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"The challenge is to find a good combination of talent in the partnership and the ability to value talent above all" 

Thomas Benes Felsberg

"The challenge is to find a good combination of talent in the partnership and the ability to value talent above all" 

Thomas Felsberg is the Founding Partner of Felsberg Advogados and a global reference in the area of insolvency and debt restructuring. Thomas was a member of the committees responsible for the drafting of the current Business Restructuring and Insolvency Law in Brazil.

He is the first Latin American lawyer to receive the Global Restructuring Review’s Lifetime Achievement Award, for his work in restructuring and insolvency with respect to Brazilian and foreign companies, in June 2019.

In this interview he discusses his career and how he is managing the current challenging times of confinement.

Latin Counsel: What have been the greatest challenges you have confronted in your legal career?

Thomas Benes Felsberg: Starting a new firm after I completed my LLM at Columbia Law, after having worked a few years as a trainee and then two years in Ford Brazil’s Legal Department, was a huge challenge. I had to take responsibility for decisions on issues I had never faced before; I also had to find colleagues to work jointly with me, which was not easy. The fact that I rented a room in an existing law firm helped.  In addition, in a small firm, administrative chores take a lot of time. Finally, finding clients was also more challenging than it is today. As the firm grew, new challenges appeared, as each size of law firm size has its own difficulties. I was extremely lucky to find great partners, as law firms are essentially a people business. The challenge, of course, is to find a good combination of talent in the partnership and the ability to value talent above all.    

LC: What have been the most rewarding experiences in your professional life?

TF: There were so many great experiences in my 50-year career as a founding partner that it is difficult to point at any particular one. I remember one moment when most of our revenue was concentrated in one client, who tried to involve us in a shady business. I immediately ditched the client and we have since focused on having a great client diversity. Today we have thousands of clients spread in many countries. As an old attorney friend used to say: "I do not have one boss, I have hundreds of bosses". This is a rewarding feeling: the ability to decline mandates which could stain your integrity or which you do not like.

LC: How are you adjusting to life in lockdown?

TF: I have now been in home office for over 10 months, and Microsoft has advised me that I average 180 contacts per week with clients and associates. Therefore, there’s never a dull moment: e-mails, WhatsApp, Teams, Zoom, Webex and drafting etc keep me busy and challenged.

LC:  What advice would you give to new generations in the legal profession?

TF: Stick to it if you love the practice of law. If not, do not waste your life.
 

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