Pablo Ferraro-Mila is a partner at Argentine firm Gonzalez and Ferraro-Mila. He will be in the UK in July as part of a Law Society organised programme for Latin American lawyers to develop links with UK firms. In a new feature for International Update we asked him about legal life in Argentina.
Why did you decide to be become a lawyer?
Unfortunately, acting and singing did not come as an option to me. However, I must confess that I very much enjoy what I do nowadays, and that I could not picture myself doing anything else.
Tell us about your firm
I decided to establish my own law firm Gonzalez & Ferraro Mila over five years ago mainly due to a desire for greater autonomy in my practice. At that time, I was an Income Partner at a major law firm in Argentina. I guess that my decision was also influenced by a combination of other factors, such as having an entrepreneurial approach to the legal profession, feeling ready to take the challenge, as well as having a big dose of good timing and of even better luck (this last ingredient always comes quite handy). We started just two partners, one other lawyer and one assistant.
Today, we like to call ourselves “One Powerful Team” of three partners, twelve associates, paralegals and support staff. Our team also shares the pride that GFM has been ranked as a leading law firm in the “Corporate / M&As” field in the Argentine legal market by Chambers & Partners, consecutively since 2006.
Our client base is mainly international and our practice includes structuring complex transactions within limited periods of time, as well as providing legal advice to our clients, both local and foreign, during the regular course of their business. We offer a broad range of industry and specialist legal expertise, including advising on foreign investments, mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and finance, real estate, infrastructure projects, energy and natural resources, as well as trade, corporate, tax, labour, litigation and commercial matters.
You have worked as a lawyer in both Buenos Aires and London, how do they compare?
The transactional and advisory practice is quite similar in both jurisdictions. Sophisticated clients are commonly quite demanding all over the world and if we lawyers do not keep up to an absolute commitment towards rendering legal services of the highest quality in the right timing, it becomes quite difficult to survive in such a competitive business environment.
However, I particularly enjoyed the smart and wonderfully dry sense of humour of my UK colleagues, which would come out on any occasion. In general, not only I learned a lot from English lawyers throughout my years of practice with them, but they are also really fun to work with.
Besides, at least in my experience, UK firms are also very conscious at caring for a good quality work environment. For example, the firm I was with had a real pub within its own premises. We would sometimes grab a drink with my workmates late in the afternoon, chat there for a while, and then go back to our desks to keep working (in a much better mood, though).
That’s also pretty unique, right?
What are the main challenges and opportunities for Argentine firms as the legal services market becomes increasingly globalised?
I would say that as the legal services market became increasingly globalised, challenges tended to increase. And by contrast, as a consequence of the recent global financial crisis, opportunities tended to become scarce. So the formula for Argentine law firms (or at least for ours) has become quite straightforward: face the challenges straight in the eyes and always keep seeking for new opportunities.
This year, for example, besides our usual practice enhancement activities in Argentina and our client development trips to Europe, the US and Latin America, GFM partners travelled to Doha for the “Qatar-Latin America Investment Summit”. We were the only Argentine law firm summoned by the GLLC (Gulf Latin America Leaders Council), to take part of the “Latin America-Middle East Investment Forum” organized by Latin Finance. During the past months, we had been following the increasing interest of Middle Eastern countries to invest in Latin America, particularly in Argentine agribusiness, food industries and energy sectors. So I guess that the opportunity had to be found, we uncovered it and accepted the challenge to go for it.
Also and as opposed to bigger firms, our boutique-type firm structure allows us to be quite flexible, react fast and quickly adapt both to local and international changes in the legal and business markets. And that’s a competitive advantage we would like to keep.
Only time will tell, but we are definitely very pleased with the results so far.
What advice would you give to UK law firms new to Argentina?
I believe that whenever your are planning to invest or do business in an unknown country, finding competent and reliable local counsel becomes one of the first and paramount steps to take. And Argentina in particular (with its ways and customs), falls strongly into this need.
I feel I can say this from experience for when I was working in New York or in London one of the things that I valued the most was having diligent and responsive local counsel assisting me in the cross-border transactions I handled.
Now that my Firm’s practice strongly includes acting as local counsel both for law firms and for clients around the World, together with my partners we have made of this approach to our services one of the main pillars of GFM’s culture.
Also, being aware that Argentina is sometimes the door to invest in other countries in the region, we are constantly developing a well-established network of reliable lawyers and law firms throughout all of Latin America.
Finally, what are your recommendations for visitors to Buenos Aires?
Buenos Aires is definitely one of the most important cities in Latin America and generally surprises its visitors with its many contrasts. If I had to define BA, I would say it’s elegant, noisy, cultural, with attractive restaurants offering fantastic food (beef tasting is a must for visitors), filled with cafés ideal for endless chats, an eternal and wild nightlife and of course, tango musicians and dancers around every corner all along Florida Street.
For walking fans, its mixed architecture reflects the Spanish, French and Italian influences in its buildings and parks. The City has wide avenues, mansions, extensive green spaces with hundreds of sculptures and a large quantity of churches; all integrated among houses, office buildings, apartment buildings and modern skyscrapers. Very much of a creative and attractive chaos, I would say.
And finally when in BA, I highly recommend soccer fans to stay tuned: you should definitely not miss a match of Boca Juniors team playing as local at the “Bombonera” Stadium. It does not get much better than that in terms of breathing in an atmosphere of pure and intense soccer passion.
For more information on the Law Society’s Latin America event in July visit our events page.