Doing Business in Latin America

The Legal Help Necessary for Doing Business in Latin America

For those interested in doing business in Latin America and searching for a business lawyer for Latin America, it is important to have a clear idea of what type of legal help is expected to be necessary. Every type of business or business transaction may require divergent legal counsel, and legal requirements vary from country to country. Indeed, after decades of erratic growth, some of the larger Latin American markets are enjoying record prosperity now, and are well regarded emerging growth nations. Brazil is Latin America’s most vibrant economy, both physically and economically about half as large as all of the other countries combined. Chile is always a well run and productive economy, and Argentina, Peru and Colombia are enjoying high growth rates.

Neff Law Firm is unique because its principal, Richard Neff, has spent his career doing business in Latin America, focused on technology companies. Earlier in his career, he was a lawyer at Arnold & Porter in Washington, DC, working on the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s and representing the governments of Brazil and Venezuela. Later, as Chairman of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and then counsel to the BSA, he initiated most of the Latin American antipiracy programs of the large computer software companies (Adobe, Autodesk, Symantec, Apple, Novell, Microsoft and others). His firm, Neff Law Group, managed most of the Latin American antipiracy programs for these companies from the early 1990s until 2005. Neff also lived in both Peru and Mexico. Consequently, Neff Law Firm is comfortable working in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as English, and handles many deals in Latin America.

Recently Neff worked with the large Brazilian law firm, Barbosa, Mussnich & Aragao, on behalf of the large Brazilian amusement park Hopi Hari to license Warner Bros. and DC Comics characters. It was reported to be Warner Bros. largest deal in Latin America.

Neff represents a number of Brazilian technology companies in the US, sometimes resolving disputes with US manufacturers and Latin American distributors or resellers of technology. The Firm also handles many outbound transactions, with US companies investing and building business in Brazil and the rest of Latin America.

Not only does a businessperson focused on Latin America need to effectively navigate the legal issues in the target country, he or she must also work within the confines of international and multinational agreements as well as the domestic regulations that will govern the venture. Moreover, there are complex transnational tax issues that must be addressed. This adds an extra layer of complexity to any business transaction. Often US companies doing business in Latin America must decide whether to appoint distributor, resellers, sales agents, or invest in local subsidiaries in one or more countries. Tax considerations and double tax treaties may help determine the best jurisdictions for locating an overseas office. It takes longer to establish an entity in Latin America than in the United States. Employment law comes into play also, and there is no intuitive similarity between employment law in the various Latin American counties as compared with the United States.

This list of issues is hardly exhaustive, but it gives one a taste of the complexity involved in doing business successfully in Latin America from the legal perspective. A law firm that purports to do business in Latin America should be able to demonstrate a track record of successful transactions and engagements, a reference list of satisfied US and overseas clients, and the language capability to do business in both Spanish and Portuguese, the latter for a strongly emerging Brazilian economy. In addition, the law firm must have a reputation for honesty and professionalism, as well as efficiency and cost effectiveness. Neff Law Firm has all of these attributes.

Above all, those beginning to attempt doing business in Latin America need to research their options and the difficulties they will face, or at least hire legal and business experts as consultants who can provide that information.