oct 7 2020
Cali in Colombia
Colombia’s third largest city by population (approx. 2.25m), Cali’s relatively shallow legal market belies a significant commercial history that saw both the US and Great Britain open consul offices in the city, and where the Raisbeck firm – the forerunner of the Colombian office of today’s Baker McKenzie – came to market prominence. An industrial city, it nevertheless has a marked orientation towards the Valle De Cauca’s agricultural production -which can count on export via the country’s key Pacific-coast port, Buenaventura- and the service sector. Hit hard by the departure of -in particular- auto manufacturers in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and subsequently by the commodity crisis of 2014, the region has nevertheless bounced back, coming somewhat into fashion with foreign investors, at least until the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The legal market offering remains more atomised than that of Medellín and the market boasts fewer firms that have consolidated their institutional presence, although this is now increasingly taking place. Instead, the market has resorted to inter-firm (and sole-practitioner) associations –temporary or more long-lasting– to facilitate the coverage of clients’ requirements. Caicedos Holguines, for example, has a cooperation agreement with Seguridad Legal for data protection and tech matters, but at the same time maintains a concurrent association with Advocat. Of the Bogotá heavyweights, only Brigard Urrutia maintains a permanent presence, although Goméz Pinzón Abogados’ associate (and Valle del Cauca native) Jorge Iván López -formerly at Seguridad Legal- is well known in the Cali market, particularly for matters related to data privacy.
Colombia’s complex topography has -necessarily- been a significant factor in the country’s development, isolating certain regions and cities and thereby ensuring the development of their own specific cultural traits, styles of business and modes of interaction. Long before low cost-airlines and 3G and 4G highway modernizations greatly facilitated domestic travel, this was particularly the case in cities such as Medellín and Cali (the country’s second and third largest cities by population, and the regional capitals of Antioquia and Valle de Cauca, respectively). Such local cultural norms have in turn influenced local legal provision – and indeed, the ability of the generally larger Bogotá-based firms to effectively penetrate these markets in their drive to offer genuinely national coverage. Characterised by fixed fees and cuota litis rather than the billable hour, these markets should -nevertheless- not be considered insignificant. Cali, for example, has enjoyed the presence of Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Smurfitt Kappa and Baxter, among other multinationals; while Medellín boasts local titans Grupo Argos, Grupo Nutresa, Bancolombia, Celsia, EPM and Grupo Sura – and all their associated supply and service lines.
In this first year covering these markets, what follows is a non-ranked listing of the key legal market participants and their respective market offerings; we fully expect to deepen this analysis into a ranking-by-sector over the course of the next editions....
Caicedos Holguines Abogados
Venerable market presence Caicedos Holguines Abogados has some 45 years in the market but has undergone significant modernization since managing partner Maria Fernanda Cardona took the helm. While it remains small, with four lawyers, it has developed alliances with both tech-boutique Seguridad Legal and, since 2018, Advocat – principally as regards tax matters - allowing it to broaden an offering focused primarily on contracting (both local and international), civil and administrative law and corporate governance. Commercial specialist Cardona has approaching 20 years' experience of commercial and company law, contract, corporate governance, civil law and dispute resolution; she also has particular expertise in protocol matters related to family-owned businesses, and is notably active in the growing niche concerning human rights in relation to the corporate sector. Recent mandates include assisting a client with a multimillion-dollar bio-diversity project. Senior associates Stefanny Bravo Gonzalez and Gustavo Ortiz Ordoñez lead on labour and social security, and compliance matters, respectively.
Maria Fernanda Cardona
Nutrición de Plantas
Fundación Valle del Lili
Confesión Asamblea ESpiritual de los Bahais
Administradora Los Vallados
Cardona & Martens