Tudo bem? – Tudo!

Associate Training Program in São Paulo

By Isa­bell Weaver Ger­nand

"All well?" - "Yes, all good!" So greet the Brazilians. Instead of a handshake, there is a kiss on the cheek, both among lawyers and between lawyers and clients. Briefly complaining about the terrible traffic in São Paulo, which is actually nerve-racking, reporting about the last trip to Ilha Bela, an island on the coast of the state of São Paulo, and plans for the Olympics are exchanged.

Right in the middle of it all

Since April 2016, I've been working for half a year as part of my associate training program in São Paulo. My office is on the 30th floor of EZ Towers, one of the many recently completed glass skyscrapers in São Paulo. The best view of the city is from the lobby and conference rooms on the 31st floor.


The EZ Towers, one of the glass skyscrapers in São Paulo. Isabell Weaver works here for half a year.

The EZ Towers, one of the glass skyscrapers in São Paulo. Isabell Weaver works here for half a year.


However, I do not have much time to "look out the window". My practice group compliance is "muito corrido", very busy. Anyone who has ever heard of "Lava Jato / Car Wash" and Petrobras knows why. In Brazil, the biggest corruption scandal in Brazil's history is currently being solved, mainly by prosecutors, judges and lawyers from major law firms such as Baker McKenzie. And I'm in the middle of it. Every morning I read "clipping" to get an overview of important compliance issues for clients. Because every day there are new arrests, new plea agreements, new investigations, new information in the corruption scandal around the state oil giant Petrobras. 

I mainly advise German clients, of which there are many in the state of São Paulo. According to the German-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the state of São Paulo has the most established German companies outside Germany.

Easy is the hardest

One of my daily tasks is translation: linguistic, content and cultural.

To explain the legal concepts and procedures in Brazilian law, which do not exist in German law, as well as "expectation management". The client wants to know exactly how long the procedure lasts, what are the risks, what are the (possible) consequences, what should be done, how much does that cost? The German client wants - like every client - a solution to his problem, understandable and easily explained - despite complexity of the facts or legal problem. That's what defines the good lawyer, anywhere in the world.

Working together and living together with the Brazilian colleagues: The Brazilians like the Germans - apart from the 7:1 at the 2014 World Cup - we have a good reputation. I just had it easy. I was greeted warmly and quickly filled with work. The colleagues appreciate the pragmatic, meticulous "German" style. Knowledge about German and European data protection law as well as the corporate law structures of German companies is also very much in demand. Interestingly, the office in São Paulo is very feminine. The "boss" of our group is Esther Flesch and of the approximately 50 associates there are about 30 women.


Isabell Weaver (2nd from right) in the circle of her Brazilian colleagues

Isabell Weaver (2nd from right) in the circle of her Brazilian colleagues


Develop contacts with friends

Every day I have lunch with colleagues and drink a beer every now and then. At the weekend we like to meet for "Churrasco", the famous Brazilian barbecue. Two of Baker McKenzie's "Client Service Principles" - "always wear the global hat" and "turn relationships into friendships" - I live here every day, a privilege of the legal profession.

For your own career, contacts are valuable and important, both in the law firm and outside. In São Paulo you quickly make valuable contacts. There are numerous compliance events, but also with the German-Brazilian Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the consulate.

What do you need to be an associate to attend the Associate Training Program? You have already worked as an associate in the firm for two years, you have to have a business case / plan and you should have the best possible contacts to a partner in the receiving office, although the latter is not mandatory. About half a year planning time in advance should be considered, because depending on the destination country there is more or less bureaucracy to deal with.

My conclusion: ATP, that's worth it. Working Abroad - In 2012 I already spent some time in Washington D.C. worked - enriches personally and career-wise. Leaving the comfort zone and going to another country (not necessarily the UK and USA), learning a new language, new ways of working, in short: to evolve, I can recommend to anyone.


Isabel Weaver Gernand is Associate of the Dispute Resolution Group of Baker McKenzie in Munich. She is currently completing her Associate Training Program (ATP) in São Paulo with Trench, Rossi e Watanabe Advogados, a law firm affiliated with Baker McKenzie.



This article has been published in the newsletter 'Karriere-Jura', which you can subscribe to here.

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