In Episode #16, we sit down with Mexican attorney Mariana Gallegos García Conde.  We cover:

  • How an aspiring psychiatrist ended up becoming a lawyer.
  • The challenges and rewards of running your own law firm.
  • Women and the Mexican legal profession.
  • How a focus on compliance helps grow healthier businesses.
  • What the new USMCA (T-MEC) means for Mexico in terms of compliance (and beyond).
  • Mexico’s relationship with trade partners outside North America, including China.
  • Reading, listening, and watching recommendations from:

If you have comments on this episode or if you’d like to suggest topics for future episodes, please email globallawbiz [at] harrisbricken [dot] com.

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We’ll see you next week for another discussion on the global business environment as we discuss the oil and gas industry with our guest Ebele Onyeabo.

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort 0:07
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other, developing and developed nations wax and wane and their importance in the global stage. While consumption and interconnectedness both increase, laws and regulations change incessantly, requiring businesses to stay nimble. How do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global law and business, hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys.I’m Fred Rocafort

Jonathan Bench 0:34
and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every Thursday, we take a bite sized look at legal and economic developments and locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of our international guests. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.

Fred Rocafort 0:59
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us via email and social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.

Today we are honored to have with us Mariana Gallegos García Conde a Mexican attorney with whom our firm has worked together on Mexico related trade matters. Mariana is a founding partner at García Conde Consultores, where she is responsible for the corporate compliance and consulting practice areas. Prior to starting her own firm, she was a corporate partner at Jimenez y Mendoza abogados She has also worked as a litigator for Deloitte and KPMG and also worked in house at 3am. Mexico, providing legal support to a number of departments. Mariana Welcome to the global law and business podcast

Mariana Gallegos 1:59
Hello Fred I’m honored and really glad to be here.

Jonathan Bench 2:04
Mariana we’re very interested in learning more about you could we hear a little bit from you about yourself, especially how you got started in the legal profession.

Mariana Gallegos 2:12
You all know I’m a lawyer here in Mexico. I just started my own law firm. And with all the challenges involved in it, and from the personal side, I can tell you, I’m a mom of a really active little girl, she’s seven years old, Andrea, and well, I’m a runner as well, not now because of covid 19. Well, I tried to keep training. I was supposed to run my first marathon this year. But while this has to be postponed for the next year, hopefully, and I would like to have these for my birthday, present that I’m going to do for myself to run my first marathon, hopefully I can do it. And we’ll be talking about how I decided to enter the legal profession. Well, you will be surprised to know that I really wanted to be psychiatrist. Actually, I I never thought about being a lawyer before. So but like thinking it better and taking consideration that the great Well, I have a great tradition, lawyers tradition in my family. And I thought, and I decided that would be a path for me to follow. And so I did so and actually, oh, my really close friends. They were just like, okay, you’re gonna quit right? In the beginning because you really love psychology and all that sort of stuff. So But I did. And I actually fell in love with law since the first semester, my major. So here I am, like many, many years afterwards, being a lawyer and having my own firm Another thing I never thought I would do.

Jonathan Bench 4:16
And I’m very curious Marianna, what have you learned about yourself in that process, I spent a little bit of time on my own, starting my own law firm in a new area. And I learned a lot about myself and about the way I do business. It’s quite a different thing to go from working for someone else to working for yourself. I’d love to hear any insights that you’ve had about yourself or about the practice of laws you’ve been learning on your own after after being employed at some rather large companies.

Mariana Gallegos 4:47
That’s a great question. Well, I have learned so much, actually, as I told you, like I started being an independent lawyer like five years and a half ago six years of Jimenez y Mendoza and it has been quite a journey for me. It’s you have to start all over as you said it’s completely different being an employee on on being a on your own. So you have to learn to do everything again because when you work for somebody, like you always have their guidance in many aspects like how do you sell your services? I never really had the need of doing that properly as you do when you are on your own. And I had to learn to be really disciplined on self training, if that’s the right way of saying it. I I had to study a lot on my own as well, I had to learn on how to do businesses like selling a service, follow up on that, then executing the service. Then another huge challenge, it’s to learn how to charge your services. Like to understand your time is precious and, and you have to charge on that in in a fair way. But you have to charge on that and that’s really challenging as well. And it hasn’t been easy for me. You know, like many people really look forward for a life when you are an employee. Many people wants to go on their own and they dream about it. It wasn’t my case. You know, I really enjoyed my last job was at 3M Mexico and I really enjoyed it. I was happy there on what I was doing what I was learning, I was really happy and these just happened the opportunity to go by myself with this partner I was working with. So I just jumped into it, but, but again, I never thought I would do it. It wasn’t really my dream. Now like six years later, when I see all what I’ve learned, all the challenges I’m still facing and I, I’m positive and I’m truly convinced that it was the best decision I could ever make. I love it. I love doing this with all the challenges involved. Again, it’s really difficult. It’s really difficult as well. The finance part. Why to to deal with that the economic part. It’s not the same to receive your salary like a month. bases and suddenly, you have to provide for yourself and you have to be really organized. That that was challenging as well.

Fred Rocafort 8:09
Mariana that was fascinating and I can certainly identify with but some of those concerns having also had my own business for for some time you you bring up a point that I think is is absolutely critical. The idea of how you value your time, right and how you learn to value yourself, right I mean, especially when you’re entering into negotiations with a potential client and then sometimes one thing that I experienced and I would imagine it’s, it’s true to it to a certain degree with with other entrepreneurs, sometimes you really want the business for, for a series of reasons you really want to work. It might seem Very interesting it might involve an experience that you want to have and might involve travel to to an exciting place. But it’s important to have that discipline and say, Well, this is ultimately my time that I am but I am selling to a client and as interesting as this project might be, that you do have to run that, that analysis and determine if it is really something that is worth worth doing. I’m turning, turning in a slightly different direction from from my own observations, and I think those of others we understand that our female colleagues in the legal profession deal with unique challenges. challenges that, uh, we as men are, are either unlikely to increase counter or encounter them in different ways. For example, issues of of harassment work life balance issues. And I, I’m pretty sure that this is not true, not just in the US but also in other countries. So, on that note, could you tell us about the experience of being a woman in the Mexican legal profession?

Mariana Gallegos 10:27
I can talk about my own experience, but not being numb on the situation. I know that we as women face like every day in our day to day, but for me, I’m not gonna lie. It has been easy, and I feel supported. Maybe I have been really lucky. Because I have worked for companies like 3m Mexico for example. And these company is really, really women friendly mom friendly. They they have many women in leadership positions. So that was a place where I felt really comfortable working at. But as I told you as well, I have worked for various law firms and and being by myself as well, it has been difficult sometimes. But the thing here is like, I think we are normalizing some things. Let me explain myself better. I have, for example, done some criminal litigation, right. And that environment is really difficult, and it’s mostly by men. So sometimes their attitudes or ways of doing things that make women feel not so comfortable but you learn to deal with that, right? So what I want to say here is like, it’s not that it doesn’t happen. But maybe you kind of get used to be, unfortunately. But going back to my own experience, I’m lucky to have really great women friends lawyers in really tough positions as I have been lucky to be as well. And maybe we haven’t faced that, for example, with the salary thing where, where many women talk about earning less than men for the same job? For being honest, I haven’t faced that. But I have faced for example, in the meeting to be with my latest partner, for example, he was a man right so we were in a meeting and maybe The client or some colleague, were only referring to him, like not taking consideration I was in the room, but maybe you just take over a babe and that’s gone. I consider I have been really lucky. As I say, he said, there is still many men on this profession, I always say is a men’s world, but I still feel I have the same opportunities that men. And the thing here is like their work life balance is very challenging for women. Because, as I told you, for example, I’m a mum, that’s very important for me. So trying to balance that part is really challenging. And not because of the cultural background of my country, and, and these being a men’s profession or mostly held by men. The thing here like it’s a very demanding profession, like you have to study a lot. You have to be there a lot. If I’m, if I have my own firm, like I have to be there with clients, I have to talk to them. I have to have meetings, maybe I have to travel and that part, like you are all the time making this,. this decision making. Sometimes you have to choose, it’s like that, like you have to choose between being the mom or being the lawyer, the professionist you have your personal life as well. And you have to be there for everyone. So that’s challenging as well. But I have to face and I can’t lie Mexico is it’s a very patriarchal system. Country. Where were you see men in the professional life mostly. But we are taking serious actions here. And I see a lot of women in very important positions in companies in law firms all the time. And I can give you an anecdote. And that actually made me feel really, really good. But it’s, it’s the truth. It’s how things are. Or maybe that was just that thing that happened to me. But I was having breakfast in a restaurant with some clients and some colleagues, we were talking about some, some matter like something we have to solve. And suddenly I was so involved in this chat that I didn’t realize, but when I turned around me and the restaurant, I realized the restaurant was full. And there were only men. Right? I was the only woman there Maybe it was just that they, but for it to really eat me, you know, it made me feel good but but at the same time I was like, Oh my god, we’re only men here that really made me feel how can I say oh good again that made me feel good but I realize it’s a steal a reality maybe in the professional area maybe it’s a world is still dominated by men.

Jonathan Bench 16:33
That was great Mariana thank you for sharing your personal experiences that always makes us consider how we are treating each other in the legal profession and also also outside and I have two daughters myself so I’m very concerned about making sure that they understand and know a lot of strong, strong, resilient women who are doing great things. So appreciate what you’re doing just from a from a father perspective, if we can turn to the law itself, we know that you have a lot of interest in compliance generally. And in the many ways that compliance is important, such as an anti corruption and labor. You’ve said that you firmly believe in an approach to compliance that goes beyond checklists. And I’m a big fan of checklists, because I’m a transactional lawyers, but I always know that there is more beyond the checklist that comes with the experience and the residual knowledge of of the years of experience that you have. Could you tell us a little more about, about your expertise and what we can learn from you?

Mariana Gallegos 17:35
Okay, well, first, I have to say, like, I understand compliance, it’s mostly or a very important part of compliance, it’s law. I know the normativity involved and to comply that and, and I, I don’t take that fight for granted. Obviously, that’s the first thing to take in consideration. I, I really do that when I render my service as you have to do that we are lawyers, right? So you have to take that into consideration. But the thing here is like, I truly believe that as being a compliance lawyer, I have this beautiful opportunity to go into the companies to go with my clients and change culture I truly believe I’m an optimistic obviously, because I am in this country. I live here in one of the most corrupt countries, for example, in the world, according to Transparency International, but, but I do believe in change. And I do believe in in cultural change. So I think if you really go there you go deeper, more than a checklist like okay, you have your policies. Are you complying these sort of law? More than that, I believe in giving an important message on trying to change mindsets, inside the companies, with my clients, myself to walk the talk all the time. I think that’s the only way to really transform and change some contracts. So, if you don’t really go there deeper on the end the compliance area, you would never solve the problem. Because maybe you just have the checklist. The company complies with everything, but maybe tomorrow, you change the people inside a company and they are going to have the same problems. If you take this as your DNA, and you really understand what why you’re doing, what you’re doing and what for we will never have real change and a compliant company that they have to learn what I want my clients to learn is that being compliant is a competitive advantage. You need to be a company where your clients can who your clients can can rely on. They really know they are always going to choose to do the right thing. And that’s, that’s really important for me.

Jonathan Bench 20:28
It sounds to me like you, you have learned what all of us learn in the practice of laws that we end up being psychologists for our clients a lot of times, right, they come to us because they can’t talk to anyone else necessarily about what’s going on. And I think we’re in a unique position as well to, to to give them that reasoning that you you said which is if you are compliant, then your business model is less at risk, right. You are a safer company and you are a better company and it’s better all around. You do that. And I think that’s, that’s a great point you raised about being really in a position to try to change the minds and hearts of the people who have hired you to help them solve a legal problem. But there’s really, it’s really much deeper than that.

Mariana Gallegos 21:14
Yes, exactly. And, you know, what, if I can say something else? I really think that, that being in compliance, like being a combined company, can make you grow healthier. And for a longer term, right, like, in the long term, you’re gonna be really strong. And, and this prevention culture, it’s so important for the companies to get in the market and stay there like for many, many, many years. I think that’s an important part as well and I that’s something I always try to to share or to transmit to my clients is like, okay, I know you don’t see money right now we’re doing this because they only think sometimes about revenue, right? But like it does, in my view to see the money right away, but the theme here is like I’m going to help you for you to grow healthier, stronger, and, and to be a company that eats in the market for a long term with with a very good a image to your clients. And the reputational thing, it’s very, very important nowadays, it’s becoming more and more relevant.

Fred Rocafort 22:48
This is a really important point and I do want to dwell on this for a little bit right? How compliance rather than looking at it As a as an imposition or a problem, right? I think it’s it’s very important to understand the benefits that can come from, from from being compliant in key areas. And one illustration of this is a matter that I’m currently handling and involves a client in in Latin America that is facing some some very serious compliance issues here in the United States that are essentially denying them access to to the US market, and I’ve had a number of conversations with my co counsel and in the country in question. And this is something that we keep coming back to, if this company took compliance. More seriously if they decided to look at it, not only as a as a as a problem right here right now that they have to deal with. But if they, if instead of doing that they, they approach this as a cultural issue right as as a corporate culture matter where we’re there, we’re going to try to improve across the board to avoid the kind of problems that they have right now but also to to to improve overall it could have incredible benefits. At the moment, for example, this this particular company, it’s a relatively small scale company, it’s it’s a bit messy. If they were to start taking compliance a little more seriously. Then all of a sudden, for example, they could, they could seriously consider bringing in foreign investors and increasing their scale, the owners might be able to step back into into a different role rather than be involved perhaps in the in the day to day operation. Which, you know, is probably something they enjoy. But at the same time, these are people that have put in a lot of work over the years. And it would also be nice for them right to be able to say, Okay, look, we want to get more economic benefit from from the work we’ve put in, let’s bring in professionals who can help us modernize. Let’s set up the conditions so that we can we can make more from from this in terms of profits in terms of financial results. So I think it’s a very, very important aspect to the compliance right. It’s also about the the potential that it can bring on that note, Mariana, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about the new let’s say the the new version of NAFTA. We call it US MCA here in the US TMEC in Mexico and Canadians have a third name for it, like, CUSMA or something like that. But in any In any case, my understanding is that the new agreement has content on on the issue of compliance. So I was hoping you could you could tell us about that. And also, if you want if it would be great to hear your thoughts on the agreement itself. There is some debate on whether this really represents a new era in North American trade relations, or whether it’s simply a new, a new coat of paint over the old over the old agreement, and nothing is really changing. So I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

Mariana Gallegos 26:52
Well, first about compliance and the USMCA is it very interesting. And in I agree with you, as you said, I’m sorry, I didn’t go there. It’s like, of course, it’s an opportunity for investing like being compliant, it’s an opportunity to invest in because it’s all about trust between partners like between social partners or trade partners. And for me, it’s very relevant in this in these free trade agreement that they included this chapter number 27. And it’s all about compliance. And I think it’s very interesting and very, it’s going to be very useful which way for example, in Mexico, we already had a huge progress and and Mexico worked really hard in what we call the national anti corruption system but with these, with the issuance or the timing of these free trade agreement, now we have to pay a lot more attention in compliance. So you can access to the benefits of the of the trade agreement. And not only that it’s a compromise we are acquiring with the with the United States and Canada as well with it with the other two countries involved in the in the trade agreement to to avoid corruption and bribery. And a very interesting part here is that, well, why I really like the private sector as well. It establishes the obligation of the private companies to have these compliance program stablished so for me, like the The these these trade agreements, it’s a great opportunity for for us as a country to turn our heads to compliance. And to make it a very important part of our day today. And what what do I think about this trade agreement in general? It’s, maybe it’s, it’s just a 2.0 version, but I didn’t see these as a bad thing. I think they took actions and modernizing the agreement we had before. And they have added really important things such as these compliance bars, the Whistleblower Protection, all these anti bribery stuff. As well as the labor things as being technical property, the digital trade. So it has very interesting in modern approaches to topics that to nowadays are really really relevant in, in the three countries from all over the world. So as the Mexican are for these country, these these trade agreements, great, great opportunity on catching up, because let’s be honest, maybe on corruption matters like anti bribery where we’re far away from Canada, for example, as well as in labor matters. And from the United States is like, I’m being honest. We know it’s like that. Establishing for example, in in the greyman bed, we have to pay like $16 for our to our labor. It’s huge. It’s huge. We don’t have that now. Maybe we don’t have the infrastructure Now to do that. But it’s a it’s a great way to offer hazing us to do it. So I seen these trade agreements in a modern agreement. Maybe I’m just optimistic. But I say this is a great opportunity of catching up and to become real peers of our trade partners such as Canada and the United States, being the United States, our most important commercial partner. I think this would help to have a more fair relationship between the three parties. And this focus, obviously, as I say, compliance lover, these focus on compliance and anti corruption on taking care of our institutions, are government officials, all these regulation that has To be involved, it’s wonderful for me, I think it’s, it’s a great opportunity. Maybe some people were suspecting something completely different from NAFTA, something like another different document. But as we know, negotiation was hard. All these local content thing was a really tough discussion between the United States and Canada and us. So I think it’s a huge achievement that we have signed that and that PDFs already in force. So I think it’s a great step on our path to evolution, like each one of the countries because actually, I don’t know if you heard it, but yesterday in the United States, they were talking about some new legislation on money laundry said it hasn’t been modified in 20. Two years. So that’s amazing. And on my perspective, this is happening because of signing the the USMCA. And I think it’s gonna happen something similar that when the fcpa became so relevant for the United States, and for all the countries that were related, like business with the United States, and my experience when I was 3M, and like, we started a huge effort of implementing the fcpa and taking care of their matters. So I think that would happen as well with these issues and signing of the of the TMEC. So it’s good for any perspective that you see it.

Jonathan Bench 33:50
So Mariana, for obvious reasons, we in the US tend to look at the Mexican economy through the lens of cross border activity, and maybe some people showing some interest in what’s happening with Canada. But of course, we know that Mexico’s economy is much more dynamic than that. Can you tell us a little bit about Mexico’s relationship with other trade partners? Are Mexican policymakers showing some of the same concerns about the dependence on China that is being shown in other places like the US and Australia and Japan?

Mariana Gallegos 34:17
Well, yes, of course, it’s more dynamic than that. Well, we can be blind to the fact that 80% of our exports go to the US. And about 36% of our imports come from the United States. And the other countries are not that relevant that matter for us. It’s just because we’re, we turned to be neighbors of one of the most powerful countries in the world, commercially speaking. And but yes, we actually are more than that, like we have signed the TPP for example, If it’s going to be fair relevant to have those trade partners, and actually, for example, today, it was announced a credit for like 1000 million dollars from China to many countries including us to to buy the vaccines against COVID-19. And as well, we have a great relationship with other countries in Latin America. And, and notwithstanding the trade relationship with the United States, it’s so irrelevant. We’re not that dependent on China and we are not concerned on that like our Well, it’s high number, like 18.5% of our imports come from China, we don’t have that much of a concern. And the thing here is more a relationship thing. With with China and the reaction that the United States could have on that Mexico has tried to diversify.

Unfortunately, unfortunately with with not such as success, it’s its export platform. But as I said, like the the United States, it’s always been our most important trade partner. But maybe the the sanitary crisis we are facing now could change this scenario, because maybe the demand of products from the United States would, would go would descend. And these nationalist foster off its current government may take us to a decrease in the industry. Can consumption and our products, so so maybe we would have to make our supply chain stronger and on these regard, but I think Mexico would have to be really careful of not showing direct support and on the direct cooperation and on trade matters, for example, with China, it would have to be in more discreet and obvious perhaps. And so the health issue not only send in as a very important geopolitical direct consequence, we I think it would be that would be less harmful to cooperate in commercial matters than the harm health issue we’re facing now. It’s gonna cost us so I just think yes, we have more than that we can be blind to the fact that yes, we have more important foreigners there than others but I think we’re a country making huge efforts to to make our, our supply chain stronger to build a stronger infrastructure. So we can we can go wider and we can go and reach another countries, not just our neighbors, for example.

Fred Rocafort 38:35
Mariana before we let you go. I’d like to ask you for recommendations for our listeners, whether it’s a book that you’ve recently read, movie that you’ve seen, perhaps a TV series that you’re that you’re watching, even even other things that that places you visited, although I know that’s Not something that’s happening and because of COVID-19. But we’d love to hear, we’d love to hear what’s catching your attention. Could you could you make one or more recommendations for for us?

Mariana Gallegos 39:11
Yeah. Well, you know what, I’m a tedtalk lover, and one of my favorites right now, or the one that has there are 2 actually, that that really hit me. The first of all, it’s not about law. There’s this TED talk of somebody called Brenda Brown. This woman really hit me with her TED Talk, talking about the power of vulnerability. It’s really something so if you can listen to it, it’s great. It’s really really interesting and useful. I think, even in the professional perspective. It’s really really good. Which other one? Well, I’m I’m going through this book called Mindset through really interesting. And it goes through these, these two ways of thinking of growth mindset perspective, or a fixed mindset and how can you work on that. So how do you have to be always learning and getting better in every area of your life? That’s a wonderful book as well. I think those two things are really, really interesting. I go through these podcasts of business podcasts that it’s all in Spanish, it’s called cracks podcast, but it’s in a Spanish but it’s very, very good. I really like it. Well, I could be here for hours because I’m really into human development. But I think for now that it would be it.

Fred Rocafort 40:49
No thank you that that’s already that you’ve given you’ve given us quite a bit to take a look at, save some for for the next time. We we have you as a guest Jonathan, what about you? Do you have anything for us?

Jonathan Bench 41:03
Yes, I’ve been enjoying the Wall Street Journal’s podcast called the Future of Everything. And this came on my radar a few months ago when they interviewed me to talk about CBD the cannabis market in China and and how the future of that market might impact what’s going on in the rest of the world. As you know, we do a lot of cannabis work at our firm. So that is always an area of interest to me. And I blogged about that on our Canna law blog. And so that’s how I got on the radar for wall street journal to talk them a little bit about that. But there are a lot of episodes lately the episodes have been focusing on viruses, bats, you know, the Corona virus, the those things, even talking about how polio research could help us find the vaccine for COVID. And so it really is the very wide ranging So, you know, you may not want to listen every time a new episode comes out, but there are a lot of different areas, a lot of very tech specific areas as well to very, very interesting to listen to. Fred, what about you? What do you have for us?

Fred Rocafort 42:10
So I’d like to recommend a documentary. It’s called the silence of others in English. Not quite sure of the, of the Spanish title, silence of others. That’s how you would find it on Netflix. You can find it there. I actually saw it at a movie theater when it first came out. I think it was part of a festival of some sort. Last summer yeah, almost almost a year ago. And it is the story of victims of the of the Spanish Civil War, who are family members of in some cases of victims were seeking justice for for their their family members. It’s a few different stories that are intertwined but the most impactful The stories involves a an old woman who is trying to obtain permission to assume the bodies of her of her family members who were gore killed. It’s a very dramatic documentary. And I think what struck me after watching it, I mean, I’ve read a lot about the Spanish Civil War. So I, I’m well aware of the tragedy that that it that it represented. But I couldn’t help but think a little bit about how it’s probably easier than we think for for a society to start deteriorating into into a into a situation where, where people start hating others within their own communities. And I think if you look at contemporary Spain, it’s obviously not a not a happy story, because these things didn’t happen that long ago. But I think overall, what you can see is considerable progress and move Moving away from that violent past. But I think for those of us elsewhere, I think the the lesson needs to be heated that it’s, it’s not that difficult for things to to slide into a situation that can can can really tear apart our society. So the silence of others great, great documentary, Mariana, I’d like to once again thank you for for being our guest. I really enjoyed the conversation and I’m sure Jonathan did as well. We look forward to having you on the podcast again at some point. Thank you.

Mariana Gallegos 44:36
Thank you very much, Fred and Jonathan.

Jonathan Bench 44:41
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue to discuss developments in global law and business. and tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.

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