Opportunities for foreign lawyers in the Brazilian legal market

As the world begins to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic and the global economy stabilises, we can see shoots of growth developing, particularly in the Latin America region. At the heart of this region lies its biggest economy, Brazil, and its financial “capital”, the city of Sao Paulo.

It’s not all about working in one of the most cosmopolitan and exciting cities in the world. Expats moving to Sao Paulo may initially find settling in challenging, but after acclimatisation, they enjoy the lifestyle and the multicultural aspects that Sao Paulo offers. As the largest city in Brazil, Sao Paulo is home to many world-famous restaurants, vibrant nightlife, designer outlets, large retail stores and cultural attractions. Additionally, expats can take advantage of the stunning natural landscape of Sao Paulo State’s coastline, a relatively short drive away from the capital.

The state of the pandemic in Brazil

Lockdowns and Covid policies are now relaxing, and this is having a positive effect on the country’s economic and social wellbeing. From a public health perspective, Brazil has recovered well over recent months from a shaky vaccine rollout at the start of 2021 and the government’s problematic handling of the pandemic.

According to data compiled by Our World in Data, as of 26 October 2021, about 74% of Brazilians have received at least one dose — compared with just 65% in the United States. Approximately 54% of Brazilians are fully vaccinated.[1]

Economic outlook and what it means for foreign qualified lawyers looking to practice in Brazil

Economists from Itaú Unibanco, the largest private bank in Brazil, have recently revised their 2022 economic growth forecast to -0.5% from 0.5%, citing concerns over more government spending to support the expansion of a cash transfer programme ahead of the 2022 elections, and a recent climb in inflation driven by higher fuel and electricity prices.

Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic. The Brazilian economy has been showing signs of recovery, even with the lingering effects of the pandemic and uncertainty in the political arena.

The recovery has been supported by several factors, including the strong demand for commodities globally, internal stimulus packages, low domestic interest rates, fast-maturing capital markets and a series of structural reforms. An example is Complementary Law No. 182, passed by the National Congress of Brazil earlier this year, which allows for greater contractual freedoms and entrepreneurial innovation and investment in a notoriously bureaucratic and highly regulated marketplace.[2]

Building upon the strength and momentum of the Brazilian capital markets from the second quarter of 2020, the country remains in the ascendency when it comes to the volume of IPOs. 2021 is set to be a record-breaking year. According to data from Baker McKenzie, there has been a 220% increase in capital raised between H1 2021 and H1 2020,[3] resulting in an increased demand for Capital Markets lawyers.

The City of Sao Paulo, which accounts for about a third of Brazil’s GDP, is the base of the country’s stock exchange and bank headquarters, as well as many multinationals and major law firms, both national and international. There are currently over 20 international law firms with offices in Brazil – mainly in Sao Paulo – and we expect to see more global practices expanding their presence in the next couple of years. With economic activity stabilising in the region, we can see a rise in transactional areas such as Capital Markets, M&A, Finance, and Corporate transactional, more generally, opening a tremendous opportunity for foreign qualified lawyers seeking to relocate to Brazil.

It is important to remember that local regulation prevents international law firms from advising on Brazilian law. Such restrictions limit the scope of the work carried out by international law firms to areas where legal advice on international law is often required, notably Capital Markets, M&A and Finance.

Most of the international law firms, including the UK headquartered ones, will require candidates wishing to practice in Brazil to be admitted to the New York bar. Working in Brazil also often requires fluency in Portuguese, so if you are seriously considering relocating, language classes are a must!

For a confidential discussion about opportunities for foreign qualified lawyers in the Brazilian market, please contact Thiago Silva at thiago.silva@jamesonlegal.com


[1] https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

[2] http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/lcp/Lcp182.htm

[3] ipo-h1-snapshot-2021_final.pdf (bakermckenzie.com)