Who’s Who Legal interviews Rafael Martins, legal counsel for business at Log-In-Logistica Intermodal SA, a leading maritime cargo and transport company in Brazil . He discusses the requirements of his role and trends in the in-house legal market.
Name: Rafael Martins
Position: Legal Counsel for Business
Company: Log-In-Logistica Intermodal SA, Brazil
Number of employees: approximately 1000
Following the strategy of monetary stabilisation in the 1990s, foreign investors have closely monitored economic growth in Brazil. With the economy growing at an impressive rate of approximately five per cent per year and the country recognised as one of the most active economies in the world, Brazil is attracting investment at a remarkable rate. Despite the rapid growth, there remain weaknesses in the country that include the lack of infrastructure, which threatens to hinder progress. The lack of investment in infrastructure, in particular roads, ports and airports, means that in a few years’ time, Brazil may experience considerable difficulty in coping with the level of international trade passing through the country.
Trying to help bridge the infrastructure gap, Log-In-Logistica – a logistics company with their headquarters in Rio de Janeiro – is currently building seven new ships (two of which have already been delivered). The company also controls TVV, one of Brazil’s most efficient public ports. Furthermore, it aims to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of transporting cargo by increasing the amount transported by sea. The logistics company serves the Brazilian cargo market, and is one of the most prominent players in the field today. Who’s Who Legal spoke to Rafael Martins, the company’s legal counsel for business, about his role within this forward-thinking company, and on life as an in-house lawyer in Brazil.
Within my role as business counsel, I am responsible for a broad range of areas that include finance, environmental considerations and some regulatory work, as well as business and financial contracts. In addition to this I aid the company’s executives with new developments and projects.
What do you consider to be your most important role as in-house counsel?
There are three important roles: I strive to reduce legal risks to the company, devise legal solutions and alternatives that make it possible for the company to perform its activities and come up with new products and opportunities that may reduce legal risk and/or increment the company’s revenue flow. It is important to be results-driven and to be pro-active.
How is life as an in-house counsel different from that of a private practitioner?
Life as an in-house counsel is very different to that of a private practitioner. As a private practitioner you are an outside participant – a service provider – and you are always at a certain distance from the company you are advising. As internal counsel you have the opportunity to see projects through from start to finish and can truly take part in all activities related to a specific project (from devising a strategy and drafting the contracts and overseeing the legal aspects of their execution), which enable you to be an integral part of the company’s development and watch and experience the company’s progress. In a nutshell, as an in-house lawyer you gain a true understanding of how the company operates.
What skills do you require in external counsel?
For me, first and foremost, strong technical capabilities. Also, although technical competence is important, an external counsel must be results oriented, objective and able to meet tied delivery schedules.
In view of the fact that I work for a publicly traded company, I strongly believe that it is my duty to reduce costs and increase efficiency by trying to maximise the outside counsels’ effectiveness in addressing the matters presented to them. One of the ways I believe that can be accomplished is to seek competitive legal fees. This does not necessarily mean that services have to be cheaper, but rather that the ratio between legal costs and the external counsel’s efficiency delivers good value for money.
When dealing outside your home jurisdiction, how do you find counsel?
In my case, mostly by referral. It is common for Brazilian lawyers to build up networks of contacts and to exchange information with other lawyers. A referral from someone that I know is, in my opinion, the best reliance tool, although publications that rank lawyers are also useful.
Is the role of the in-house lawyer changing?
To answer this question, it is important to focus on the main tasks of an in-house lawyer. The old-school in-house counsel would focus solely on reducing their company’s risks, but nowadays it is important to go beyond this role. As an in-house lawyer you are a part of the company, responsible for creating solutions and products so that the company can perform properly and increase its revenue stream. Lawyering and business work is intertwined and the two work hand-in-hand on a daily basis.
What are the challenges of working in Brazil?
Working in Brazil, is similar to any Western country. However, state bureaucracy and the complex legal system and regulatory framework can cause problems. One improvement that would ease challenges for companies working in Brazil would be to alter the intricate legal system they are subject to and thus reduce the legal burden that lawyers have to deal with every day. By making legal and regulatory obligations simpler and the legal compliance process more streamlined, companies would be able to carry out their work in the country with less difficulty. Furthermore, it would make the country even more appealing to foreign investors, who are, in my view, sometimes deterred by the current legal complexities.
How has the Brazilian legal marketplace changed over the years that you have been practising?
The main change is the economic environment that impacts upon the type of work and the level of work that lawyers are doing. When I started out during the early 2000s, Brazil was beginning to experience a ‘boom’, there was much merger and acquisition activity and also ongoing greenfield projects. It was arguably labelled as a ‘golden age’ for private practitioners – some would say a continuation by other means of the wave of modernisation that today reverberates through the Brazilian economy (the onset of which can be traced as far back as the early 90’s, when privatisation efforts took off). In 2008, with the onset of the global economic crisis, Brazil became a more cautious environment to work in, even though its economy did not become less productive or the growth less prominent. Now lawyers realise that there are increased risks for their clients and, as a whole, the country realises that it must tread carefully to ensure that the level of growth it has been experiencing continues. While there are more international firms, there are still strict restrictions on how they operate in the country.