“Limitations have their own limits. When I challenge mine and decide to go further - to run the extra mile - I overcome them,” Nogueira says.
Now the founding partner of the Luanda-based law firm, IN, (her initials) she graduated from the University of Oporto Law School in Portugal, went on to the Catholic University and obtained a masters in general law and then a masters in commercial law from Brunel University in London.
The boutique firm specialises in commercial matters.
“My main areas of practice are corporate litigation, contracts, labour and arbitration. In our system most lawyers work in all different areas. Only the big law firms have separate departments of practice.
“But my special area is commercial arbitration. I am new in this practice, but I keep pushing to learn more and promote capacity building in the country around commercial and investment arbitration.”
Nogueira says the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area presents one of the biggest opportunities for lawyers on the continent.
The main objectives are to create a single market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
“Building the mindset of a free market with our clients brings responsibility and opportunity. We can’t afford not to be on this train as it rolls out of the station,”
Nogueira advises clients, and new business players wanting to come to Africa to “know the market and take time to identify and know potential partners”.
“They need to trust in the local expertise. As lawyers, we know many of the hidden characters in our local communities. They also need to ask for second opinions and combine all advice given. Don’t ignore anything.”
While she says there are more women lawyers than male in Angola, there are still gender obstacles.
“The market out there, while seeing our potential, does not easily trust that a woman can handle big issues.
“They doubt we will meet deadlines because we have families too.”
On a personal note, she says she doesn’t let stress get to her easily.
“I don’t allow myself to lose my peace. Problems are problems and they will be there in the morning and I will need my energy to solve it in the morning.
“My personal ‘sleeping pill’ is my Bible. If the worries persist, I read or pray.”
She also “disconnects” by doing embroidery, a hobby she started two years ago.
While she dislikes the “general spirit of disorganisation, which is a sign of disrespect” and the levels of corruption “which can destroy my hope”, she says: “Home is where I am happy and I am happy here in Angola with the sun, friends, family and my church community.”
Nogueira’s top tips for women entering the legal profession.
Think wisely and look carefully at all the options of the profession;
Find a mentor or follow closely a professional who inspires you;
Be resilient. Fall down and get up again (retouch the lipstick, re-apply mascara after tears and see where you failed. Repeat the process and do it better);
Be elegant, always. It is a man’s world, but we are not men, we must embrace the grace of being a woman.
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