Could you tell us about yourself and where you grew up?
I grew up in Barcelona and its surroundings, a Spanish region that combines business and age-old traditions with innovative ways of thinking. We were a large family that has always been closely connected to the land, which taught me that efforts reap rewards and that you need to be open-minded to find a way to overcome unforeseen circumstances. My colleagues at Baker McKenzie usually appreciate that I am pragmatic and business-oriented, and I believe it has much to do with the teachings of the land and family and the experiences I have had during my life. I would also define myself as a person who likes taking on new responsibilities and challenges because I feel it helps you evolve and expand your horizons.
What inspired you to be a lawyer?
It was a question of curiosity. In my family, no one was linked in any way to the legal profession so the unknown caught my attention. To be honest, I think my father was stunned when I announced my intention to become a lawyer but, at the end of the day, he supported me, and I believe it was the right decision.
Tell us about your new appointment.
The firm's Global Executive Committee is, in effect, our global board, responsible for developing and implementing the firm's strategy and its smooth functioning, in a challenging, fast-paced era with disruptive, never-before-seen changes. I stood for election to this role and my partners were kind enough to show faith in me to take it on. I am one of two members representing the Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Within various other responsibilities, I have the overall responsibility for Africa on my desk. This means oversight of our business relating to Africa, whether on the ground or around the world, keeping our strategy under review and taking the lead on moving us forward appropriately in Africa.
What is Baker McKenzie's approach to Africa?
Our aim is to be known as the global law firm of choice in Africa, in line with our global strategy and reputation as the top firm for cross border, high value emerging markets deals. We are already regarded as the leading international law firm in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, so we have a track record of being successful in emerging markets.
In terms of our presence on the ground, we have three offices in Africa - in Johannesburg, Cairo and Casablanca. Along with Africa-focused lawyers in other key locations such as London, Paris, Dubai, China and the Americas, these offices act as hubs for our Africa work. We have around 150 lawyers across our three Africa offices with many more elsewhere within Africa-focused practices. In addition, we continue to develop our network of Africa Relationship Firms (ARFs) in jurisdictions where we don’t have an office.
Our relationships with our ARFs goes beyond simply referring work. We stay involved in each matter that we refer. We also work with our ARFs to increase capacity and improve both hard and soft skills, including providing associate transfer programmes, on the ground training in Africa (most recently in Lagos in April), and webinars, as well as hosting regular ARF conferences (most recently in Johannesburg in May).
Our ARFs also benefit from our African Associate Transfer Programme, through which we have welcomed associates from Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, to London and Johannesburg. An associate from one of our Ethiopian ARFs is currently spending three months in the Johannesburg office. We will be expanding this to our Dubai, Paris and North American offices in 2019.
How do you see that developing during your four-year term?
We want to continue to work with leading organisations, our multinational clients, in our key industry sectors (eg energy, mining, infrastructure, financial services and technology, media and telecommunications) across the continent; and to secure more cross border work using our breadth of practice and industry-specific groups.
Our aim is also to build on our strong advisory and transactional practices in Africa, while increasing our non-transactional services (eg anti-bribery and corruption advice, compliance & investigations, anti-trust advice, etc.)
Will you open more offices and, if so, which countries?
Baker McKenzie’s global model is to have offices where our clients operate, which is happening increasingly across the continent, so we are monitoring the situation.
What are you most looking forward to in taking things forward for the firm in Africa?
We have more than 30 years' experience operating in Africa and we are well prepared to bring our presence to the next level through our key enablers, innovation and integration. The challenge to strengthen our local relationships with clients, institutions and local partners is a powerful motivating element in itself. Our unrivalled activity has allowed us to give advice on some of the most important transactions over the last few years, but implementing a strategy to increase synergies, both internally and across other geographical areas, can make the difference in the short and medium term.
What do you love about Africa, personally?
Africa is surprising, in my opinion, because there is not just one Africa but many, both culturally, and in terms of religion and nature. In addition to this diversity, it has an unparalleled capacity to reinvent itself, as well as a privileged position to develop its future without compromising its sustainability. Africa can do so by taking advantage of new technologies and lessons learned from other continents that have put their development interests before sustainability.