Hispanic Heritage Newsletter Issue 2, September 23, 2020 Each year, Holland & Knight and people across the United States observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of people living in the U.S. who came from or whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The firm is proud to continue to join in this celebration on its 52nd anniversary.
Isabel C. Diaz Affinity Group Co-Chair Miami
This newsletter, the second of four, will provide insight into the in-house counsel perspective. We are pleased to present three interviews, one with a non-Hispanic attorney and two with Hispanic attorneys , all of whom work on Latin American matters and operations. They offer their perspectives on what in-house counsel consider when they oversee operations in Hispanic countries and how diversity affects their practice.
Q&A WITH WILLIAM MCCARTHY
Corporate Secretary and General Counsel Mitsubishi Power Americas Inc.
Mr. McCarthy has spent nearly 20 years working for the Mitsubishi group â&#x20AC;&#x201C; acting as general counsel of its Power Generation Services division for 18 years and, for the past two years, as the general counsel of Mitsubishi Power Americas Inc. (MPW-AMER). In the following Q&A, he discusses his experiences working on projects and transactions involving Latin American countries. Q. What are your responsibilities involving Latin American matters? A. My responsibilities include ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations, negotiating various agreements for the sale of goods and services for MPWAMER, structuring and bringing to close related project financing and structured finance for MPW-AMER investments, as well as supporting the funding of MPW-AMER local operations through capital or loans, in accordance with local regulations and banking regimes. I would also add that all such work is measured against a legal budget that is strictly assessed. Q. To what extent do you work with other Hispanic attorneys nationally or internationally? A. Significantly in Latin America both in my current role and my prior role as general counsel of Power Generation Services. Q. Could you please share with us the biggest challenges you have faced or still face when working on Latin American matters? A. The greatest challenge is the difference between U.S. laws and local Latin American laws.
Jorge Hernandez-ToraĂąo Affinity Group Co-Chair Miami
Specifically, the impact such differences has on the negotiation of such agreements and the advice required to be communicated to U.S.-based business leaders when creating legally binding contracts. Another challenge routinely encountered is the establishment of local subsidiaries and how best to structure such entities to optimize taxes and minimize risks for the parent. I would also add that the Latin American countries, in many instances, have more formal registry and validation requirements, including for banking needs and, therefore, require a person both knowledgeable and experienced with the necessary steps for compliance. Q. What characteristics do you find the most valuable in outside counsel when working on Latin America-related matters? A. From a macro level, I would say "knowledge and experience." One without the other is problematic, and you cannot have enough of both. On a more specific and personal level, I place great value on an attorney who is able to thoroughly connect with not only me as the general counsel and what I am trying to accomplish, but with my company and its culture, goals and objectives. A Latin America counsel needs to be an excellent communicator in complex legal constructs and in multiple languages. Such ability to be able to communicate effectively is (to me) a highly valued skill. Q. Have you found any additional value if your outside counsel is Hispanic or has a Hispanic background? A. Yes, for many reasons, but certainly because there is an inherent understanding not only of the language and the law but of how to bridge potential cultural gaps in the understanding between a U.S.-based (or other international) client and the local entity or government. The guidance provided by such Hispanic lawyers very often allows U.S. companies and their lawyers to assess the situation in a proper context, as well as to gain comfort with such legal systems and the local practices and initiatives that are reasonable and customary. Q. We know, based on our experience working with MPW-AMER, that the personnel of the Mitsubishi group companies is very diverse. Some companies set diversity requirements for outside counsel. For instance, Facebook's legal department requires that women and ethnic minorities account for at least 33 percent of outside counsel. Does Mitsubishi have similar diversity requirements for outside counsel? A. Mitsubishi does not have such requirements. That being said, I would estimate quite conservatively that the percentage of attorneys retained by our organization that are women and ethnic minorities is in the 50 percent range. Q. What do you look for in a candidate for your legal department? A. A good communicator with a facile mind and the ability to handle multiple and complex tasks. Q. Does diversity play a role in your search and in the final decision? A. Yes, for both women and minorities. It has been my experience that diverse candidates with the aforementioned talent are abundant and the most difficult challenge is to convince them to work for an energy company.
Amanda M. Naldjieff Associate Miami
Aymee D. Valdivia Partner Miami
JosĂŠ V. Zapata Partner BogotĂĄ
Danielle I. Moore Associate Miami
The U.S. Hispanic population reached a record 60.6 million in 2019, up 930,000 over the previous year and up from 50.7 million in 2010, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau 2019 population estimates.
Q&A WITH DANETTE ALFONSO
Deputy General Counsel Lennar Corporation
Ms. Alfonso began her legal career as a summer associate with Holland & Knight, where she then served as an associate for three years prior to accepting a position as deputy general counsel for Lennar, where she has worked for 14 years. Q. What defines you as a Hispanic individual and attorney? A. To be honest, living in Miami, I think it is easy to not actively think of being Hispanic because I don't feel like a minority. But I travel quite a bit for my work and meet individuals of various backgrounds. That is when I feel most "Hispanic" because I am not like everyone else and people find a way to point that out. I am, however, very proud of my culture and take the time to patiently answer questions. You would not believe the questions people ask about Cuba! As an attorney, my family instilled in me the values of hard work, perseverance and family. I bring that to my work as an attorney. Q. To what extent do you work with other Hispanic attorneys nationally or internationally? How does your current role differ from your experience in big law? A. I work with other Hispanic attorneys mainly as outside counsel nationally. Inhouse, I am truly a partner in the business and one of my overarching goals is to help my leaders achieve their goals while minimizing risk. In litigation, I get to be very innovative and combine ideas from various jurisdictions, various firms and approach litigation creatively. It is then up to my outside counsel to rein me in. Q. What do the demographics of your office look like in terms of diversity? Minority law school enrollment is at an all-time high. Do you see that the demographics of your office and/or that of outside counsel beginning to reflect the increase in diversity? A. Lennar is focused on inclusion and diversity and has and continues to dedicate resources to attract, retain and grow diverse talent. This includes periodic discussions on timely topics like "Women in Construction" and "Courageous Conversations." Q. What do you think it means to be truly diverse and inclusive? What do you think we, as individuals in the legal profession, can do to achieve this? A. I think the easy answer is to say we will be truly diverse when we reach a point where the numbers in our profession accurately reflect the demographics of our society. I think inclusion is more complicated and takes even more time and effort. I think a good start would be ongoing education of current lawyers, judges, recruiters and professors to ensure they are aware of their implicit and unconscious biases. Q. Some companies set diversity requirements for outside counsel. For instance, Facebook's legal department requires that women and ethnic minorities account for at least 33 percent of outside counsel. What is your view of this kind of policy, and the impact it could have on law firm recruiting? A. I do see that this type of policy would ultimately have an impact on how and
A 2019 report to Congress based on data from 2017 found that the almost 60 million Hispanics in the United States accounted for $2.3 trillion of the nation's total economic activity, which on its own would rank as the eighth-largest economy in the world.
where law firms target their recruiting efforts. As an in-house attorney, however, I need to find the best attorney for the job irrespective of gender and ethnicity. Q. When you are looking to fill a position, what do you look for in a candidate? Does diversity play a role in your search or in the final decision? A. As a company, Lennar is focused on attracting and growing diverse talent.
Q&A WITH MARÍA CLAUDIA MORENO OBREGÓN
Legal Leader for Latinamerica DuPont
Ms. Moreno has provided legal representation for DuPont for nearly 14 years – serving as Legal Leader for Latinamerica for the past year and prior to that as legal manager for Mexico and the Andean Region. Q. What defines you as a Hispanic individual and attorney? A. As an individual, I'm defined by my ability to easily adapt to new situations, extracting always the best of it. As an attorney, I'm defined by the capacity of placing judgment and knowledge for the benefit of others. Q. To what extent do you work with other Hispanic attorneys nationally or internationally? A. I absolutely work with Hispanic attorneys both nationally and internationally. It's part of my day-to-day activities. Q. Based on your international experience, how do you address cultural differences in doing business in Latin America from a legal standpoint? A. With respect, education, openness and the acknowledging of other customs and traditions. Q. What type of legal support are you typically looking for when seeking external legal counsel in Latin America? A. Counsel with very detailed knowledge on local regulations. Q. What do you think it means to be truly diverse and inclusive? A. Having the ability to think and act without any bias raised by gender, race or any other characteristic that is not ruled by the person knowledge, preparation, education and behavior.
Twelve states had a population of 1 million or more Hispanic residents in 2019 – Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Q. When you are looking to fill a position, what do you look for in a candidate? A. Attitude. Q. How does diversity play a role in your search and in the final decision? A. It plays a role in the sense that I don't limit the possibility of anyone having access to the position. The Holland & Knight Hispanic Affinity Group's goal is to recruit, retain, promote, support, encourage and empower the firm's Hispanic attorneys. The firm is a leader in recruiting and retaining Hispanic lawyers, and is ranked No. 1 for most Hispanic partners on The American Lawyer's Diversity Scorecard. The firm, through its Hispanic Affinity Group, seeks to create and sustain an environment that is inclusive, challenging and supportive to maximize both personal and career success for its Hispanic attorneys.
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