Ricardo Arango joined the firm in 1987 and became a partner in 1995. He is a member of the firm’s executive committee; and head of the capital markets and banking, and M&A practice groups. Widely recognised as Panama’s leading banking expert for many years, he has participated in many of the country’s landmark capital market deals and its largest M&A transactions. Mr Arango has an LLB from the University of Panama, and LLM degrees from Harvard and Yale (Fulbright scholar). He is admitted to the Bar in Panama and New York.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2020 - Interview with Ricardo M Arango
Describe your career to date.
In a word: exhilarating. I have been very fortunate throughout my entire career. As a young lawyer, I was fortunate to work with, and learn from, great lawyers in New York and Panama, while advising superb clients in challenging transactions. In my mid-years, I was also fortunate that my partners gave me the opportunity to focus on the business of law and contribute to the shaping of the organisational structure, systems, processes, teams and direction of the firm, as I also embarked in drafting Panama’s securities laws and established a new capital markets practice group. And, these days, I am fortunate to be able to collaborate with clients in a different capacity, serving on the boards of the Panama Canal, Banco General (the largest Panamanian-owned bank), Bladex (the only Panamanian bank listed on the NYSE) and other organisations. Yes, I have, indeed, been very fortunate and lucky in my career and for that I am thankful.
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer in your practice area?
Structuring, creating and innovating. There is always room for improvement. There is always a way of doing things differently and better. There is always a solution to a problem. It only takes a drawing board, a pencil, a little passion and some time.
What is the most challenging case or transaction you have ever worked on and why?
This is difficult to say. There have been so many, so challenging and so interesting. But I guess that I will never forget my participation, in 1992 and 1994, in the initial and secondary public offerings of Bladex, the first Latin American bank to do a full registration of common stock on the New York Stock Exchange, and one day walking out of the offices of Rogers & Wells (now Clifford Chance) with a cheque for over $100 million in my hand, then standing in line before a teller to deposit the cheque in a Park Avenue bank. Times have changed.
What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area in your country this year?
The velocity of changes in today’s society, while many lawyers by education and training continue to feel more comfortable avoiding changes and burning energy arguing against them.
How do you expect your practice to evolve over the next five years?
This question would, perhaps, not have been an easy question to answer before covid-19, and it is almost impossible to answer with any degree of certainty these days. But I would not be surprised if, in the immediate future and for the next couple of years, we were focusing our attention on dealing with distressed financial markets, pushing the boundaries of existing laws and traditional legal theories as new financial instruments and financial markets move towards an even more digitalised world.
What do clients look for when selecting you as a lawyer?
Well, that is not a question for me to answer. And it is not a question that I have frequently asked clients, so I wouldn’t know. But, if I have to speculate for the sake of answering the question, I would like to believe that trying to deliver straightforward, practical advice to clients had something to do with it.
How would you like your law firm to develop in the coming years?
Sometimes I reflect on how the practice of law would be if we dared to bring bankers into the office to be part of our banking and finance practice group; or real estate developers to be part of our real estate team; or a former head of the human resources department of a large multinational company to be part of our labour and employment law department; or even the founder of a failed start-up company to lead a fintech practice group. I believe we and our clients would benefit tremendously from the views that these non-lawyers, as part of the team, would bring to the understanding of, and solutions to, our clients’ problems.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
Research and write a book on historical events of interest to me.