How much does law firm branding matter these days?

It means everything if you’re a giant global firm opening offices across the world, and operating in markets far from home, according to Roger Meltzer, DLA Piper’s global co-chairman.

“Brand equity, in general, for a global firm, is its stock in trade,” said Meltzer, in an interview to explain how the firm’s announcement Monday that it is expanding into Peru fits into a broader strategy.

According to the firm, DLA completed a “business and brand integration” with Peru’s Pizarro Botto Escobar — which has 40 lawyers in Lima — so that it will now operate as DLA Piper Pizarro Botto Escobar. There’s no Swiss Verein agreement, but rather an agreement to operate under the DLA brand, and an agreement to share certain unnamed expenses, according to Meltzer.

It continues DLA Piper’s march across Latin America, which dates to at least 2010, when to the firm struck a “cooperation agreement” with Campos Mello in Brazil; followed by other deals to open offices or ally with local firms in Mexico, Colombia, and last year, in Chile. As a result, the DLA Piper brand is in all those countries, which Meltzer said will help the firm capture some of the legal work surrounding the infrastructure development, as well as work tied to the broader economy.

“If we were going to market as five or six different firms, this strategy would be less effective,” he said. “But we’re not, we’re going as DLA Piper.”

It wants to be known as a firm with lawyers embedded in the community who understand the culture, he continued, and to be an elite firm.

“There’s a growing resistance to having the extremely high-priced New York lawyers helicopter into local jurisdictions to do their most important internal or external transactions,” said Meltzer. 

He added the firm aims to solidify its elite status in the next couple years.

“We are now a global firm that does elite work,” said Meltzer. “Are we at the point yet where we’re an elite global firm? No, but I’ve said all along that’s something we expect to achieve over the next half-decade.”