Filipa Cotta of PLMJ is celebrating both her firm’s 2019 “Law Firm of the Year” award for Insolvency and Reorganization Law in Portugal, and its recent 50th anniversary as a major player in the Portuguese market. Cotta speaks with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer about changes in her insolvency practice, and what the firm has planned for the future.

Are there one or two landmark cases that you that you're especially proud of?

I would say that the most significant cases that we are dealing with in the last years are the ones related to Banco Espírito Santo (BES), which became insolvent in late 2014. Since then, we have been dealing with not only the banking part, but also with all the non-financial part, which was huge. The case is not just complex but also one of the highest-profile bankruptcy cases of all times in Portugal. In this context, we are advising the insolvency receivers in Luxembourg and are dealing with all that relates to the companies that are held by the insolvent estate in Portugal and Brazil. We are also advising foreign insolvency receivers in other transnational insolvencies, like the receivers of Banif Finance Ltd. in liquidation, a Cayman wholly owned subsidiary of Banco Internacional do Funchal, S.A. As per Portugal, there are also very interesting cases like the restructuring/insolvency of the so-called Group Chamartin and the restructuring process of Prado Cartolinas da Lousã.

Are there any specific attorneys that you would greatly recognize for assisting with these types of cases?

I would say that, in these types of cases, the leadership is really provided by both me and Nuno Líbano Monteiro. We also have Manuela Tavares Morais, a partner who assists in a lot on high profile and complex cases. In other insolvency cases representing the creditors, which are mainly, banks, I would draw your attention to the great work done by managing associate Catarina Guedes de Carvalho.

What does your firm do to help support practicing attorneys?

We have a mentoring program and every trainee lawyer has a mentor. Basically, this mentor has a mission to pass on PLMJ's culture and to help these young lawyers fit into the firm and to work effectively in line with our principles. We are a multidisciplinary law firm. PLMJ is quite large, so the young lawyers do need some assistance and guidance so that they can develop and they can be as well-integrated as possible.

More specifically, our restructuring and insolvency team offers this guidance by giving our trainees direct contact with partners that introduce them to clients. We do our best to have young attorneys and trainees involved in the high-profile cases that we have. We encourage them to be the most diligent, independent and confident they can be going forward.

Are there any trends in Insolvency and Reorganization Law you've witnessed in this last year, and do you see any changes coming in the coming years?

I think that the change we have been seeing and that I expect to continue to see in the years to come is actually the great complexity and diversity within insolvency and restructuring. I remember when insolvency was an area of the law considered as “secondary” and the lawyers didn't really care about. It was not sexy. Nowadays, insolvency and restructuring have a close connection with all the areas of the law: M&A, Tax, Criminal, corporate law, etc.

And why? Because back then we couldn't foresee that, for example, big companies, banks, and governmental concessionaires could become insolvent or need reorganization. These changes have increased the level of complexity in insolvency and restructuring cases, and makes the cases much more interesting, I would say.

We do our best to have young attorneys and trainees involved in the high-profile cases that we have. We encourage them to be the most diligent, independent and confident they can be going forward.

So, your firm has celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago. How has the firm's mission changed or evolved since its founding in 1967, and where do you see the firm heading in the future?

We are very democratic and diverse firm, and we are always trying to do our best. We love challenges and we have thrived on the challenges we have faced over the years. I can testify that since I've been working with the firm for 20 years now. I was a trainee at PLMJ, and I am now a partner.

In line with our strategy of looking ahead, I think that it's important to point out that we are heading to a new office in Lisbon in April. The building will have an art gallery for the PLMJ Foundation collection, which is one of the key and distinctive elements of PLMJ. It will also have abundant communal spaces to foster collaboration and more breakout areas. So, we are developing in that direction, to become more open and have more spaces to talk and share ideas.

We also have a recently elected a new board for the next three years. The board combines a very experienced managing partner with younger board members, so we are once again focusing on diversity and trying to continue the legacy we have built and to take the firm to new heights.

We remain the largest Portuguese firm with 427 people, including 58 partners. I think that that's something to be proud of, especially if you're talking about a 100% Portuguese firm.