The practice now has a partner on the ground in Brazil and is receiving instructions more generally from former Portuguese colonies
- Who’s Who names:
- Cristian Conejero Roos and Antonio Hierro Hernández-Mora
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$2.8 billion
- treaty cases
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 10 (of which 3 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira was born of a 2003 merger between two 80-year-old firms from Spain and Portugal.
In the early post-merger years, the firm’s international arbitration work rarely strayed from the Iberian Peninsula, but after a surge in Latin America and North Africa-related cases in 2007, it began to focus more on the practice area.
It duly formed a stand-alone international arbitration group and brought in a former Spanish state lawyer, Antonio Hierro, to steer work, focusing on the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. A former ICC counsel, Cristian Conejero Roos, joined that year and the firm also went out into the associate market to ensure the practice was stocked appropriately skilled juniors, hiring laterally from Shearman & Sterling, Herbert Smith and Fulbright & Jaworski.
Since then, the practice has gone from being one of the first Iberian firms invited to pitch for major work, to now winning some of those pitches, ahead of the big Anglo-Saxon firms. You will find it acting opposite large international firms such as Hogan Lovells, White & Case and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom almost as often as against other Spanish names.
Its Latin American regional international arbitration practice meanwhile is also recognised in various legal directories, as a frontrunner. It was the first from the from Iberian peninsula to break into one directory's Latin American arbitation ranking (heavily US and UK dominated) and has remained above its local rivals Garrigues and Uría Menéndez in recent versions of the same list.
In 2009, Cuatrecasas published one of the first guides to commercial arbitration in Latin America written in Spanish. The book covers 21 jurisdictions.
As well as 14 offices in Spain and two in Portugal, the arbitration practice has access to operations in Paris, London, Brussels, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai and Casablanca.
More significantly perhaps, it has associations with two law firms in lusophone Africa: Sousa Abogados in Luanda, Angola; and Couto, Graça & Associados in Maputo, Mozambique.
Who uses it?
Clients tend to be Iberian and Latin American companies, but a few are from other parts of the world. Spain’s Abengoa Group, Argentina’s Pluspetrol, Italian construction group Tecnimont, France’s GDF Suez and US private equity fund TSG Consumer are on the books.
The firm scored a great result in 2011 when it helped an IBEX 35 Spanish business walk away with awards worth US$175 million from two parallel ICC arbitrations against Brazilian respondents. The team managed to push the winnings beyond a cap of US$70 million that had been included in the contracts by demonstrating fraud.
Cuatrecasas has also won an investment arbitration against Cuba (albeit a small one). The case took place at the ICC and was brought by a mid-sized Spanish company. The firm was sole counsel to the claimant and won a US$2.8 million award.
In late 2011, partner Cristian Conejero Roos transferred from the firm’s Madrid office to São Paulo – a move attributed to an increasing number of arbitrations seated in Brazil, Mexico and Chile. Aged just 35 and already sitting as an arbitrator with regularity, he was also selected in the GAR “45 under 45” for 2011.
Responding to Conejero Roos’ appearance in the list in September, the firm said the recognition was “testimony to a busy year in arbitration work within the firm, particularly in the energy sector in the Latin American market.”
The firm also promoted two arbitration-focused lawyers, Juan Antonio Ruiz in Barcelona and Esther de Félix in Madrid, in early 2011. That’s after promoting three the year before, although a larger batch of partners was announced in 2010 than in 2011.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Arbitration Club’s under-40 branch appointed Cuatrecasas associates Maribel Rodríguez Vargas and Víctor Manuel Sánchez as two of its six new co-chairs in January 2011. Hierro continues to be president of the club proper, a role he shares with Jesús Remón at Uría Menéndez.
On the work front, the firm noted that it received several new ICC instructions arising from Portuguese former colonies: one over the construction of an airport in the Island of Cape Verde and the other over an oil exploration project in Angola. It remains to be seen if this becomes a trend.