Vicente Lines

Arias (Costa Rica)

Costa Rica

Corporate and M&A

[email protected]

Thought Leader LACCA Approved


Vicente Lines is a partner of the Costa Rican office of Arias, a regional firm with offices in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras. He is admitted to the Costa Rican and New York Bar and holds a Master of Laws from Georgetown University.  With two decades’ experience in transactional matters, Vicente advises in M&A, corporate structuring and corporate lending. Vicente has counseled international banks and development finance institutions acting as lenders, arrangers, in loans, secured facilities and syndicated facilities in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras for multimillion dollar projects. Vicente has participated in financing for projects in the energy, telecommunications, road infrastructure and agribusiness fields. In business combinations, Vicente has acted for local and international investors in the mass consumption, auto retail, beverage, telecommunications, energy, and software industries, among others. Apart from his transactional practice, Vicente actively advises clients in the telecommunications regulatory and technology areas. He has been associated with Arias since its regional launch into the Costa Rican market in 1998 and has been a partner since 2001.

Questions & Answers

Thought Leaders 2023 - Interview with Vicente Lines

Can you briefly describe your career to date?

I have had a very gratifying career, spanning four decades. 

Like most Latin American lawyers in business-oriented firms, I began as a part-time clerk while studying for my first law degree. Upon my graduation, I started as an associate at one of Costa Rica’s premier legacy firms, working with corporate clients. I benefitted from excellent mentors and premium clients and work in corporate matters. I wrapped up the 1990s studying for a master’s degree at Georgetown University Law Center and working as a foreign associate with the telecom group that is now part of Morgan Lewis’s Washington, DC office. 

In 2000, the second decade of my work as a lawyer, I returned to Costa Rica to continue my career as an associate with Arias, during a time when it was the only Central American law firm and throughout a period of robust growth as a result of the social and political stability achieved in the prior decade. During this period, I had the fortune of focusing on transactional work, participating in and leading our team in mergers, cross-border and project finance matters. Achieving partnership early on in the decade, I was able to meet and work throughout Central America, shoulder to shoulder with the best lawyers in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and, of course, Costa Rica. This phase culminated with multiple projects with financiers, sponsors and investors from the US, Europe and China. 

The decade that began 2010 was marked by the growth of our law firm and the responsibility to participate in supporting this process. Our partnership base grew and transformed itself.  In 2016, our Costa Rica office relaunched the Arias platform, moving to new offices with a new group of partners. Our partnership ranks now stand at more than a dozen attorneys leading a team of over 40 lawyers, covering all areas of the law for business and investment concerns in Costa Rica. 

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer in your practice area?

What I most enjoy as a lawyer is being able to contribute to my clients’ businesses and projects and getting to understand their work. I have been able to work with clients in the auto retail business, food and consumer goods, power generation, telecommunications, infrastructure development and financing, and NGOs involved in conservation and organised religion, among many others. I have also been able to contribute to public procurement issues and litigation matters. The versatility and usefulness of applied legal knowledge and experience never ceases to amaze. I can truly say that this gives my profession a purpose and meaning that I hope will be with me beyond retirement from Arias.

What was the most challenging case or transaction you have ever worked on and why?

The most challenging transaction I ever worked on was a large project financing that ultimately did not crystallise. The infrastructure involved was slated to be the largest financing project in Costa Rican history, and involved work with a major government entity, several other regulatory and government agencies, an Asian state-owned enterprise that is one of the largest players in its industry, and, our client, a major national development finance bank.

The transaction involved work for three years and bridged cultural, language and professional barriers. We worked with Asian, US and Costa Rican teams, some in government, some in the development and construction side and some in the finance sector. The multiplicity of interests and the complications of policy and politics made it one of the most interesting and more complex transactions I have faced. Even though the transaction was set aside because of a national policy decision, we were able to produce the contractual and regulatory frameworks for the main project and financing agreements, as well as the risk assessment structure.

What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area in your country this year?

The greatest challenges faced by transactional lawyers and partners in leading business firms is certainly talent retention and development of professional teams. The “new normal” of remote virtual work has increased pressures that can result in attrition. 

In my opinion, the possibility of high rotation in the lower ranks of the associate ladder is a huge obstacle to having effective legal teams that produce high-quality work.  Lawyers should find ways to connect with their teams, so that productivity is fostered beyond cost-cutting, systems and efficiencies. Law firms are paradoxically well placed to transfer knowledge and skills from experienced mentors to allow more teams to provide better counselling and legal work for clients.

How do you expect your practice to evolve over the next five years?

I expect that transactional work in Costa Rica and Latin America will grow in sophistication substantively. Many law firms have adopted document and transactional practices already prevalent in US, UK and the EU, and many are moving beyond the implementation of the use of software and technology as solutions to existing problems and getting to re-designing the way the work and produce client deliverables to truly leverage technology. I expect that trends of widespread use in the US and the larger LatAm markets of having in-house knowledge management strategies and dedicated resources to that function will be also part of the standard.

What three recommendations or notes would you share with younger lawyers stepping into your practice area?

In the first place, I advise younger lawyers to have patience and long-term vision and appreciation that experience is what makes a career. I urge them to push for opportunities to intervene in meaningful work, but also urge them to realise that those opportunities come when they have been able to earn the trust of other attorneys, clients and partners that they encounter. 

Second, I hope that younger lawyers are keen to focus on their clients’ businesses and industries. Clients will always look for lawyers who are sensitive to their needs and being able to have some industry-specific knowledge will allow young professionals to ask the right questions that lead to the answers and advice sought after.

Third, younger lawyers should look at their work with the eyes of an owner. A sense of ownership of their relationships with clients, peers and colleagues is the key to being a significant professional.  Meeting production goals, following standards, delivering quality work and meeting deadlines are a given. Behaving in a law firm as if it were a solo practice, is a true differentiator.

What do clients look for when selecting you as a lawyer?

I confess that I have not asked this question of my clients. However, from client feedback obtained over the past two years, I think that clients appreciate my commitment to understanding their business and their specific goals for each new service mandate. I also consider that clients appreciate that I try to provide as much contextual information regarding the local business climate and the law as I think they are interested in understanding. I often jest with clients that my goal is to make myself redundant. In all seriousness, I strive to ensure my advice provides them with tools that they can later use to take decisions and that I can be again involved not in solving the same problems, but rather in anticipating other issues and finding better ways to achieve.

How would you like to see your law firm develop in the coming years?

I would like to see the law firm continue to grow as it has grown during the past five years. Year-on-year growth in the past five-year period has exceeded double digits consistently. I would also expect that our specialisation continues to deepen and that we can penetrate local industries and sectors in the way that we have in other jurisdictions. 

Most importantly, I hope that we can integrate technology and keep growing our attorney corps organically.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

I am grateful that my career is perceived as distinguished. I have been lucky to be a part of a core team of 20+ partners that now manage the talent of dozens of attorneys throughout five jurisdictions. I hope to see a new generation of partners that takes over the work of the original core team that is still in place and still working as a single team in the Central American region after 25 years.

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