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Legal life in... Rio de Janeiro

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  • Jorge Eduardo Gouvêa

Why did you choose a career in law?

 

My grandfather founded the law firm of which I am currently a partner, and in which three of his six sons, including my father, took part from the beginning of their professional life. From early childhood I was exposed to the enthusiasm of my family in participating and contributing to the development of the business environment in Brazil, with the beginning of the entry of foreign investors in this country.

Tell us about your firm

Our law firm was founded in the 40’s, at which time foreign investment in Brazil was just beginning. In this period our firm advised a major foreign bank in the process of obtaining the first, or one of the first licenses to operate as a foreign financial institution in Brazil, which gave rise to several other foreign investors seeking advice for doing business in Brazil. Since then, our firm has provided legal advice in a variety of fields of investment in this country, throughout its development. Currently our law firm has over 100 lawyers, most of them based in Rio, rendering full service.

What are currently the main challenges for law firms in Rio de Janeiro?

The business environment in Brazil changed significantly in the last couple of decades, along with the increase of the sophistication of business relationships, and the privatization of companies in several fields of the economy, which led to these activities being regulated under specific rules, which requires the lawyers’ specialization. These changes gave rise to a considerable increase in the size of the Brazilian law firms, and the opening of several new ones, among which boutique firms specialized in specific fields, which generates a greater turnover of lawyers in the law firms. I consider that one of the main challenges of the law firms in Rio de Janeiro is to hire and maintain skilled lawyers, working for a long term, regardless of the numerous options available to them.

What are currently the main opportunities for law firms in Rio de Janeiro?

Besides the opportunities available throughout the country with the growth of the economy, and the increase of the sophistication of business relationships, Rio de Janeiro is ahead in the fields of oil and gas, and insurance/reinsurance. With regard to oil and gas, this is due to natural resources located in the Rio de Janeiro area, and the headquarters of Petrobras, a company controlled by the Federal Government which is the major player in this field. Concerning insurance and reinsurance, this is due to the fact that SUSEP, the insurance and reinsurance regulating agency, and IRB, the former official reinsurer in the country before the opening of this market, are located in Rio.

What opportunities for co-operation are there between Brazil and UK law firms?

For UK law firms providing advice to clients willing to develop business in Brazil, I would recommend teaming up with local firms to ensure that legal requirements for setting up and conducting business in Brazil are met, and to avoid that any cultural differences may jeopardize the potential deal. This is also relevant for the purpose of keeping within the general applicable Brazilian legal restrictions, as for example, those that, in certain circumstances, protect the country’s sovereignty in relation to judgments awarded abroad, restrict the use of foreign currency in Brazil, or do not allow for the election of foreign laws to govern agreements to be enforced in Brazil.

What advice would you give to UK law firms or companies doing business in Brazil?

To seek legal assistance specialized in their field of business from local law firms with experience in dealing with foreign investors.

And what are your recommendations for visitors to Rio de Janeiro?

Rio de Janeiro has recently hosted several matches, including the final one of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and is being prepared to host the 2016 Olympic Games, and is therefore well structured to welcome visitors from abroad. The city offers a variety of leisure and natural resources, and a friendly people. As in many major cities in the world, namely in Latin America, crime rate is relatively high, which requires attention, but should not prevent visitors from enjoying the attractions that the city offers.

The views are the views of the author and not those of the Law Society.

 

 

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