Sonia Agel, Founding Partner, L.O. Baptista, Schmidt, Valois, Miranda, Ferreira & Agel
How long have you been working for your current company?
Since 2007 which is the year when this law firm was founded.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I have spent most of my career in public service as a Federal State Attorney working in different departments related to the energy sector. In my last five years of public service, between 1998 and 2003, I was General Counsel for the National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (“ANP”) responsible for the development of the O&G regulatory framework in Brazil and also for structuring the first Bid Rounds for the concession of exploratory areas in Brazil. I retired from the public sector in 2003 and became partner and head of the O&G practice of Vinhas - Advogados. In 2007, together with four other partners, we set up the law firm Schmidt, Valois, Miranda, Ferreira & Agel – Advogados in Rio de Janeiro, which later merged with L.O. Baptista, a law firm based in São Paulo.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
To have actively participated in the opening up of oil and gas in Brazil after 45 years of monopoly practiced by PETROBRAS, a state-owned company.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Assisting foreign clients in adapting to a different legal framework during their negotiations and investments in Brazil and dealing with different languages and accents are constant challenges for me. I try to have knowledge of the legal framework of other countries in order to identify the differences in approach. I also try to read and practice other languages like English, Spanish and French to maintain familiarity.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
I try to balance my personal and professional life but it depends on the tempo of the work I am involved with. Some types of projects I deal with require me to sacrifice my personal schedule but I try to reserve some time for myself and my family during weekends.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
Yes, my father was a judge and I used to observe him during the hearings. While I was studying law, my father oriented me and gave me the best advice I have ever received. He is my role model.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
Although in the beginning of my career there were not a great number of women lawyers in Brazil, I have never felt at a disadvantage because I was female, maybe because I worked in the public sector.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
In the last five years, women have reached important positions in all areas of society. This has been particularly evident in the energy sector which had very few female professionals five years ago whereas nowadays we can see women participating in important negotiations and leading relevant projects.