André de Melo Ribeiro is the head of the labour, social security and immigration law practice, as well as a partner in the anti-corruption, compliance and internal investigations practice of Dias Carneiro Advogados. Since 2011, his practice in labour law has been highlighted every year by Chambers and Partners Latin America. Other legal directories that also recognise his performance are Latin Lawyer 250, The Legal 500 and Lacca Approved, an annual survey conducted by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2021 - Interview with André de Melo Ribeiro
Can you briefly describe your career to date?
I have always focused my interest and career on labour and employment law. I worked for 12 years at a well-established law firm, from trainee to partner. During my tenure there, I had the opportunity to be directly involved in many local and cross-border cases – from greenfield projects to bankruptcy and judicial restructurings, as well as high-profile individual and collective claims and labour union negotiations. Inspired by the relevant cases involving employment and judicial restructuring procedures, I pursued a master’s degree at the University of São Paulo (USP) to discuss such interactions.
In 2013, I joined Dias Carneiro Advogados’ partnership and their very motivated team. I continued to assist local and international clients from a broad scope of sectors, including pharmaceutical/biotech, chemical, telecom, start-ups, VC/PE funds, e-sports, technology, investment funds and the hospitality industry. I also carried on studying and discussing the most relevant labour and employment issues.
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer in your practice area?
Being an employment lawyer entails constant interaction with clients’ HR departments and in-house counsel and I have always enjoyed that. I also really like the need to work with a multidisciplinary approach to design individual strategies for our clients’ employment issues and litigation. It is a challenging business and I relish it.
What was the most challenging case or transaction you have ever worked on and why?
I was fortunate to work on several remarkable cases, such as individual claims, collective bargaining negotiations involving strikes on the São Paulo subway, and cross-border transactions. One of the most challenging was a negotiation with over 800 dismissed sugarcane workers in the context of a judicial restructuring and the company’s default on the severance of these workers. It involved extensive discussions with the employees, barricades in highways, threats to set the sugar mill on fire and a settlement agreement before a local labour court in a remote countryside area. Although the technical knowledge required played a relevant role, soft skills such as empathy, listening and clear communication were fundamental to reach a compromise between all parties involved. Recently, we were directly involved in structuring and implementing the most relevant e-sports league in Brazil, based on a team franchise model. This case required a multidisciplinary team, and led the Brazilian e-sports community to a new level of professional engagement.
What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area in your country this year?
Now, more than ever, we are being asked to rethink and collaborate with the new legal framework and case law. To do that, we must analyse our clients’ demands and their business challenges in light of the covid-19 pandemic and consider the stress and fatigue it has been causing for the past months. Only then we will be able to provide assertive and close assistance to our clients and co-workers.
How do you expect your practice to evolve over the next five years?
In the coming years, we will have a more relevant impact of AI and technology in legal tasks, day-to-day routines and human resources policies. Rather than end our careers, I believe it will reinforce the need for lawyers (especially labour and employment ones) to merge technical knowledge with soft skills. In this regard, empathy, active listening and the ability to design new solutions and interpretations of the legal framework will become increasingly important.
What do clients look for when selecting you as a lawyer?
They look for someone who can work together with their local and headquarters teams, assisting the local business in its development and challenges and being able to explain and discuss in plain and clear language the legal framework, case law, possible strategies and opportunities.
How would you like to see your law firm develop in the coming years?
Our firm continues to grow both with internal talent and some lateral hiring, and we expect to continue this thread in the next years, reinforcing our open-door and hands-on culture and work ethics.
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 see the modernisation of Brazilian employment legislation and case law so it can provide a stable framework for the challenges arising from the developments of technology, AI and new workplace relationships that reflect the new business models and changes in society.