Luís Carlos Dias Torres is a criminal defence attorney and a partner at Torres, Falavigna & Vainer - Advogados. He holds a law degree from the University of São Paulo (USP), specialising in criminal law, 1994.
In 1995, he implemented the criminal law department of the full-service law firm the Demarest & Almeida. In 2004, he became a partner at Demarest, a position he held until 2012, when he founded TFV Advogados.
He was appointed by Análise Editorial magazine as one of the most admired criminal defence attorneys in Brazil from 2007 to 2019, nominated as one of the best professionals in the area of Dispute Resolution: Chambers White-Collar Crime 2013 to 2020, nominated by members of Latin American Corporate Counsel Association as one of the leading litigation attorneys from 2015 to 2020, also honoured with the title LACCA Thought Leaders 2020.
He was a member of the Prerogatives Committee of the Brazilin Bar Association in Sao Paulo (OAB/SP) and a member of the Brazilian Bar Ethics and Discipline Committee, in the 2016/2018 triennium.
He is one of the co-authors of the books Penal Code Interpreted Article by Paragraph, Paragraph by Paragraph, Manole Publisher, Repatriation of Resources, 1st edition, Migalhas Publisher, and also one of the collaborators of edition XIX, No. 112, Nov–Dec 2016 of the Journal of Tax Studies of the EIT.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2020 - Interview with Luis Carlos Dias Torres
Describe your career to date
I started my career as an intern at the litigation department of Demarest Advogados. The firm did not have a specific criminal law department back then. When I graduated in 1994, I started the practice of criminal law at Demarest Advogados together with a former judge, José Sampaio. Since we had few criminal cases, I also worked with civil litigation. This was very important to me, because it gave me a broader view of the legal landscape. The volume of work with criminal cases started to increase so I became focused only on criminal cases. With the growth of the work, we hired other lawyers and interns. In 2004, Demarest Advogados decided to create a specific department for criminal law and I became a partner. I stayed at the firm until 2012 as the head of the criminal litigation group, when I left and decided to open my own law firm with Leandro Falavigna and Andrea Vainer.
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer in your practice area?
Criminal law normally involves critical situations; I like this kind of challenge and all the emotions and adrenaline involved. Moreover, I like to deal with people. In 99.9% of cases you are representing people, not companies. It is not a matter of numbers. It is a matter of life, of what happened in the past and of what is going to happen in the future with that individual. In short, what I like most is the relationship you develop with your clients. This relationship is closer, and, in many opportunities, you become a friend of your client – sometimes the only friend the client has left.
What is the most challenging case or transaction you have ever worked on and why?
I represented an executive in the lawsuits that were at the core of the Car Wash investigation, like those related to the former President Lula (including the famous Triplex apartment case). When I decided to accept the case, the client had a conviction with a 26-year sentence. I had to defend the client before the court presided over by Sérgio Moro and, at the same time, negotiate the plea bargain agreement with the public prosecutors of the task force. The case was very complex from a legal standpoint, and there was a lot of attention from the media. To make the things even harder, at one point, the client was sent behind bars to start serving his 26-year sentence. It is always very difficult to work when your client is in jail, it doubles the pressure. After four years of intense work, we were able to reduce the client’s jail time and finally reached an agreement with the task force.
What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area in your country this year?
In my opinion, the greatest challenge is to make the law prevail. The judges are under a lot of pressure – our society is tired of scandals involving politicians and big companies, and it demands severe penalties for the accused. Sometimes, this situation forces judges to adopt interpretations of the law that might not be technically correct, which leads to legal rights being violated. An example I can cite is the recent Supreme Court decision about the possibility of incarceration before a final conviction. In this case, although the Constitution is very clear about the presumption-of-innocence principle, the Supreme Court was going back and forth on this matter until the recognition that it is totally unconstitutional to make the accused start serving prison time without a final and definitive conviction.
How do you expect your practice to evolve over the next five years?
I think that the increase in the use of technology is going to be crucial. The way we work is going to change dramatically: it will be done mostly online. The hearings, the trials, the meetings, almost everything is going to be done remotely. I do not know if it is good or bad, but this is the way things are going to happen in the future.
What do clients look for when selecting you as a lawyer?
They look for a specialised lawyer who can give the necessary attention to their problem for a fair price, and who is committed to ethical principles.
How would you like to see your law firm develop in the coming years?
I am going to answer this question quoting John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I see that every day in my practice. I think I have a good reputation in the market and so does our firm. We are listed among the best lawyers by national and international publications. This is a very important achievement, which I am very proud of. Now I need to focus on the next generation. All my partners started their careers as my interns, as is the case for most of the lawyers at the firm. My goal is to make my partners and the rest of the lawyers at the firm be considered better than me. It is not about money. It is not about the size of the firm. It is about building better people, professionally and personally.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
Since the beginning of my career, I have focused on the clients and the firm. At the moment I have a commitment to the firm’s next generation. Once our firm is totally independent of me, I can explore new horizons and start teaching law at the University of São Paulo, where I graduated from. Then I will be able to share my knowledge and experience with more people.