Big Law in Venezuela: From the "Oil Opening" to the Bolivarian Revolution (1994-2013)
October 24, 2013 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Speakers: Professor Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo & Professor Manuel A. Gómez
Over the past two decades, Venezuela has undergone significant social, political, and economic change. These changes have significantly affected the corporate legal sector, which evolved from an unprecedented expansion fueled by a windfall of oil money during the 1990s, to a very difficult transition during the last decade that forced the local and foreign law firms with presence in Venezuela to undertake inventive strategies to remain viable. As part of the Stanford Project on the Future of the Legal Profession, we conducted more than twenty-five interviews in Caracas and Miami, with representatives from the leading domestic and international law firms that operate in Venezuela, or which serve Venezuelan-based clients. Our preliminary findings suggest that: (1) during the decade of the oil bonanza, while most local firms grew significantly and expanded their presence both in geographical and professional terms, there were hardly any mergers or long-term associations involving domestic or foreign law firms; (2) during the 2000s, not only did most law firms shrink in size, and intra-firm competition became fierce, but also entire areas of practice almost disappeared, while others grew significantly to the point of becoming the most profitable departments. This was also a reason why several multinational law firms decided to establish outposts in Venezuela. And, (3) In order to remain viable amidst the current challenges, Venezuelan law firms have revamped their internal organizational structures, redefined their relationship with their corporate clients and their in-house counsel, pursued alliances and networks at the international level, and diversified their areas of expertise. Some Venezuelan lawyers have also expanded their reach into other jurisdictions, such as the United States and Colombia, thus competing with local practitioners for the Venezuelan and Latin American markets.