Liz is a managing partner at Arias and member of the Regional Council of the firm. She assists international and local companies in compliance with local regulations, contracts, labour disputes, internal labour regulations and occupational safety, among other areas. Her practice is devoted to labour, immigration and regulatory law. She is also experienced in intellectual property, industrial property, corporate, agency and distribution, tort, telecommunications, product liability and consumer law.
She has had an active participation in the Review and Drafting Commissions for the Law on Competition, and the User and Consumer Protection Law. Liz has been a legal adviser to the United Nations in the Guatemalan modernisation programme (1997); adviser to the Guatemalan Tourism Institute in the modernisation programme (1997); consultant to the Revision of the Civil Services Bill (1996–1997); legal adviser to the Minister and Vice Minister of Economy (1996–1997); legal adviser to the Immigration Bill (1998); legal adviser for the CAFTA Trade and Commercial Law Assessment Activity Overview seminar (2004); and leader of the Guatemalan team on the seminar pertaining to the USAID regional conference on the evaluation of the Trade and Commercial Law of CAFTA 2005.
She has a law degree from the Universidad Rafael Landívar, and is an active attorney at law and public notary. She studied legal issues on international business at INCAE Business School; the program of instruction for lawyers at Harvard Law School; the Harvard leading professional service firms’ course; and tort law at the Universidad de Salamanca, in Spain (2003).
Liz has been recognised by LACCA as a Thought Leader in labour matters.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Liz Gordillo
Why did you decide to become a lawyer and ultimately specialise in labour law?
Being a lawyer was something I had dreamed of since I was a kid. Being able to support people who need justice, as well as helping to build a better justice framework along my career, sounded amazing.
As the years passed I decided to specialise in labour law, in order to keep transparent and healthy relationships between companies and their employees. Most people spend at least a third of any day at their workplaces. Having transparent rules and policies can decrease conflicts for both companies and their employees, and help to improve the working environment – which creates better results for every company and enhanced well-being for their employees.
My job is to always stand with the law. The rights of each party should be honoured from the beginning of a contract to the end. Any conflict, restructuring or major changes should always be as respectful, transparent, compliant and positive as possible for both parties. In the end, being a lawyer is always about the people.
What was the most memorable case you have ever worked on and why?
It is a difficult question to answer because all the cases require an important commitment. In general, I consider the more significant cases to be those that present the most challenges when it comes to enforcing the law.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing lawyers in your practice area in Guatemala?
The greatest challenges to labour practice in Guatemala lie in the deficiencies of the administration and application of justice by the labour courts. The lack of resources affects the level of training and knowledge of the judges, which affects the resolution of cases. Likewise, the tendency to apply the law in favour of employees affects the chances of obtaining fair resolutions for both companies and their workforce.
How could Guatemala’s labour law framework be improved, in your opinion?
Labour legislation in Guatemala is very old and must be updated to respond to the needs of the labour market. Considering the advances in technology, as well as new ways of working – such as home office, flexitime and part-time, the legal framework must be modernised.
What are the three main things a company needs to be aware of with respect to labour and employment laws in your country?
First, implementing and documenting work contracts, internal work regulations and disciplinary processes, as well as applicable policies and codes of conduct. Second, complying with occupational health and safety measures. And finally, considering that the employer has the burden of proof in the event of a dispute, companies must properly document how they fulfil their labour obligations as an employer.
Many advances have been made to improve gender equality in the legal profession, but what more needs to be done to address existing imbalances in law firms?
In Guatemala’s legal market, women have made significant progress. In the case of Arias, we are proud to recognise the fundamental role of lawyers in all areas of the firm. At a regional level, 51% of the firm’s lawyers are women and 49% are men, and 55% of the partners are women and 45% are men. Likewise, the six Arias offices are headed by women in the role of managing partners. I believe that mentoring is key to continue training new generations of women so that their role in law firms continues to be successful.
How does your law firm ensure it stands out from the competition in Central America?
Arias is more than a law firm – it is the inheritance of years of impeccable work, passion for the law and commitment to quality. That has been the key to growth in the region. Currently the firm is in six countries in Central America, in seven offices.
The focus that has allowed Arias to stand out has been the ability to generate solutions that provide value for our clients – taking the time to know and understand their business objectives; staying focused on providing reliable and accurate legal solutions; and always considering the client’s best interests.
What advice would you give a young lawyer starting his or her career?
Success won’t come easy. It takes courage, discipline, sacrifices and resilience. The minute I started working as a lawyer I realised it would take a while to get noticed. I had to work many hours before I felt like I was getting to be who I wanted to be. But once you’re on the right path – once you know you are doing your best, even when it becomes harder to see it – you are just on your way to success, because the extra mile is never crowded.