Brazil – World Champions 2014

01 Jul 2014

Originally published in Counsel Magazine

The first Bar Council-led trade mission to Brazil took place in March this year. Mission member Frederico Singarajah anticipates the World Cup headlines and suggests that Brazil is already a champion in the worlds of business and law …

This may well be what the headlines will read following the World Cup, which is currently under way, and I for one, being Brazilian, am hoping so.

But either way, Brazil is definitely already a champion when it comes to business and law. This was more than apparent to the 13 barristers who went on the first Bar Council-led trade mission to the country in March this year. We have all watched Brazil develop from a country known for its football, carnival and samba to something much, much more. We saw it stabilise its economy during the 1990s, cement its democracy with the election of President Lula in the 2000s, ascend to the BRICs (as coined by Jim O’Neil) and overtake the UK to become the world’s 6th largest economy in the 2010s.

These changes were apparent to the visiting barristers. On our visit, we had the opportunity to speak with local lawyers in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Both these cities, the largest in the southeast region comprising of their states and Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, account for 56% of Brazil’s GDP.

Brazil’s oil reserves are astonishing even at the most conservative estimates. This places the country in a very powerful position in the global landscape. Petrobras, the state-owned company, has entered into countless agreements with companies around the world for the extraction and commerce of these resources. The lawyers in Rio, who are heavily involved in this work, felt very positive about the prospects for the coming years.

It is generating legal work in contracts, project finance, joint ventures, M&A, tax, litigation and arbitration. However there are plenty more opportunities for the Bar. We also met with criminal and regulatory lawyers who were interested to hear from the barristers who spoke on the Bribery Act, anti-corruption and regulatory compliance. Business is booming, and so is foreign direct investment. Brazil has seen its companies grow into multinationals who may be caught up by international legislation and treaties that a far reaching. There
is need for advice on British and European competition law, on anti-corruption and international fraud laws.

Parenthetically, the Brazilian business boom has also resulted in increases in migration and complicated family relationships, which creates a need for advice and representation from barristers. These are some of the issues we discussed with our local hosts. We were extremely impressed with the quality and competence of the Brazilian lawyers whom we met. They were highly imaginative and solution-oriented, and they are interested in exploring what English law and dispute resolution have to offer.

The Bar Council held a joint event with the Rio Chapter of the Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB/RJ), the Brazilian Bar Association, who hosted the event at their headquarters in the city. The visiting barristers had the opportunity to showcase their expertise and knowledge to a full house. The quality of the event was emphasised by the attendance of The Rt. Hon. Ken Clarke QC MP, who opened the event and also returned for the drinks reception, accompanied by his wife and by HM Ambassador, Mr Alex Ellis.

In Sao Paulo, the delegation of barristers held a second event, organised jointly with UK Trade & Investment, followed by a drinks reception held at the British Consul General’s Residence, Mr John Doddrell’s home. In the business capital of Brazil, the English Bar were very well received by local lawyers, who were especially interested to hear about PPP projects and related dispute resolution. The Brazilian development bank has committed to spending one trillion dollars in infrastructure projects in the next three years. These include the World Cup and Olympics venues and legacy, but also airports, trains, hospitals, the underground metro and more.

One message that the Bar can take away from this trip is that Brazil does not need any education on how create a proper system of law. It has already done so. Yes, it can be lengthy and costly but that is an issue that shall take time to reform. We must remember that the English system faced all these problems for many more years than Brazil ever will. The second complementary message is that, due to the continuing inefficiencies in the courts, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution offer a great opportunity for the Bar, as does advisory work.

After the mission office holders travelled to Brasilia to meet with the President of the Federal Counsel of the OAB, Mr Marcus Vinicius Furtado Coelho. Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar, was able to see for himself the commitment of the profession to improve human rights issues and the Rule of Law as well as the OABs powerful position in the public life of Brazil. Miss Chika Muorah, of the Bar Council, and Mr Frederico Singarajah, of its International Committee, agreed details of a young lawyers’ exchange programme which will take place later in the year in collaboration with the Federal OAB and the Law Society.

The advice I would give to those barristers who may wish to explore the Brazilian market is: show them some respect. There is a significant opportunity to work together with local lawyers in assisting Brazil to unlock its full potential, but it is difficult to say who needs who the most.


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