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How US In-House Counsel Should Be Doing Business in Latin America

Phillip Bantz LAW.COM

Years ago when Barrett Avigdor was still practicing law, she inadvertently offended a notario publico and nearly torpedoed a real estate deal in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The faux pas? She pointed out that the notario had misinterpreted a provision in the civil code.

“I got a copy of the civil code and I tried to go toe-to-toe with him. That was a disaster. He found it offensive that I was telling him what Mexican law said and I was not a Mexican lawyer,” said Avigdor, now the managing director for Latin America in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s in-house practice group.

What might have been a minor blip in the states spurred the notario to walk out of the meeting. Avigdor and her colleagues convinced him to return the following day and she took a different tack, explaining in “very polite Spanish” that the notario was the expert in Mexican law and she was still learning—even though she was right and he was wrong.  

“I had to humble myself, because I wanted to get the deal done,” she said. “My initial intent was to solve the problem. But it’s their country and their rules. I think that’s true anywhere in the world. If you want to do business internationally, you have to adapt.”

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