Article By: Eboni T. Thomas
Claudette Christian takes challenges head on. In her legal career, she has guided and counseled clients through a corruption scandal that has embroiled Brazil’s most important companies and business and political leaders. At the time, Brazil faced a severe economic recession and the impeachment of a president, all while putting on a good show for the world hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. “I enjoy challenges because they keep me engaged, energized and intellectually stimulated,” Claudette shares. Residing in Rio de Janeiro, she leads Hogan Lovells’ Brazil practice and is the Office Managing Partner of the firm’s Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo offices. As she winds up her five years in Brazil, she looks back proudly at the market-leading international law practice in Brazil built from scratch, largely through client representations and attracting key legal talent.
Claudette has been at the forefront of innovative investment and financing transactions in Latin America and Africa for decades. Her imprint is large in many milestone cross-border transactions in energy, telecommunications, aviation and infrastructure. She is known in Latin American legal and business circles for her client focus and ability to run large and complex transactions. Since the late 1990s, Claudette has played a key role in the development of Brazil’s oil and gas industry through her representation of Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company. Most recently, she has assisted clients in complex international finance transactions. Her work involves structuring, negotiating, and closing major transactions in the construction and financing of oil extraction, drilling and transportation vessels. She also assists clients in equity and debt investments in several industries, including offshore oil and gas production, wireless telecommunications projects, and renewable energy projects.
Claudette has been recognized by a number of leading industry and legal publications in the United States and Brazil, including Forbes magazine and Latin Lawyer. Notably, she was recognized as an Acritas Star. Latin Lawyer recognized her in 2014 as International Lawyer of the Year, the first time an American was selected for this honor. Petroleum Economist named her a Top Lawyer in Brazil for oil and gas matters. She was one of only several Americans chosen for Latin Lawyer’s Women in Law, and she has been named as one of Latin America’s Top 100 Female Lawyers for three consecutive years. She is also the editor of the first and second editions of The Guide to Infrastructure and Energy Investment.
Focusing on the future and growth
Claudette is focused on continuing to chart a successful course for Hogan Lovells in Brazil in the face of the manifold challenges Brazil has weathered, while growing professionally and personally. “To launch an office in a country with the size and complexity of Brazil, a country with the land mass of the continental United States, has been a wonderful opportunity,” she says. “I have always believed you do your best job when you are passionate about what you’re doing and happy to be doing it, especially given the sacrifices that we as professionals are called on to make more often than we would like.”
Claudette is also focused on growing and developing young talent – Brazilians and Americans alike – to succeed professionally, while continuing to challenge themselves personally. “I find great rewards in the accomplishments of young people I have mentored and guided over the years,” she says. “In five to 10 years, I’ll still be tackling challenges, mentoring younger lawyers and building on the relationships I’ve cultivated over the years.”
Though she has seen many challenges and successes in her career to date, Claudette welcomes more.“I am currently consider- ing several challenging and stimulating opportunities that will keep me energized and happy for another 20 years,” she says. Her next challenge is to help Hogan Lovells fill the gap created by her return to the U.S. later this year. This will involve some restructuring of the current office arrangements in Brazil, with greater focus on São Paulo clients. In the next decade, we shouldn’t be surprised to see her in another country or completely different field of work. Stock trading is one of her hobbies. If she weren’t a lawyer, she says she’d be a trader on Wall Street. “I plan to dedicate a lot more time to traveling with my family,” she says. “Spending a few months in Australia is high on our list.”
Making time for work-life balance
Time is always a precious commodity, given that Claudette’s many client responsibilities frequently dictate her schedule. No day is the same for her, other than the first two hours after awakening. “I start my day with an hour of exercise – either a combination of walking/running or lifting weights,” she says. “I am a real Carioca (the name for those who are born in Rio de Janeiro) and take the subway to work.” Her hard rule is spending all major holidays with her family, either in the U.S. or Brazil. “My husband also spends as much time in Brazil as his schedule allows,” she says. “I have dear friends here in Brazil who consider me a part of their extended family.” Is her return to the U.S offices of Hogan Lovells the end for Claudette and Brazil? “Hardly,” she says, “With our ongoing business and our dear friends here, I expect to continue to be involved with Brazil for years; besides, my husband loves it here.”
Claudette has adapted and integrated well into a foreign country, culture and language. Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, which she now speaks. “I am envious of those who can spend a few months in a country and pick up a language,” she admits. “That is not me! I actually needed to formally study Portuguese. And, watching the Brazilian novellas (their version of our soap operas) has been a fun way to see the language play out in ‘real life’. I also speak relatively good Spanish, having studied it through high school and college.” Embracing the Brazilian culture, she joined a samba school and participated in the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro parade a couple years ago with plans to make it yearly.
Offering 12 tips for women in business
In a 2011 Forbes article, Claudette shared, in detail, a list of 10 tips for women in business. She says she has had to employ all of them in accepting the challenge of coming to Brazil and growing a two-office practice over the last five years. With two tips to add to the list now, she advises in short:
■ Accept challenges.
■ Be ambitious.
■ Find opportunities for leadership.
■ Excel at more than one thing.
■ Think strategically.
■ Don’t fake sincerity.
■ Network and cultivate mentors.
■ Take ownership of your work product.
■ Be assertive.
■ Be enthusiastic about your assignments.
■ Trust your instincts.
■ Learn how and when to say “no”.
More about Claudette Christian
Claudette Christian has been a role model, mentor and champion for female and minority attorneys and was Hogan Lovells’ Chief Diversity Officer for several years. She served on the Boards of Women in Law
Empowerment Forum and International Senior Lawyers’ Project. She is active in many professional organizations and is frequently sought out as a speaker at energy industry and cross-border investment events in Brazil and the United States. Prior to opening the firm’s Brazil offices, she served as the co-chair of Hogan Lovells’ Global Board from 2010 to 2012. She also served as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and co-head of the Latin America Practice Group.
Claudette’s representative work includes:
■ Representing an international company in an acquisition of equity interests of a São Paulo-based company and a merger with existing Brazilian operations.
■ Representing an international company with worldwide operations in the sale of its subsidiary in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
■ Representing a global company in connection with its joint venture with a major Brazilian company and its expanding operations in Brazil.
■ Assisting an Asian automobile manufacturer in connection with the Brazilian elements of its worldwide reorganization initiative.
■ Providing ongoing representation of several U.S. based companies in their M&A activities in Brazil.
■ Assisting Brazil’s major oil and gas producer in transactions with drilling ship construction and floating production and storage offloading units.
■ Providing representations of a U.S. based financing agency in telecommunications, oil and gas, and hotel transactions in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Afghanistan.
■ Providing lead counsel for investors in the Bolivia-Brazil pipeline project, at the time the continent’s largest project financing.
■ Providing counsel to a leading worldwide telecommunications firm in regard to its construction of a world-circling fiber-optic line.
■ Providing multiple representations of a U.S. based financing agency in connection with aviation, oil and gas, and international claims proceedings.