Reed Smith, Dentons Target Latam Disputes with Miami Partner Hires

Two global law firms made significant litigation partner hires in Miami this week with the stated purpose of capturing Latin American work.

On Tuesday, Reed Smith announced the hiring of international arbitration and litigation partners Francisco Rodriguez and Sandra Millor as well as foreign legal consultant Gilberto Guerrero-Rocca. The former Akerman attorneys and legal consultant have joined Reed Smith’s global commercial disputes practice.

The same day, Dentons announced it had lured former Gunster litigators Jonathan Kaskel and Angel Cortiñas to its Miami office as partners, with Cortiñas serving as managing partner of the now three-lawyer office that launched last year.

Both firms emphasized their desire to capitalize on Miami’s status as a gateway to Latin America. In an interview, Rodriguez said the long-used phrase is becoming more of a concrete reality as the Magic City attracts an increasing number of high-end cross-border attorneys.

“[Latin Americans] are seeing the very sophisticated legal market in Miami. The lawyers know their culture, they know their language, they know the different challenges facing the region,” Rodriguez said. “Right now we’re dealing with cases that have nothing to do with Miami other than the fact that Miami is functioning as a gateway. I think you’re going to see more and more of that.”

Reed Smith’s global platform attracted the Akerman group to the firm, although Reed Smith doesn’t have offices in Latin America. Instead, the firm’s European and Asian offices factored into the decision.

“We’re seeing a lot of investment in Latin America from those regions,” Rodriguez continued. “And a lot of that is coming through Miami. To see a firm like Reed Smith committing to Miami is encouraging.”

Reed Smith arrived in Miami five years ago by acquiring a seven-lawyer international arbitration practice from a boutique that closed in the move. The office now boasts a staff of 34 lawyers. Despite being among the most recent Am Law 100 market entrants, Miami office managing partner Constantine Karides said he feels the firm has a leg up on recent Big Law movers and potential newcomers.

“We think we have an advantage to them. We’ve been here longer, we know the local market—and you need to know the local market to be successful in Miami—and we’ve managed to create that and we have some deep inroads here,” Karides said in an interview.

Rodriguez said he expects strong demand in international litigation and arbitration in Latin America as newly elected regimes change the rules around foreign investment in their respective countries. Karides said pressure on equities and rising inflation will also result in a ”tinderbox” for litigation, both locally and internationally.

In a statement, Akerman international practice chair Pedro Freyre and Miami co-office managing partner and Latin America and Caribbean practice chair Luis Perez said they wish their former colleagues well in their future endeavors and plan to focus on adding bench strength in international arbitration as demand in Latin America skyrockets.

Dentons arrived in Miami in 2013. While Dentons has more than 12,000 lawyers around the globe, three are working in the firm’s Miami headquarters, a business center in the suburb of Kendall, down the street from a Publix and a UFC gym.

Still, Dentons leaders in the U.S. and Latin America said the additions served familiar purposes for the firm: capitalizing on Miami’s growth as a legal market and its ties to Latin America. And unlike Reed Smith, Dentons has offices all over Latin America, including locations in cities such as Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Bogotá, Medellin, Caracas, and others.

“Given the emphasis on cross-border opportunities with the [Latin America and Caribbean] region, and Miami’s significance as a gateway to this burgeoning market, building our presence here is critical,” said Dentons U.S. CEO Sonia Martin in a press release.

Zubair Q Britania

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