For a boutique law firm, Colter Carswell & Asociados punches far above its weight. With its head office in Monterrey, Mexico City, the practice is headed up by John Colter-Carswell and specialises in corporate and commercial law. Some 80% of his clients are international companies that set up offices close to the US border to tap into the huge American market.
John has built up a formidable corporate legal practice in multiple sectors, particularly auto parts, logistics, manufacturing, and medical devices. His clients tend to be second tier companies setting up to support larger entities that are established in and around Mexico City. Recent examples of tier one companies setting up locally include auto manufacturers Tesla and Kia.
Tier two businesses
“Many of the companies we service are startups here in Mexico,” John says “They’re basically foreign investors – often small businesses – focused on supporting larger companies. Kia is a good example. When they arrived so did a number of tier two businesses, to support with parts and logistics.”
John’s initial role is to send a legal services proposal to prospective clients with a brief outline of the issues to hand. Often the first stage will involve basic processes such as incorporation and working with the board of directors and legal representatives of the company from its home jurisdiction.
The process has to be extremely thorough and includes understanding all third party involvement, shareholders or stakeholders, then manage issues around the bylaws.
“They (the boards) normally don’t come over to sign the documents, ”John says. “We prepare proxies and send them to, let’s say, Germany. So we represent them to sign the incorporation documents here in Mexico and together at the same time, or simultaneously, we work with the bylaws of the company.
“After that, normally we represent them on the operational side, working with affiliated companies in Mexico such as accountancy firms, so we can open bank accounts and manage all the services together.”
Mexico Global Alliance
The accountancy firm Colter Carswell uses is Mexico Global Alliance, which is also a member of IR Global. John has been working closely with the firm for 15 years, managing legal and financial corporate matters together for their clients.
“We manage all the legal corporate issues and they manage all the outsourcing, accounting, tax and payroll services. Together we provide foreign trade services putting together, legal and accounting matters.”
Much of John’s work is focused around M&A work with international businesses, many of which come to Mexico to take over a local company. With the US border only two hours away, the proximity to Texas is ideal for companies eager to tap into the US.
Ideal location for clients
“Half our clients are from the US who want to access the Mexican market, while the rest of our clients are from all over the world; Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan, China. From everywhere actually. These companies want to be right on the US border, basically. To be honest, our location is ideal for picking up clients who want to do business in Mexico and the US – it’s been very good for us.”
He admits even the small deals are complex given the different jurisdictions of the parent companies and the different legal systems involved. Indeed, John believes Colter Carswell is able to navigate its way through a maze of different legal systems given its experience with global firms buying into Mexican businesses. This becomes even more complex when international clients want to buy the assets rather than the local business.
IR Global network
For John, the IR Global network is invaluable in this regard, helping Colter Carswell to refer clients to different legal and accounting firms across the network: “It gives us very good knowledge about the other firms and it’s a very good way to promote ourselves and to go to the different events organised by IR Global. And that helped us to generate more clients from overseas and also to refer clients to other members.”
Law and horses
John admits that given his passion for animals, particularly horses, he originally thought he’d make an unlikely attorney. But despite his love of all things equestrian, he decided to go to law school and later worked as an in house counsel for a huge Mexican multinational. Originally, undertaking mainly litigious work, John later left and set up Colter Carswell to focus more on corporate and commercial work.
“No. I’m not keen on litigation, I’m far more interested in corporate and M&A work, which is much more of a proactive and positive. I let my partner do the litigation work,” he smiles. After 25 years, the firm is still a boutique legal practice with only 10 people, but this may change as John looks for more affiliation work. John’s see his son, John, also a member of IR Global, as the driving force for expansion into the future: “He has a master degree from Southampton University and his English and knowledge of English common law is excellent. These skills will help to develop the firm after I retire, although I have no plans to do that just yet.”
Outside of his legal practice, John remains an avid horse lover. He rides in competitions and runs and joins classes each week. “Yes, it’s almost like another business,” he laughs. “The training is like an hour, more or less and after that I go back to work.
Along with horses, John loves writing and has written some weighty articles on business issues including M&A and corporate finance. He tends to rise early to write 3-4 times a week. He admits the horses and writing are time consuming outside of work: “Yes. It all takes time, but then I get up early and do it all. It’s just a matter of fitting it all in to my day.”