Legal Services in Brazil: Business environment, market opportunities and engagement strategy

Generally stating, legal services is a highly competitive sector in Brazil, and engaging in profitable business development often depends on persistent and long term relationship building as an inherent trait of the country’s business culture.

Traditionally, there is a vast area of legal specializations, all of which contain extensive and complex law structures that undergo frequent amendments. Furthermore, new sub-areas are emerging to show growing demand as in response to the more recent dynamics of the country’s economic and market’s development.

As an overview of the commercial structure, corporate accounts and large economic groups sit in the country’s financial hub – the city of São Paulo – and also, on a lower scale, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Such centralization of accounts is generally consistent in cases of larger ventures held throughout other regions, whilst smaller accounts are negotiated through local offices.

International investment opportunities in Brazil are found within a vast range of segments from which different areas of legal services can benefit from. Throughout recent years, large investments have been particularly applied into the sectors of infrastructure and civil construction, creating high demands for quality legal advise from independent law firms for contract management. However, although through a short term analysis we may identify the stabilization of growth in governmental funding disbursement – which limits new players into larger governmental contracting schemes – and also, considering current crisis in former due diligence practices towards the realization of ROI from large national contractors, public biddings may still be a strong possibility for foreign practitioners provided with strategic local alliances and engaged support from well established groups of interests, including the execution of articulations for technical cooperation from diplomatic officials at institutional levels.

According to the report released in February of 2013 on Perspectives of Investment from BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development) – which strictly follows federal development financing policies – disbursements will considerably benefit the sectors of oil & gas, logistics, and aerospace industries, respectively. In this sense, market entrance for legal services related to such public biddings may be well planned and executed for large and medium sized law firms.

Alternatively, smaller businesses may explore more fragmented market opportunities such as legal disputes and out-of-court negotiations in the financial, consumer, and labour areas. Higher demand seems to be arising in these areas due to the particular effects of lower than estimated economic growth. The underachieved predictions, combined with recent – and quite sudden – eased access to credit have been contributing to the increase of delinquency rates from companies and individuals, and therefore augmenting litigations.

Lastly, it seems fortunately important to highlight the opportunities within the momentum of corporate tax planning and restructuring. This is a market move currently well observed through large leading consulting groups already present in the country such as Ernst & Young, PwC and KPMG, for example. Such legal services may be served by offices specialized in tax legislation.

But foremost, relationship building lies at the core of structuring any engagement strategy within the legal services and business community in Brazil. Besides mapping out and segmenting market opportunities based in the particular interests of the law firm, it is essential to carefully map and analyse specific related institutions – such as the Brazilian Bar Association and other influential organizations. Ultimately, identifying local law firms according to regional market strategies serves the purpose of developing a network of potential partnerships.

The one information source that seems to be especially relevant is the annual publication by Exame SA Advocacia, which concentrates not only a comprehensive sector analysis, but also ranks the 500 largest and most influential law firms in the country, along with including details on size, contact information and areas of commercial activity.

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