Veículo: Latin Lawyer

Data: 19/4/2018

Transactional boutique Rolim de Mello – Sociedade de Advogados has rebranded as Souza, Mello e Torres following the arrival of former Cescon Barrieu name partner Luis Souza and Vale general counsel Clovis Torres, along with several other lawyers from Latin Lawyer 250-listed firms.

Souza and former Cescon Barrieu project finance associate Julio Antonio Queiroz joined this month, while Torres left Vale in January. Fabricio Cardim de Almeida, a competition associate at Stocche Forbes Advogados and PwC São Paulo tax manager Bruno Sartori de Carvalho Barbosa are also new to the firm in April. Rolim de Mello, a transactional boutique established by former Machado Meyer Advogados’ rainmaker Carlos Rolim de Mello, has made all five additions foundingpartners and added Souza’s and Torres’ names to its brand. The firm has also named existing partners Alexandre Simões Pinto, Felipe Demori Claudino and Natália Teixeira Rabaça as founding partners.

The new arrivals transform the mid-sized firm from a transactional boutique launched less than two years ago to a multi-disciplinary outfit capable of providing counsel in new areas like mining and tax.

The addition of Souza and Torres also brings big-name recognition. “We are expanding an existing law firm which had a brilliant new year with several M&A transactions closings,” says Souza. “In any case, we believe there is space in the market for a firm with our specific approach, which is to provide the full range of corporate services to large clients under a leaner and more efficient structure that allows partners to be in direct contact with clients and to closely supervise their work.”

Souza was a founding partner at Cescon, Barrieu, Flesch & Barreto Advogados, but left after 17 years at the helm. While strategic differences had bubbled at the firm for several years over lateral hires and growth plans, those differences boiled over when the firm considered hiring investigations lawyer Esther Flesch and her team, which had recently departed from Trench Rossi & Watanabe Advogados.

The addition of his name to Souza Mello’s letterhead comes nearly five months after Souza announced his departure from Cescon Barrieu.

In a brief email statement, Cescon Barrieu, which rebranded late last year and dropped Souza’s name, said Souza’s move was a “natural step”. It declined to comment on the departure of associate Queiroz. Cescon Barrieu has acknowledged differences with Souza on strategy and hiring to Latin Lawyer in the past. The firm, which is among Brazil’s largest, has nearly 200 lawyers and around 40 partners.

Torres is the other big-name addition to Rolim de Mello. He worked as an executive officer and general counsel to Brazilian mining conglomerate Vale before joining the firm. Torres also served as board chairman at the Brazilian Institute of Mining (IBRAM) until early 2018.

The new name partner’s work history is impressive. Among other positions, Torres has also acted as board chairman for state-owned energy company Petrobras and worked in-house at the International Finance Corporation. Like Mello, he was also a former partner at Machado Meyer Advogados back in 2003. Latin Lawyer’s sister publication, the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association will provide further coverage of Torres’ hire.

Souza Mello’s new antitrust and compliance practice head Cardim spoke to Latin Lawyer’s sister publication Global Competition Review ahead of publication. Cardim says his clients will include one of Brazil’s largest retailers. He will handle all aspects of competition law, but expects to focus initially on merger review given the firm’s emphasis on M&A and the return of deal financing to Brazil.

Cardim also elaborated on the firm’s strategy. “The mid-size market is a great opportunity in Brazil now, especially for those lawyers who had previous international experience and worked at big law firms in the past,” he says, noting his partners’ objective to establish a partner-centric approach to customer service. “We believe our clients will be better served with this new platform.”

Stocche Forbes Advogados antitrust head Paulo Casagrande says Cardim left alone and on amicable terms. “Our firm’s antitrust and compliance team does not plan to hire a replacement, because it is very well structured and equipped to advise our clients in key merger filings, governmental and internal investigations and deal advice, alongside the newly established white-collar crime practice,” he adds. “We wish Fabricio well in his new endeavours.”

Stocche Forbes is among Brazil’s larger mid-sized firms with more than 20 partners and some 150 lawyers in total.

PwC’s Barbosa is the final new arrival, adding serious clout to Souza Mello’s tax offering. Before joining PwC, Barbosa worked as a tax advisor in General Electric’s Belo Horizonte division and held an associate-level position at Azevedo Sette Advogados. Latin Lawyer’s sister publication, the Latin American
Corporate Counsel Association, will provide further coverage of Barbosa’s hire.

The coming together of multiple lawyers from different firms and businesses at the same time is somewhat unusual, though not unheard of in the Brazilian market. In the case of Souza Mello, elite firm Machado Meyer provides a common link for its name partners. “Luis, Carlos and Clovis have known each other for a long time, given that they worked together at Machado Meyer in the 90s,” explains Souza’s colleague Queiroz. “Right now, all three were in a moment of their career that was very propitious to this joining of forces.”

Despite the flurry of hires, further expansion is unlikely to be Souza Mello’s next move. “We believe our workforce is large enough for the demand during this starting phase, so we will not actively go after additional professionals right now,” says Souza. “However, we are mature enough to value opportunities when they come,” he adds.

Souza Mello lists nine partners on its website and has some 60 lawyers in total. It was listed in the Brazilian chapter of the Latin Lawyer 250 for the first time earlier this year.