Only a year after the opening of an outpost in Venezuela, Littler Mendelson is once again expanding in Latin America, this time by opening a pair of offices in Mexico.
The labor and employment speciality firm will gain 24 lawyers from full-service Mexican firm Basham, Ringe & Correa on January 2. The group, which is led by Oscar De la Vega, will set up shop in Mexico City and Monterrey and be known locally as Littler, De la Vega y Conde.
The Littler president and managing director Marko Mrkonich calls the new company offices ”the next logical step in developing an ability to answer employers questions and provide their needs on a global basis.” Increasingly, Mrkonich says, the clients need multi-jurisdictional labor and the employment advice that covers everything from privacy policies and codes of ethics to workforce reductions and benefits of planning.
But why choose Mexico? On the basis level, Mrkonich says that the country represents fertile territory for Littler because ”places with lots of people have employment law issues.”
Much more immediately, he says that this move–like Littler’s foray into Venezuela, with its first expansion outside of the U.S.–is the result of the firm identifying a group of local lawyers it trusts and wants to hire. Littler, Mrkonich adds that, you got to know De la Vega’s group several years ago through lus Laboris, a global alliance of labor and employment firms from 42 countries. (Littler replaces Seyfarth Shaw just as lus Laboris’s U.S. member in 2008.)
For his own part, De la Vega compares the move from full-services firm to a labor and employment-specific practice to going from a family with five sons to one with a single child. ”You get all the attention, all the support,” said De la Vega, adding that he first became interested in moving his team to Littler about a year ago.
De la Vega says that most of his existing clients are publicly help U.S.-based companies doing business down in Mexico, including the 3M, General Electric, Hilton Hotels, MasterCard, Oracle, Ritz-Carlton, and Weyerhaeuser. He also says that he expects his group to land all the assignments from the growing number of Mexican companies beginning to expand internationally.
Lance Compa, who is a teacher of the international labor laws at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says that there is undoubtedly a market for labor and employment specialists south of the border. ”American companies doing business in Mexico need careful legal counsel,” said Compa, also noting that while the country’s labor laws tent to favor workers over management, local politics affect just how strictly those laws are that were enforced from region to region.
Just a handful of the Am Law 2200 firms have their office in Mexico. Those that do not include the Texas-based Haynes and Boone, the New York-based Chadbourne & Parke, and megafirms such as Baker & McKenzie, White & Case and Jones Day.