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Paulo Rocha (Demarest): "The history of our law firm is intertwined with the history of Brazil."
Paulo Rocha is the managing partner of Demarest Advogados, one of the top five law firms in the Brazilian legal market. In this interview, he discusses the main transformations the firm ─ which is celebrating its 75th anniversary ─ has taken in its history, and assesses the current trends in the Brazilian economic landscape.
How do you evaluate the positioning of your office in the Brazilian legal market?
With 75 years of history completed this year, Demarest is one of the largest full-service law firms in Brazil and Latin America, recognized in the legal market for the quality and excellence of its services. The firm has grown to become a protagonist in Brazil’s economic development, advising national and international clients who have contributed to the creation of productive chains in various industries, the service sector, and commerce.
Demarest has experienced periods of intense investment in the country, in the late 60s and throughout the70s. It overcame the so-called "lost decade" of the 1980s, and expanded rapidly in the 1990s, thanks to the success of the Real Plan and major privatizations. In summary: the history of the law firm is intertwined with the history of Brazil and the history of our clients themselves.
After its first 75 years, Demarest continues to actively contribute and work towards improving the legal environment in various areas, supporting multilateral organizations, companies, and sectoral and business entities in proposing new legal frameworks in diverse fields such as infrastructure, international trade, defense of the economy, pro bono advocacy, mining, power law, oil & gas, the financial sector, capital markets, technology, and startups.
Currently, the law firm operates in 24 legal areas and has 70 partners who work in a multidisciplinary manner, collaborating with approximately 600 other professionals to serve more than 2,000 prominent clients in their respective sectors, both domestically and internationally.
Its history and leadership are reflected in the recognition and performance of the law firm.
During the pandemic, for instance, Demarest was chosen by one of these significant clients to create the necessary regulatory framework to contribute to the fight against the greatest health crisis ever faced by Brazil and, indeed, the world, caused by the coronavirus.
It was also one of the first major law firms to implement home office during this period, and one of the first to launch a mental health program called D Balance to promote work-life balance and well-being among its employees, both during the period of social isolation and afterward, with the adoption of a hybrid work model.
The pursuit of equality and social justice has always been part of Demarest’s DNA. Since 2017, the commitment to social causes began to translate into more robust actions with the creation of D Women. The initiative was established with the goal of fostering a corporate environment focused on the professional development of women and dedicated to advancing gender equity. Following that, the firm started organizing and inviting employees to participate in volunteer work, leading to the formation of D Ao Redor (D Around), a group that engages in pro bono actions in the community where the firm is located.
Demarest also works towards diversity and inclusion and has implemented initiatives focused on the LGBTI+ community and the promotion of ethnic-racial equity: the groups D Mais and D Raízes, respectively, have become strong support networks for the firm’s employees and foster discussions about these causes within the legal community.
It is also important to highlight the constant pursuit of innovation, which is a characteristic ingrained in Demarest’s DNA: ours was the first law firm in the market to computerize accounting, a pioneer in Latin America in implementing the SAP system for business management in the administrative area, and the first in its segment to organize an event solely focused on seeking technological solutions for the legal sector ─ the Demoday, which brought together startups (lawtechs and legaltechs) to present their ideas to lawyers and IT professionals in the field.
With the advance of digital transformation and its impacts on the economy, in 2021, the law firm launched Disrupt, an initiative created to serve startups with innovative legal solutions tailored to each company’s development stage, operating with a full-service multidisciplinary team of legal experts.
To perpetuate this leadership that combines tradition and innovation, the firm continues to progress with initiatives that incorporate automation and efficiency not only in its administrative operations but also in the legal realm, aiming to benefit its clients. Artificial intelligence plays a fundamental role in this process, enabling significant improvements in the firm’s effectiveness and productivity. Through the application of advanced technologies, the firm can provide more efficient legal services, more precise results, and innovative solutions, keeping up with the demands of the market and strengthening its position in the ever-changing legal sector.
What are the prospects for the legal market?
The prospects for the Brazilian legal market are quite positive. The demand for legal services continues to grow in various areas, driven by legislative changes, technological advancements, and the specific needs of different sectors of the economy. Some of the prominent sectors for the Brazilian economy in 2023, which also offer significant opportunities for the legal market, include:
- Technology and Startups: The technology sector and startups continue to expand in Brazil, driven by investment, innovation, and entrepreneurship. These companies often require legal support in areas such as intellectual property, contracts, regulations, and data protection.
- Renewable Energy: Brazil is one of the global leaders in renewable energy, particularly in solar and wind energy. This sector is constantly growing and demands specialized legal advice in regulatory matters, supply contracts, financing, and project development.
- Financial Sector and Fintechs: With the advancement of fintechs and financial innovations, there is a growing demand for legal services related to financial regulations, consumer protection, financial technology, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance.
- Health and Biotechnology: The health and biotechnology industry is expanding in Brazil, driven by medical advancements, investments in research and development, and the demand for innovative healthcare solutions. In this sector, legal needs include regulatory issues, health-data protection, intellectual property, and compliance.
- Real Estate and Construction Sector: The real estate market continues to grow, driven by residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects. Legal advice is essential for real estate transactions, project development, construction contracts, regulatory issues, and litigation.
These are just some of the prominent sectors in the Brazilian economy in 2023, and each presents its own specific demands and opportunities for the legal market. It is crucial for legal professionals to stay updated on regulations and trends in each sector, in order to be able to seize these opportunities and provide quality and relevant legal services to companies and organizations operating in these segments. An example is the recently approved tax reform, which will certainly create a demand from our clients.
The continuous evolution of technology, including artificial intelligence, is transforming the way legal services are provided and positively impacting the sector. Some key perspectives include automation and efficiency through the adoption of technological tools to streamline legal processes, allowing for greater efficiency and cost reduction. This frees up legal professionals to focus on higher-value tasks.
This means that the legal market has to adapt to technological changes and embrace the opportunities they offer. Those, like Demarest, who stay updated with innovations and strategically utilize technology will be well-positioned to thrive and continue playing a fundamental role in seeking justice and meeting society’s legal needs.
Given this reality, many law firms are reevaluating their strategies to provide legal services that add even more value and align with client expectations. By combining human expertise with the capabilities of artificial intelligence, we can achieve even more significant results, delivering exceptional legal services that meet clients’ needs and demands while maintaining our leadership in the market. Embracing technological advancements and leveraging them strategically will be crucial to remain competitive and meet the evolving demands of clients in the legal industry.
How would you describe the particularities of your management at the law firm?
Demarest drives generations. I joined the firm 30 years ago as an intern in my final year of law school, and here I had the opportunity to become a lawyer, a partner in the M&A department, work in the executive board, the board of directors, and serve as managing partner, always with the support of our 70 partners.
I had my first interactions with the management of the law firm very early in my professional life, always learning with the more experienced partners. I am part of the fourth generation of the firm, in fact.
This experience has greatly expanded my perspective on many aspects of the firm and the legal market, and this journey has been made possible thanks to the organizational culture we have created, the importance we place on collegiality among partners, and the close relationships we have with the people we interact with daily, whether from the technical or administrative body.
From an early age, I learned that being close to people is the key to success in building good relationships and gaining experience in day-to-day interactions, whether with clients, suppliers, partners, or colleagues.
At Demarest, we have a corporate culture that has been built over this journey, where we value respect, ethics, cooperation, diligence, commitment, and technical excellence. Each employee is part of a cohesive unit that, together, forms our collective strength to overcome any challenge. This culture is exemplified by our well-known "Demarest League”¹, which is deeply ingrained in our DNA.
It’s vital that we create opportunities, ensure continuous training, and cultivate a healthy, diverse, inclusive, and innovative work environment for people to develop and grow in their respective fields.
This appreciation of talent translates into the provision of increasingly efficient services and a commitment to the quality of what we offer each of our clients, regardless of their size and sector of operation.
The office is part of the daily life of more than 2,000 clients and around 600 employees.
The goal is to continue steadfast in the purpose of making a difference in the digital transformation process, with growth in different areas of expertise and investments in diversity, social issues, innovation, and knowledge, always seeking solutions that cater to our clients and pursue for a better and more just country.
The foundation of all this lies in dedicating ourselves to our talent, providing opportunities for today’s young generation to become the pillars of the firm’s future. It is through this commitment that we continue to write the history of Demarest, a firm that has been driving generations since 1948.
Given your extensive experience in managing one of the largest law firms in Brazil, what are Demarest’s plans for restructuring the dispute resolution areas?
The dispute resolution area (including civil litigation and arbitration) at Demarest continues to be strategic and remains strong and well-structured, being one of the market leaders, and has a team composed of 11 partners and over 80 collaborators. The departure of some partners at the end of May was related to their personal career projects. They were years in the partnership, and Demarest appreciates their contributions to the firm’s growth; now that they are moving on.
Demarest is recognized for being comprised of a team of talented professionals, committed to legal knowledge, technical excellence, integrity, and our clients.
The 75-year history of the firm is marked not only by the professionals who composed it but also by cohesion, collaboration, and commitment to one another. As stated in our values, the name of Demarest comes before that of its professionals.
¹According to Demarest, "the expression Liga Demarest means the connection and unity between all lawyers and employees from all areas of the firm. It is the feeling of connection, which, since its foundation, permeates all those who help build Demarest's history, bringing loyalty, trust, and solidity to the office.”
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