Step-by-Step: Thais Garcia

New York-based Corporate partner Thais Garcia traces her path across three continents. She talks about the risks, rewards and regrets that have shaped her.

The key milestones in my career have all involved taking some risk and not necessarily following the traditional path – trusting my instincts. The first of those moments was deciding not to be afraid to experiment, and even fail, for the sake of getting the right exposure. During law school, I explored different practices and environments, such as clerking for a federal tax prosecutor, an internship at a litigation firm and working in-house at a tech start-up. There was no mortgage to worry about, so I just went for it! These experiences have been extremely valuable not only because they broaden my perspective of what it meant to be a lawyer, but also helped me make a more informed decision about which path to take following graduation. After doing a little bit of everything, I realized that I was better suited to transactional work, which focuses on consensus building and a shared goal of getting the deal done.

Next was a move to Spain for my LLM, which led to a job offer in my firm’s Madrid office. As a Brazilian law-qualified attorney, the safer path would have been to join a local firm back home, but I had a gut feeling that working at an international firm and learning an entirely new legal system would be too interesting to pass up. I remember having a discussion with my parents about whether to take an offer in Spain or in Brazil, and they said something that I will never forget: “Opportunities come and go, and there is no such thing as perfect timing. Don’t miss out on the good ones as they might not be there tomorrow.” When I was later considering a move to New York, Spain had then become the safe choice. I remembered my parent’s words of wisdom and didn’t think twice about relocating to the US to help strengthen our Latin America practice. The key lesson I learned from these experiences, when I look back at the choices I’ve made, is that my most rewarding experiences always involved some risk and trusting my gut.

Regrets are equally part of the process. I don’t have many, but the ones I can think of involve choosing inaction over action, particularly not taking a stand. As a junior lawyer, I participated in a deal negotiation, during which a senior person on the other side spoke disrespectfully to me. I wanted to say something, politely, but completely shut down and later regretted not having the courage to stand up for my principles. Thankfully, my colleague, a senior partner, saw my discomfort. He stopped the meeting and demanded a more respectful tone as a condition of moving forward. Afterwards, he said to me, “I just won’t tolerate that kind of behavior.” He is a good friend and mentor to me to this day.

For those starting out, my advice is to trust your instincts, stand up for what you believe is right and take some risk every now and then, no matter how junior you are. Also, always seek out role models and mentors. It is key to have a good support network and people that you know will be there for you when you need them the most.