Diogo has extensive experience in project finance, infrastructure, energy and M&A. He advises banks and bank syndicates and companies on project finance, working capital finance, refinancing, infrastructure projects, public tenders and cross-border deals and also on M&A and public offerings of securities and private placements. He graduated from the Law School of the University of São Paulo (USP) and holds an LLM degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2021 - Interview with Diogo Octavio Nebias
Can you briefly describe your career to date?
I graduated from the Law School of the University of São Paulo. Taking night classes got me involved with older students who had already developed different careers in fields such as engineering and medicine. It was an enriching life experience. I then took an LLM at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). I lived in a student hall and had contact with students from more than 60 different nationalities. My student life taught me to better understand and relate to people of different ages and backgrounds. This has helped me to build strong and lasting relationships in every law firm I have worked for. During my career, I have worked as a trainee in major Brazilian law firms, in different law fields, beginning with litigation and then moving to corporate, capital markets and project finance and infrastructure. I have worked at big law firms, in specialised areas – capital markets and project finance – and at a boutique firm developing the corporate, M&A and finance practices. It is important for lawyers to be specialised, but also to have a decent understanding of other practice areas that are interwoven.
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer in your practice area?
I most enjoy involving myself with the client and working hard to have a transaction closed, wearing the clients’ shoes. Developing a real interest for the client and its business is fulfilling – when a deal is closed you share with your client the sense of accomplishment. It is not only a technical goal that is reached but your client’s objective. I also enjoy developing a relationship with clients that is not only work-related. It freshens up the day-to-day routine. As I practise endurance sports, I tend to associate the effort that is put into a sports event with the effort to have a deal closed.
What was the most challenging case or transaction you have ever worked on and why?
There have been many interesting transactions in my career, and it is difficult to point out a single one or a few. I prefer to mention the periods that were challenging to me: during the 2007 IPO boom in Brazil, we were working for extended periods (days and nights) in multiple deals. It was a unique time for capital markets in Brazil. Between 2009 and 2013, investment in infrastructure in Brazil boomed and intensive finance and regulatory work encompassed a multitude of sectors – energy, roads, airports, port terminals, logistics. Having to understand different sectors simultaneously was challenging. Also, between 2014 and 2016, I was involved in different M&A transactions in the agribusiness and logistics sectors, working for a Japanese corporation that was carrying out major investments in Brazil. It was challenging to have a foreign client understanding the general legal environment in Brazil for the first time.
What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area in your country this year?
The greatest challenge for any transaction lawyer in Brazil is to swiftly adapt to market trends. For instance, project finance in Brazil evolved from a market mostly dependent on finance from developing and multilateral financial institutions to funding from financial institutions coupled with capital markets. Another example was during the Car Wash investigations in Brazil when many project finance lawyers worked on M&As for infrastructure companies.
How do you expect your practice to evolve over the next five years?
Project finance structures in Brazil are constantly changing as the Brazilian political environment and economy oscillate. Lawyers that work with project finance have to be flexible to adapt to constant changes and be able not only to work with finance and infrastructure but also with capital markets and M&A.
What do clients look for when selecting you as a lawyer?
Clients look for a technical lawyer who is willing to make their best efforts to have a deal closed and be attentive to details. Developing a solid relationship not only with the client but with counterparties and their lawyers is also a positive and much sought-after trait.
How would you like to see your law firm develop in the coming years?
I would like to see my firm develop as a reference of quality work coupled with lawyers attentive to the specific needs of clients – tailoring experience to the specifics of each case and working closely with each client. Client satisfaction should be our motto. Although it sounds cliché, as a law firm grows, it is not easy to achieve excellence in all fields of law and with every team of lawyers.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I would like to work more with projects that provide direct positive impacts to the population, such as eliminating pollution, treatment of solid waste and water and sewage disposal.