Márcio Opromolla has over 20 years’ experience in litigation and dispute resolution, with extensive experience advising companies on civil, contract, commercial and corporate litigation cases related to public and private companies and limited liability companies. He is also an expert in crisis management. Márcio obtained his law degree from the University of São Paulo, and his LLM from the University of Coimbra in Portugal.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Márcio Araújo Opromolla
What is it about being a lawyer that you enjoy most?
Working in the legal sector allows me to interact with different sectors, companies, clients and people. This provides me with the opportunity to have backstage access to big business decisions. In addition, working in business law allows me to thoroughly understand the details of each negotiation, which is extremely riveting, because it is a kind of knowledge that goes beyond the technical legal aspects.
Why did you decide to specialise in litigation?
I like knowing the business of each client – understanding their stream of thought and their short, medium and long-term goals. Having this knowledge helps me to predict cases and actions, and obtain the best solution for each of them. In my opinion, the understanding of the whole game, the strategy behind each decision, and the excitement of each dispute makes litigation different from other practice areas.
Brazil has one of the highest levels of litigation in the region. Why do you think this is the case?
I believe that this results from our legal system and the apparent inertia of the executive and legislative branches towards dispute resolution: instead of solving the problems, Brazil’s system incites disputes. Furthermore, the abundance of laws, ordinances, regulations and other rules leaves people subjected to pursue litigation without alternatives.
What are the biggest challenges for lawyers in your practice area and why?
The biggest challenge is to manage business times with process times and align expectations. The business world demands efficiency that the judicial body (judicial or arbitral tribunals) are not always capable of delivering, and the client needs to be warned of this reality in order to make their decisions based on accurate information, not speculation. A late victory can be as damaging as a defeat. A good litigation lawyer should be able to generate the greatest possible efficiency in terms of time and resources.
How do you think alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration, are developing in Brazil?
It is promising, but still in the adaptation phase. The alternative methods of dispute resolutions find a breeding ground for growth in Brazil. The judiciary is technically heterogenous and structurally deficient; this, in combination with a “normative disorder”, results in a huge number of proceedings, making it difficult for judges to thoroughly assess some of the more complex cases. Hence, alternative methods of dispute resolution bring more speed and the technical assessment that complex cases demand. However, there are some issues that still need to be addressed and adjustments must be made for these alternative methods of dispute resolution to become more common. We need to cultivate a culture of solving problems with efficiency and transparency.
What was the most challenging dispute you have ever worked on and why?
I remember a dispute where the client’s case was good, but not as good as the creditor’s case. Both were disputing the enforcement of the same guaranties in a big agricultural deal. Our adversary was a bank known for its aggressiveness and belligerence in conducting cases. With deep pockets, they could move an army of professionals and had access to advanced technology to identify, locate and seek payment in a much more effective way than was affordable for my client, which was also a big company but with severe limitations on its budget to face the kind of blitzkrieg pulled by the bank. We were at a huge disadvantage: our case was weaker, and so were our resources. We had to be more creative and efficient. We studied the details of the process of producing and selling the assets given as security, and we found a way to block it in advance – still at the paperwork stage – and managed to reach the assets. The bank only reached the assets one week later, when we had already worked on the inventory, catalogue, registration and acquisition of almost all the assets. We ended up with 98% of the assets. For the bank, there was nothing but defeat, and it went on to change its entire procedures to adopt the strategy we created.
In your opinion, what skills make a successful litigation lawyer and what makes you stand out to clients?
Throughout my career, I identified some essential characteristics for any successful litigation lawyer. Knowing how to identify the client’s aims and not only the deal by itself is important. Also, the professional must be shrewd enough to see the details of each situation and be able to adapt to the unpredictable quickly. Moreover, he or she must explain their argument clearly enough for the judges and arbitrators so they can understand each nuance and the particularities of each case. Allying these characteristics with sophistication of reasoning, innovation, transparency and, of course, technical knowledge, the lawyer has a great chance to be a reference point for the practice and a remarkable professional.
What advice would you give a young lawyer looking to enter the legal profession?
The legal market is extremely competitive. The initial advice I would give is always seek the advancement of knowledge. Lawyers practise a very important profession that requires a long period of technical and behavioural preparation. One must know the business of each client thoroughly, including their business strategy, in order to find the best solution for each case. Another relevant tip I can give is that lawyers must concentrate on listening more and speaking less, so as to extract as much information from people as possible. Finally, being flexible is key. Clients need to feel that they are working with a professional who understands and makes the right decisions for each case – one who cares about the customer and their business strategies.