"Law Firm of the Year" interview with Eduardo Kleinberg of Basham Ringe y Correa.
Can you tell me about some trends you have seen in intellectual property law in Mexico this past year?
First of all is the opposition system, which was enacted more than a year ago, but it’s picking up. We see more and more clients taking advantage of this useful tool that has been in use all over the world besides Mexico—I believe in two or three countries—but it’s being enforced in Mexico. Clients understand the benefits of opposing third-party clients and third-party trademarks here in Mexico as well. So that’s picking up quite a lot.
In what ways has your firm incorporated changing sexual harassment policies and improving its workplace mentality regarding harassment?
I would say that Basham, as you may know, has a history of more than 105 years. I would say that, thankfully, we have never had a case of sexual harassment, and I believe this is largely due to the professional and ethical values on which the firm has been founded, since its inception and under the rules which all of our employees have been governed. Nevertheless, that is not to say we are not concerned about that issue, which is very important to our firm. And we have been carrying out internal communication campaigns all the time in which we stress raising awareness and educating on the subject. Furthermore, our human resources team has an open doors policy, and this is available to those who wish to notify us about any type of conduct that would represent harassment. That is something we take very, very seriously, and we do not hesitate at all to act if we see the minimum aspect of any type of sexual harassment. Our human resources team has trained on this type of issue and has the task of following up on any notice. They have the obligation to report to the executive committee on any type of activity that could, in their opinion, represent sexual harassment so that we may act immediately with all of the means necessary to prevent this type of action. As I said, we have never had one of those cases. Nevertheless, we are active on that behalf. We take that very seriously, either if it is a woman who is in that case or a man who is also being harassed. This is a very important aspect, and I thank you for asking about this matter.
Just to let you know, sexual harassment—of course—is not allowed anywhere, but this is from the most senior partner to the highest in the hierarchy. Everyone is taken in the same position, and whoever conducts any type of action will be immediately reprimanded.
I think that’s a great policy. And how has your firm incorporated policy changes and new qualities in order to adapt to changing times?
I would say that our firm has been working on this for a long time, as I said, more than one hundred years. We have been witnesses of great political and social changes in our country, and we have managed to adapt to the new realities, always preserving our identities and values. For us, this is something very important because we understand new technologies are in place, new societies are taking over the world, and we are very open to that, but we always want to preserve how we identify ourselves and what our values are. As a firm, we have decided to give access to all to collaborate on the internet, on social networks, in order to improve their productivity and also to get access to information immediately, to be able to provide the best quality services to our clients. We have developed our own policy of internet use in the office and tend to embrace new technologies and be very open about them, but at the same time without people wasting time using those tools when they are not being used for a work purpose. We also understand that new generations are very eager to use social networks. They also have the quality of multitasking, so we also give them flexibility of using those tools and also flexibility in terms of schedule so they will be able to balance between their professional and personal lives. Therefore, we have already implemented home offices under certain circumstances, and we believe that our attorneys appreciate that. We also have a summer program schedule, which allows our employees to leave the office early on Fridays so they can count on long weekends to be with their families for a longer time. We try to balance as much as we can—the hard demands we have from clients. They expect from us to be available 24/7, but at the same time we also understand that our people need free time to be with their families and be more dedicated to put more effort when working, because they also understand that the firm is giving them that part of their life—some family time that they really appreciate.
That’s great. That sounds like how workplaces keep modernizing, and it seems that you guys are in line with that.
That is something that we do keep in mind, as I said, and I do stress that because our firm has been in business for over 100 years. And this not something we relied on the past, but we rely on in the future—on the future looking at the present. So we do not take that for granted, and we do not take our personnel for granted.
What qualities do the firm and attorneys have that you believe led to the recognition as “Law Firm of the Year”?
I believe we have always understood that our clients expect our firm to be at the forefront of the legal profession and with a commercial view. We have our lawyers understand what our philosophy is since they are still legal students. We take very seriously our legal profession because they are going to be the future lawyers and future partners of the firm. Most of our partners have been with the firm since they were legal students or law clerks. So when they become partners, they already have a long established professional career with our firm, and they perfectly understand our values and know our clients expect us to respond immediately—we always consider them as partners, and not just as clients. We do not consider our clients for the short term and take whatever we can from them in terms of money. To the contrary: we like to have our clients satisfied and be with us for a long time. We have clients that have been with us for over one hundred years because we are there when they need us. We are not there to create superficial necessities or needs. So we try to teach that to our attorneys and our law clerks, and they perfectly understand that. When they give opinions, it is always from a legal perspective, but considering the business vision of our clients. We do not tend to be very legal, without considering that our clients need to make immediate business decisions; it’s a yes or it’s a no—don’t give 50/50 opinions or make me read three pages to get to the bottom line. We always say this is our percentage on this case, and then we develop the idea. But we always give the conclusion at the end, because we understand that many of our in-house legal attorneys, for example [when] they are traveling and maybe they have their smartphones, they don’t have the time to read one hour of opinions. They need opinions to be short and concise. That’s what we teach our attorneys. And I believe it’s something our clients very much appreciate about our firm.
How do you think the intellectual property practice area might change in Mexico in the coming years?
It’s already changing a lot. Everything now is being done online. We put much stress into that because we understand, for example, that filing is becoming more and more of a commodity. So we do not rely on that as a firm; we rely on more sophisticated type of work—giving legal sound opinions, providing our clients with different ways of looking at IP. We do not simply file a trademark and let it sit there. No, we develop strategies with our clients on how to defend their trademarks, how to implement strategies to prevent third parties from violating their trademarks—deep litigation strategies. We understand that the world is moving to a more commoditized IP work, in one way, so we are putting more attention on the most sophisticated type of IP work, and that’s how we value our firm as being at the forefront of the legal business and legal profession here in Mexico.
That’s wonderful. Was there anything else you would like to add?
We are very happy we received this recognition. Being a “Law Firm of the Year” in intellectual property for 2017 is something that we really value. We do not take any of the recognition for granted. We do not sit on our laurels—to the contrary; we take this as something that will continue for us: if we were the “Law Firm of the Year” this year, we want to be a “Law Firm of the Year” next year and the year that comes after that. We are going to keep working of that, and hopefully we will be talking about this at the end of next year again.