Henrique Lopes is a partner at KLA Advogados, the ILN’s member firm for Brazil. In this episode, he and Lindsay focus on the generational approaches to work post-pandemic and what aspects of the legal industry have remained the same, the current market in Brazil for clients, and why it’s so important to be a well-integrated firm in today’s marketplace.
You can listen to the podcast here, or we’ve provided a transcript of the highlights below.
Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the Law Firm Intelligence Podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Griffiths, Executive Director of the International Lawyers Network. Our guest this week is Henrique Lopes with KLA Advogados in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Henrique, we’re really happy to have you join us this week, and if you could take a couple of minutes to tell us about yourself, and your law firm, and your practice, which would be great.
Henrique: All right, well, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for the introduction. My name is Henrique Lopes, I’m a founding partner of KLA. I’m a tax practitioner, and also a member of the executive committee of the firm. I’ve been practicing law for over 35 years now. Have been with a few law firms. Founded KLA in 2002, with the idea of this being a firm, really committed to client service, really close to the clients in terms of understanding of the business, in terms of level of service we wanted to provide. And that’s what we’ve been doing since. We started as a medium-sized law firm, which we still are today, and we tend to give a lot of focus on the way we perform our work, and the way we interact with clients rather than any particular specific field of the law. We cover everything, we’re a full-service law firm. The firm is particularly strong on corporate tax and in civil location, but we have lots of other specialties. And we serve clients from over forty countries, doing business in Brazil, where we have a very, very international footprint.
Lindsay: Wow, that’s great. So, let’s dive in to our questions. What would you say is your biggest challenge at the moment, and how are you working to overcome that?
Henrique: The biggest challenge with respect to the firm in general I believe is talent retention, one of the biggest challenges. We had many changes in this field in the past few years, and it’s a mix of generational approach to the work, and the circumstances of remote work, also the difference in expectancy of what a career in a law firm is, and how new generations approach this. So, it’s a big challenge. Interesting, because we learn every day about new ways of doing things, and new approaches to work and life, but at the same time, challenging, because of big turnover, and there’s difficulty in creating the sense of commitment. I can say we’re pretty good at that, and we’ve been lucky, but it’s probably a bigger struggle for other firms, but that’s something we have to pay attention to all the time.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Do you think it will fundamentally change the way the business of law is done in the future, because there is this sort of push and pull among the generations, and the next generations coming up have such a different idea of the way business should be done, or the way the law should be practiced?
Henrique: Yes, well, I think there’s been some change already that came to stay, and it’s been incorporated into the way the legal profession is exercised. But there’s been sort of a rebound the past few months, I’ll say, or years, in the sense that you cannot be in one extreme or the other. There are still some things that are fundamental in the practice of law. It’s going to be always a hard profession, there’s no way you can get around that, but there’s been some rebound, but some things came to stay. So, we gained some in terms of flexibility, in terms of how we organize work, and respond to client demand, and market demand. And on the other hand, there’s been some consciousness on the size that hard work is required, and commitment is required, and you cannot get far without those elements.
Lindsay: Speaking of clients, can you tell us a little bit about the current state of the market, and what that means for your clients?
Henrique: Yes, in terms of clients, what we have right now in Brazil is, we had some tough times in terms of our economy, a lot of doubt about where things were going with the new government, and new government promising a lot of public expenditure without the corresponding public revenue. But these things have been addressed by the government, the government was able to get into some kind of agreement with congress, things starts moving forward, and we have seen declines in interest rates, and a bit more optimism in the economy. That activates the money markets, the financial markets, which gives room for more market consolidation, M&A. We have lots of structural reforms in Brazil, tax reform, we had labor reform a few years ago. So, lots of moving parts, and a little bit more optimism. Still a lot of homework to do, but it’s getting better. When you have that kind of circumstance, there’s a lot of foreign investment coming into the country, we expect to see more of that, which, for our business, is very relevant. So, we’re kind of optimistic for the rest of this year.
Lindsay: That’s great. That’s very promising. So, what would you say is the biggest area related to your practice or industry that you’re curious about?
Henrique: In terms of our practice, what we have been trying to do is get more and more sophisticated in what we deliver, trying to get more and more the areas to work together, and produce a similar deliverable in terms of sophistication, et cetera. So, what we’re trying to do is really to get our game up in terms of integration of areas and general practice that will compass all needs of a certain deal or a certain client. So, our biggest challenge is to integrate everything, is to get a project to be addressed from all its angles, in terms of its legal needs, at a very, very high level. Deals are getting more and more complicated with not only one specific kind of knowledge involved, so when you go into an M&A deal, it might have financing aspects, tax aspects, litigation aspects, and all sorts of implications, compliance, and et cetera, and you have to have this broad view of what’s going on to provide the best possible solution for each case. So that’s what we’ve been doing, integrating more and more our areas, bringing all the knowledge we have available into each project.
Lindsay: Yeah, and I think that’s one of the things that I find most interesting about lawyers, and our network, and law firms is that, all of you really have become, sort of over the last 5, 10, 15 years, so much more than just legal experts, you really are business advisors who are helping your clients solve their business problems, even more so than just picking apart these individual issues that they have in their businesses, but really helping them to come to these complex solutions that are solving these. And maybe not even solving, sometimes solving these issues that they have, but really bringing them to this place that they want to be in their business, which some people understand, but a lot of people don’t understand.
Henrique: Yes, true. Yes, sometimes the client comes with a certain request, or certain complaint, and the solution is not there, it’s somewhere else, in an area, or an initiative that nobody thought before. So, I think there’s lots of very talented people looking at the same issue from their angle, their perspective is always very useful. People bring interesting ideas and new angles to things, and the solution might be where nobody expected it to be.
Lindsay: Absolutely. So, switching gears a little bit, can you tell us something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know?
Henrique: Wow, that’s an open book, Lindsay. Things about myself that some people might not know, I’m father of three kids, the first two of them were adopted. The third one is a mix of an adopted egg, and he stayed frozen for four years before he had a chance to be born. I’m very much a family guy, I love to hang around with family and kids, that’s my preferred activity in the world. And then what also people might not know is that I love sports of all kinds. I play volleyball, I do motocross, and most of those activities with my kids, so it’s a very, very pleasant thing. So, I’ll say that that’s probably the most relevant things of what I do outside of the law firm.
Lindsay: That’s wonderful. One of the things that I learned when we were in Brazil a couple of months ago is that there is a game that has been developed in Brazil that is sort of like a cross between volleyball and football, where you play volleyball, but you don’t use your hands. Is that something that you can play?
Henrique: No, no. I was never able to do that. I actually played soccer a lot when I was young, and I still love it, but the body can’t take it anymore. But it’s very technical, very difficult, I don’t know how people manage to do that. Footvolley is something very widespread in Brazil right now, we don’t have beaches and sand in Brazil, but there are lots of now sandpits, and places to play footvolley in Sao Paulo. Lots of people do that, my kids do it, but I was never able to do it. I find it extremely difficult.
Lindsay: It looks extremely difficult. I find it fascinating. So, who has been the biggest mentor for you over your career?
Henrique: Biggest mentor? I think the biggest mentor I had was a partner of my second law firm where I worked, whose name was [inaudible 00:14:40]. He was the head of tax at [inaudible 00:14:45] at the time. I was an intern there, and he was the person who really instilled in me the ethics of the work, and the thoroughness, and the love for detail, and to really go deep on things, and present very tailored-made and careful kind of work, and deliverable to the client. So, he was the biggest inspiration, it’s early years in our careers, really the formation years, and the way you practice at that age probably stays with you for the rest of your life.
Lindsay: Yeah, I think that’s true. How you start is how you mean to go on, as they say. What would you say most people misunderstand about your field of work? And that can either be your practice, or the legal industry in general.
Henrique: Yes, that’s a difficult one, but I’ll say that probably what’s most misunderstood are circumstances where people might think we’re making things more difficult than they should be. This is a difficult practice area, taxes is kind of technical and difficult in itself, and we try to make it simple, and our job as tax protection is to make it understandable, and help clients make good decisions from a perspective that is understandable, that is not too difficult. I mean, we have to translate into sort of lay terms what tax legislation and jurisprudence says. Yes, it’s very, very technical, and very difficult, and sometimes people get frustrated with the answers, or the lack thereof, but sometimes it happens. [inaudible 00:17:25] able to manage, and be very proactive, and be very, I would say, conclusive on many aspects, on many things, but sometimes it’s just not possible, we’re just in that situation of a complete gray zone where things could go one way or another, and when that happens, clients sometimes get frustrated. So, it’s part of what we do.
Lindsay: Absolutely. That’s just how it is. So, what is the most important lesson that you’ve learned over your career?
Henrique: Most important lesson? The most important lesson is to persevere, and never give up, and just continue doing what you think is right, and at some point, it’s going to turn right. Perseverance is… And being calm. Keep calm and carry on, I think that’s what I learned most valuable in my career.
Lindsay: The British part of me really loves that. How about a client that’s changed your practice? Has there been a client that’s really been influential in your career?
Henrique: Yes, yes, there’s been a few of them. Some clients were very important for my foundation, and the level of trust that they deposited on me, and the level of openness with respect to their business and partnership in terms of creating solutions and allowing me to stretch my practice to the limit was kind of very important. It was the early stages of my career in Monsanto, and then later on, the satellite TV, DirecTV, those were very, very important clients that really gave me room to do lots of interesting stuff.
Lindsay: That’s wonderful.
Henrique: There’s probably a few others, but those are the ones that I remember the most.
Lindsay: Yes, really stuck with you. What would you say being a part of the ILN has meant to you?
Henrique: Well, being a part of the ILN has been a great experience, and it puts us in a certain context, in a certain environment that is very aligned to what we try to do strategically as a firm, of being in the international arena, and serving international clients, and having this type of network that is really, really valuable both for inbound work and outbound work. It’s a completely different experience for us and for the client when you refer to somebody you personally know, and you have worked with, talked to, have dinner with, and have drinks with, and you really know the person. So, it makes a huge difference, and we can see that in the client experience. So, it’s been a very important tool for us, and we expect it’ll continue to be an importance as I’m going to grow.
Lindsay: That’s great. Yes, those personal relationships, I think that’s really what the difference-maker is. So, wrapping up, I always have one final question for you, and it’s a hard one. What is one thing that you’re enjoying right now that has nothing to do with work? I might know the answer to this already that I think you’re going to say.
Henrique: I have lots of interests outside of work, so that’s a very difficult one to answer. But one thing that I’ve been doing that I enjoy a lot is working at the parents’ association at my kids’ school, to promote the school’s diversity initiative it. And so that’s been very, very rewarding. That’s one example. Other things is just planning a trip that we’re going to be, three days, going from Serra, to [inaudible 00:23:04] in the north of Brazil by motorcycle with my brothers and my son. So that’s going to be great. Going from Jericoacoara to as far as Maresias by motorcycle, three days, on the sand by the beach. So, it’s going to be great.
Henrique: Good things that keep us going outside of the work environment.
Lindsay: That sounds like it will be an incredible trip.
Henrique: Yes, hopefully.
Lindsay: Yes. Wow. Well, thank you very much, I really appreciate it. And thank you to all of our listeners for joining us this week. We’ll be back next week with our next guest. And in the meantime, please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you very much.
Henrique: It’s been a pleasure. Goodbye.