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DLA builds LatAm presence with Colombia pact as firm hopes to leverage Spanish relationships

Just three months after sealing its entry into Canada by combining with local firm Davis, DLA Piper has continued its march across the Americas by signing a cooperation agreement that will see it launch in Colombia.

After negotiations which were handled by former Spanish president José Maria Aznar, a senior advisor to DLA Piper’s global board, Colombian firm Martinez Neira Abogados (MNA) has signed a cooperation agreement with DLA Piper to become the firm’s third South American offering.

The firm hopes to link the nearly 20 year-old Colombian outfit with its growing presence across the Americas and its Spanish offering which, under the leadership of Europe and Middle East managing director Juan Picon, has become one of the firm’s best performing offices.

Spearheaded by managing partner and banking specialist Nestor Martinez, alongside corporate partners Camilo Beltran and Acosta Ospina, the Bogota-based firm has three recommendations in The Legal 500 for banking and finance, corporate and M&A, and dispute resolution. In 2013, the 15-lawyer firm handled a total value of M&A instructions worth over $3bn.

The agreement, which will rename the firm DLA Piper Martinez Neira, will also give DLA Piper access to lawyers in six other South American markets, namely Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, through the legal network LatamLex Abogados. DLA Piper already has a presence in Venezuela with DLA Interjuris Abogados and a cooperation agreement with Campos Mello Advogados in Brazil.

‘MNA is a major player in the Latin American market and an ideal partner for us,’ said DLA Piper’s New York-based global co-chair Roger Meltzer. ‘Colombia is a key jurisdiction with particularly attractive opportunities, having experienced an historic economic boom in the last decade with strong prospects for continued growth. This agreement is just the latest step in our plan to continue to expand in Latin and Central America, and also fits extremely well with our existing platform in the market and our practices in Spain, New York, Miami and Canada.’

Martinez, who will join DLA Piper’s Latin America committee, added: ‘DLA Piper’s footprint mirrors incredibly well with Colombia’s trading activity with the United States, Canada, Spain and Asia, as well as with our firm’s practices and sector experience. We are very excited about this relationship and look forward to the opportunities it will provide for clients of both of our firms around the world.’

Colombia has experienced rapid growth in the past five years, but after growing GDP by a solid 4.6% in 2014 on the back of strong consumption and investment, the hydrocarbon-driven economy is suffering from weakened growth in 2015 following the fall in oil prices.