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"Our Latin America practice has been busier than ever"

Maria-Leticia Ossa Daza

"Our Latin America practice has been busier than ever"

Maria-Leticia Ossa Daza is a partner in the Corporate & Financial Services Department, focusing on general corporate and securities matters at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. She heads the firm’s Latin American Practice. In this interview she discusses his career and how she is managing the current challenging times of confinement.
 
Latin Counsel: What have been the greatest challenges you have confronted in your legal career?
 
Maria-Leticia Ossa Daza: Being a woman and a minority practicing corporate law has been challenging. Common bias encountered by women practicing corporate law in Latin America and other regions is that they are not seen as  ‘tough’ enough or fully committed. But if they are assertive, they are often seen as too aggressive. Overcoming these challenges takes time, cultural changes and requires a mind shift. You have to work harder and show that you can handle the pressure and pace of transactional work. The M&A world is tough, but I love challenges. I’d like to see more women lawyers, bankers, CEOs, CFOs, and dealmakers in the M&A and private equity fields. 
 
LC: What have been the most rewarding experiences in your professional life?
 
MO: As a woman of color practicing corporate law, I hope that shows other women that if I can do it, they can too. I’m proud to be a part of the talented and diverse team of women and men at Willkie who respect and value each other’s opinions, each contributing a unique perspective. I find it rewarding to give back by supporting and mentoring other women: in my day-to-day work with associates, through our foreign associate program, and outside Willkie through non-profit organizations I support.
 
I believe I have a responsibility to generate and be an integral part of initiatives and efforts to further encourage diversity. I regularly speak on this subject at conferences organized by law firms in Latin America, companies and organizations. It is rewarding to share my honest experience, both the challenges and the successes, with other women who are working hard to transform the industry in the Latin American region.
 
LC: How are you adjusting to life in lockdown?
 
MO: While Willkie has been working remotely for several months, our Latin America practice has been busier than ever as our clients have looked to us to help them navigate the toll the pandemic has taken on their business. Early on, we created a LATAM COVID-19 Task Force, collaborating with colleagues at law firms in Latin America and Spain to provide current information, insights and analysis on a range of issues facing companies navigating this crisis in Latin America and Spain. We also welcomed a new partner, Jorge Kamine, in March, who focuses on transactional work involving international energy and infrastructure projects in Latin America and globally. We have been hosting webinars and I have also been moderating and participating on many webinars organized by chambers of commerce and other organizations. 
 
LC: What advice would you give to new generations in the legal profession?
 
MO: Be yourself. See the things (including your gender and color) that make you different as advantages and not as obstacles, and use them to overcome the challenges you face. Find mentors, sponsors, and supporters with diverse perspectives and experiences from yours. They will help you view things from new angles, challenge you to improve yourself, and ultimately bring you closer to success. And don’t feel guilty about wanting to be successful and have children. You can have both! 

 

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