Food for thought: a seat in Sao Paulo

Mayer Brown trainee Gina Iungano loved her seat in the firm's Sao Paulo office so much that when we spoke to her she was just about to head off for a second stint

Why does Mayer Brown have an office in São Paulo?

Brazil is one of the world's most important emerging markets, and its infrastructure is growing rapidly - there's a new development everywhere you turn! Brazilian companies are becoming international, and they need the services of international law firms. São Paulo is a logical place for Mayer Brown to be as it's the financial centre of the country. Mayer Brown's own São Paulo office offers a range of international law services and, through our associated Brazilian firm Tauil & Chequer, a full service Brazilian domestic law practice.

How does the São Paulo office compare to the London office?

The São Paulo office is much smaller - there are only three partners, three associates and one or two trainees. That means that trainees get more involved in deals and have more responsibility. Everyone in the office is English or American, and all the deals we do are mostly documented in English, so you don't need to speak Portuguese to work here. But you do need the basics of the language to live in São Paulo, because people tend not to speak English. If you speak another Latin language - I speak Italian - then you'll pick Portuguese up very quickly.

I've had to get used to big lunches. There aren't really any sandwich places - the Brazilians like to have a three-course meal in the middle of the day. And when we socialise as an office, we tend to go for lunches rather than drinks in the evening.

What kind of work were you doing?

The office mainly does capital markets work, project finance and general bank lending, and so these are the areas I've been involved in. We also do a bit of mergers and acquisitions work - a big deal has just come through.

Most of the documentation is under either English or New York law. But because most of our clients are Brazilian, a couple of the documents might be in Portuguese, or might be under Brazilian law, and then we ask Tauil & Chequer to advise us.

What have you learnt about being a lawyer in São Paulo that you wouldn't have learnt in London?

I've been pleasantly surprised by how easily you can use your skills as an English lawyer in another jurisdiction, which is good to know in case I want to go on another secondment.

Have you found anything about being abroad difficult?

Nothing work-related. Arriving somewhere new and getting your bearings is always a little daunting. But I've had help from people in London and São Paulo whenever I've needed it.

What's the best thing about being in São Paulo?

The weather! Also the client contact and responsibility I've had. And everyone in the office has been very friendly and willing to help me - for example, all the partners always have time to explain anything to me that I don't understand.