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GC POWERLIST: COLOMBIA

For 29 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Colombia, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region...read more

GC Powerlist: Colombia

(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)

Partner – Colombia



If we look back at the recent past and towards the short- and medium-term future, it is difficult to imagine more interesting times for Colombia from a political, economic and business perspective.

Colombia has come a long way in establishing itself as a credible, fast-growing and resilient economy, which is now producing world-class companies that are capable of competing at a regional and global level. Security is improving by the day; a large scale infrastructure program is finally coming together; and the government and the largest remaining guerrilla group have reached an agreement on the terms of a cease fire and handover of weapons. By the time you read this, a definitive peace agreement will probably have been reached.

At the same time, we cannot ignore that Colombia is facing important challenges. Some global in nature, such as the downturn in the price of commodities, the volatility of exchange and interest rates and a weak equities market. Some self-inflicted, such as a severely uncompetitive tax regime, a dysfunctional judiciary, legal instability and a polarised political leadership.

The legal profession is in a unique position to help Colombia build upon these strengths and overcome these challenges.

To start off, we need to stay positive at all times, even in the face of dire predictions by the prophets of doom. Thinking that Colombia has a bright future is not only good for business: it is probably true.

Investment should increase in the foreseeable future for a number of reasons. Colombia compares well to the region in terms of GDP growth and demographics; the exchange rate of the Colombian peso vis-à-vis the US dollar has made Colombian targets more affordable and exports should be competitive once again. Additionally, although lower commodities prices and compliance scandals have put some regional players in distress, these same factors have prompted a spike in deal making.

The government has committed to submitting a tax reform bill to congress during the second half of the year, aimed at restoring competitiveness without sacrificing revenue, by lowering rates and expanding the base. This means that, as a general rule, a business that is paying its taxes properly today should benefit from a noticeable reduction in its future tax burden. This is a great opportunity but many loopholes and privileges will need to be eliminated for it to work. We are obligated to make positive contributions to the debate with the greater good of the country in mind, for example, by facilitating the removal of such loopholes and privileges.

Now that a number of 4G toll road concessions have achieved financial closing, the implementation of the infrastructure program should generate the countercyclical effect much touted by the government. We need to ensure not only that the projects are completed in time and within budget but, most importantly, that the upgrade in infrastructure actually makes the country more competitive by way of a reduction in transportation costs.

The overall context of peace negotiations and an eventual end to conflict offers many opportunities for us to meet our responsibilities. To mention just a few:

  • We can play a role in building peace, by helping educate the Colombian public on the features of the peace agreements, once they are made public. This does not mean trying to influence the outcome of the vote, whereby we will approve or reject the agreements. It means getting people involved and making them realise that what we have to decide is not whether the agreements are perfect, (they most certainly will not be), but whether they are good enough for us to turn the page in our long history of violence.

  • In the meantime, we will need to work very hard to foster respect for the outcome of the process, whatever it may be. Otherwise, the peace agreement will sadly become yet another source of tension among Colombians.

  • We will also play a role in maintaining peace by helping create the conditions required for displaced people and demobilised combatants to make an honest living. We can do our bit to ensure that acceptable minimum working standards are always observed, and to instil best business practices. The fact that entire areas of the country will finally be open to legitimate businesses is a golden opportunity to attack corruption at its core, and our organisations should be prepared to act as role models in this respect.

  • Our role in building a long-lasting peace can be equally important by fostering many of the values that inspire our organisations, such as tolerance, meritocracy, diversity, accountability and social responsibility.

At Baker & McKenzie we believe that the best clients are those with which there is a good fit in terms of our culture, ethos and aims. This fit is what allows us to work well and succeed together.

At this point in time, in the current juncture of Colombia’s history, we cannot limit ourselves to working together in the provision of legal services only. The opportunities and challenges that I’ve referred to above give us the chance, and the obligation, to do something far more important that goes beyond the purely legal function.

We like to believe that we are different in the way that we think, work and behave. We have an instinctively global perspective. Diversity is in our DNA. We are committed to developing our members as far and as fast as their talents and drive will take them. We endeavour to be practical and pragmatic. Ideas and innovation are expected. Pro bono and community service are at the top of our agenda.

If this sounds familiar, it means that we can join forces and make a difference for our country in these most interesting of times.

Jaime Trujillo Caicedo
Partner, Colombia
Baker & McKenzie

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