am Law Daily Wednesday. “It really is a natural outgrowth of the Latin American practice that weâ€™ve had for 30 years. We think the opportunities in Colombia will extend to other client opoprutnies around Latin America.”
While GÃ³mez-PinzÃ³n says he believes the BogotÃ¡ operation could ultimately employ up to 25 or 30 lawyers, Sonberg expects the office to grow conservatively. The firm’s goal is to add bilingual attorneys licensed to practice in both Colombia and the U.S., and will hire lawyers holding only local licenses if they have received an LLM from a U.S. university, according to GÃ³mez-PinzÃ³n.
“We will continue to do what weâ€™ve been doing for years, practicing U.S. law applicable to transactions that come along as well as providing services that are needed at a local level,” he says.
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