Susana Reyes, partner at Morgan & Morgan in Panama, tells us about legal life in Panama.
Susana was a panellist at our ‘Exploring new markets… Panama’ event on 10th November in London discussing opportunities for UK-Panama trade and investment.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
As daughter of a self-taught Panamanian judge and an elementary school teacher, I learned about social justice and personal improvement at home from an early age. Law was initially appealing to me as a discipline to develop analytical skills and achieve goals for a better society.
After my first year of law school in Panama, I started working as a legal assistant at the same international law firm where I am a partner now. I confirmed there my view of Law as an investigative discipline and a framework for community well-being. During my postgraduate studies and internship in the U.S.A., I was constantly exposed to international transactions requiring management of cultural clashes, languages and mediation skills. Thus, I defined my vocation to naturally become an international transactional lawyer.
Tell us about your firm
With over 90 years of successful history, Morgan & Morgan is among the top law firms in Panama and Central America. The firm is a member of the Morgan & Morgan Group (MMG), an extensive and dynamic organization with over 850 employees worldwide capable to offer local and multinational clients a full range of legal, fiduciary and financial services. Our offices are strategically located in 20 cities of America, Asia, and Europe.
Morgan & Morgan is the only law firm in Panama to have established its own banks, MMG Bank & Trust Ltd. in The Bahamas (licensed in 1996) and MMG Bank Corporation in the Republic of Panama (licensed in 2002).
What are the main challenges and opportunities for Panamanian law firms as the legal services market becomes increasingly globalised?
Globalisation is a concept familiar to our culture and history, which has been highlighted by developments in technology, communications and transportation. Geographically, Panama is an isthmus located in the heart of the American continent. Historically, Panama has been a point of trade linking two seas as well as the two extensive lands of North and South America. Our economy is based on services. The Panama Canal, our international financial centre, the Colon Free Zone, the open Shipping Registry, the Export Processing Zones and other institutions were successive confirmations of our destiny to become a maritime nation and a seat for international trade.
Free Trade Agreements and Double Taxation Treaties have brought opportunities to develop integral solutions to companies and individuals established or doing business in our country. Larger vessels will come through our country after completion of the Panama Canal expansion. As an attractive tourist destination, Panama is the target of an increasing number of property investments and resort developments.
What advice would you give to companies new to Panama?
Come with an open mind and your best smile. Undertake your market research with trusted professionals. Engage legal counsel which goes beyond the juridical aspects of setting up a business or handling a transaction, to act as reliable advisors in relationships with local banks, property agents, insurance companies and other business players.
What opportunities for co-operation are there between Panamanian and UK law firms?
In general, investors coming from the UK and mainland Europe normally engage their UK and European counsel to act in collaboration with Panamanian lawyers before setting up operations in Panama.
The 2013 Double Taxation Convention between the UK and Panama will make UK tax firms work with Panamanian counterparts in its application in particular cases.
With the enactment of the 2013 Panamanian Law on National and International Commercial Arbitration, Panama aims to become the centre for international arbitration in Latin America. The UK and Panama may develop synergies in this area, having London a great history as preferred jurisdiction for multinational arbitral disputes.
Regarding commercial transactions, UK firms acting for banks, shipowners, property owners rely on Panamanian counsel to issue legal opinions on maritime or company issues, as part of transactions in which there is a Panamanian element involved.
Panama is attractive for relocation and retirement. With the support of Panamanian counsel, UK Private Client firms may consider this choice when advising retirees and families on estate planning. UK property investors may take advantage of certain incentives to include Panama in the expansion of their overseas operations.
Finally, what are your recommendations for visitors to Panama City?
Enjoy the warmth of Panamanian people and be adventurous enough to discover our beautiful nature beyond Panama City.