Mariana Tavares Antunes has been a partner at Brazilian firm Wald, Antunes, Vita, Longo e Blattner Advogados since 2000. She is recognised by peers for her vast experience in litigation, international and domestic arbitration, infrastructure, and administrative and regulatory law, and has featured in many professional rankings and editorial analyses by specialised publications. Antunes received her JD in 1997 from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo and studied mediation of complex disputes at the Harvard Negotiation Institute. In 2016, she became a named partner of the firm – a rebranding intended to reflect her important contribution, along with that of other partners, in making the firm the success it is today.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Mariana Tavares Antunes
Can you describe your career to date?
I started my career at Wald Advogados in 2000, when I had just graduated from São Paulo’s Pontifical Catholic University Law School. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work with the acclaimed Professor Arnoldo Wald and his sons; I am continuing to develop my career and learn on a daily basis. Their experience and knowledge are inspiring.
In a career spanning more than 20 years, I have faced many challenges in several fields, especially in relation to complex disputes, judicial lawsuits and alternative dispute resolution methods.
What do you like most about working on matters relating to the energy sector?
The energy sector is very challenging for lawyers. Those who work with strategic litigation, in both state courts and arbitration, have the opportunity to deal with complex cases that usually have significant social and economic impacts. Such disputes require a broad knowledge base, not only of laws and regulations, but also other areas. One of the main challenges is to be able to explain very specific and complicated technical issues in an objective and simple way in order to allow the correct application of the law in concrete cases.
What was the most memorable case you have worked on and why?
I have been working on a landmark energy litigation case almost since I joined Wald. The case started more than 30 years ago and involves a mixed joint-stock corporation and a public utility company that was later privatised. The lawsuit arose from a privatisation issue involving the interpretation of a contract that regulated the spin-off of a company, which preceded the privatisation itself. Its complexity was, and still is, challenging because it involves lots of research about facts that happened three decades ago and the understanding of non-juridical matters such as economics and accounting. Despite the fact that it was one of the longest lawsuits I have ever worked on, we managed to solve part of the problem in a mediation proceeding, where two of the parties reached a settlement with an expressive value and gains were made by all the companies involved.
Brazil’s government is heavily involved in the energy sector. Do you expect any specific challenges or opportunities as a result of the country’s new pro-business administration?
The current administration has made a very dynamic start for lawyers in the energy field, as privatisations in this area have been the subject of heavy debate. Looking back at the Brazilian experience in the 1990s, we can see a tendency for eventual change in this regard, if managed well, to contribute to the necessary strengthening of the sector.
The change of regulatory and tax rules are also expected – specifically those related to pricing policy, which affects the country economically and legally. To sum up, this is an important moment for the energy field and it will certainly remain so in the coming years.
President Bolsonaro has announced plans to lower taxes on fossil fuels and speed up environmental licensing processes. What impact do you think these plans could have on the country’s renewable energy sector?
Lately, Brazil has distinguished itself by its investments in renewable energy sources, which represent a significant part of the country’s energy matrix. I believe this trend will continue, regardless of government policy. In fact, it is important to maintain a balance between economic, environmental and even technological issues, since the country still is dependent on road transportation and fossil fuels.
Regarding the licensing processes, in my opinion there is a real need to cut some of the bureaucracy. Nowadays, unfortunately, there is a huge number of cases where the time it takes to analyse whether or not to issue a licence is incompatible with the time frame of the project, and this legal uncertainty deters investments.
However, the speeding-up of licensing processes must not impact the quality of the analysis that is needed to determine whether or not they will be issued. On the contrary, it is necessary to create an efficient system that unites technical quality and agility – which, undoubtedly, will have a positive impact on any new projects in the energy sector.
What are the biggest challenges facing lawyers in your practice area and how do you overcome these?
One of the biggest challenges for Brazilian lawyers is the enormous network of laws and regulations, which requires professionals in this field to remain constantly up to date with any changes. When it comes to litigation, it is also challenging having to find creative solutions in order to avoid lengthy judicial proceedings. However, I believe we are going in the right direction, as we are not only creating regulatory solutions and technological innovations to make state courts more efficient – we are also encouraging alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration and mediation.
In your opinion, what skills make a successful lawyer and what makes you stand out to clients?
The successful lawyer must be a hard worker, dedicated to and passionate about the legal profession. In addition, to stand out to clients, it is crucial to have an excellent team that has been carefully selected.
How would you like to see the firm develop over the next five years? What are your priorities?
My priority is to contribute to maintaining the firm’s position at the forefront of complex dispute resolutions, continuing the plan idealised 65 years ago by our founding partner, Professor Wald. This legendary lawyer continues to teach us daily how to think outside the box and offer creative and tailor-made solutions to our clients. On this point, I believe we have already reached our dream goals, as we are able to work on the matters we like most and collaborate with an amazing team. Therefore, our objective is to continue on this mission in the coming years.