After 31 years, Agostinho Miranda is preparing to stop playing an active role in the management of the law firm he founded. In an interview with the Decisors program, which is broadcast this Friday at 11:00 am on the website and social networks of Jornal Económico, the lawyer argues that the next State Budget should continue to promote social peace, so as to protect Portugal from populism in other countries and to reduce inequalities. Criticizes the election of socialist deputy Carlos Pereira as administrator of ERSE and reveals that the association that is creating, called the State, will be dedicated to the defense of the public interest in matters such as banking aids and so-called energy revenues.
Next week we have the presentation of the State Budget. What do you expect from the Budget for 2019?
From what I have read, maybe it will be more of the same. People call it electoralism. However, it encourages me to be an EO supported by four parties. I am encouraged by the fact that it is a budget that will contribute to a reduction in the budget deficit and encourages me to be a budget to continue working towards the social peace. The political solutions that we have achieved, whether it be the benevolent populism of our President or the fragile balance of the 'contraption', the truth is that we have achieved a social balance that deserves the study of observatories and universities, and that is the few ways to respond creatively to the brutal menace of populism that is emerging all over the world.
That is, we must maintain social peace. But it can also be achieved with an agreement to the Right (with the PSD of Rio).
Of course, we have to be innovative in solutions. Now, this model we have for three years has worked and has created the realization that inequalities are being reduced through fiscal redistribution, although they remain dramatic in our country.
You are well acquainted with the energy sector. As you see the appointment of a socialist deputy, Carlos Pereira, without experience in this area, as a member of the energy regulator, ERSE?
What makes me more perplexed is not so much the fact of being socialist. At the outset, people join parties to serve the public good. The lack of experience in the area of responsibility for which it will be responsible is a matter of concern. I have heard friends of my socialists, with enough responsibilities, to say that there was no other person for the job. I am very sorry, this is not an acceptable justification; headhunters also exist to look for good candidates. The only criterion that should be used is the criterion of competence, the criterion of merit and, in this case, the criterion of public cause.
Miranda & Associados is undergoing a transition phase, with the election of a new management team [liderada pelo atual managing partner Diogo Xavier da Cunha] and in which you, while maintaining the status of founding member, will no longer play an active role. For you, what does this passage of testimony represent, in which you no longer have a role in the management of the firm you founded?
I feel very good. This was a process prepared several years ago. Everything in life has a beginning and an end – life itself has it as well. We have a moral responsibility to make room for the younger ones. Our firm, in this field, has a very wide range and even has millenials to access the management of the firm, namely on the board of directors. So I see the future very calmly. We have increased the number and importance of customers, as well as the markets, especially in Francophone Africa, where we have a greater presence compared to Portuguese-speaking Africa.
How do you imagine the office within five years?
We have a 10-year strategic plan, like any organization of our size. From a personal point of view, I would say that in the next five years we will do more speedily what we have done in the last three years. This concerns the expansion of our geographic coverage. We started work and representation of clients in a new country every year. At present, our focus is on Francophone African countries, ie countries that have natural resources, such as oil, and therefore need to build large-scale infrastructures. We focus on all the legal architecture inherent in these projects, which go through, for example, financing and operational day-to-day.
Are we talking about countries like Congo Brazzaville?
Yes, but not only. We are also talking about the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire.
In these countries, are your clients, besides the major international players in the oil industry, also local governments?
No. We have a very strict policy of not representing the local governments with which our clients negotiate. The only exception to this rule, for historical reasons, is East Timor.
His office had a split-up a few years ago, with the departure of several partners [liderados por Rui Amendoeira, antigo braço-direito de Agostinho Miranda] to another firm. After the initial shock, was Miranda stronger, in the sense of being more united, after this split?
Some say that the bad news of the future is hidden in the present. We realized that some of our associates were not aligned with the firm's value. In an organization with the size of our company, with almost 300 employees [dos quais 200 são advogados, com 23 sócios] all have to be aligned with the firm's values. This split was a great opportunity to test our resilience but also to create other possibilities for young lawyers to rise in their careers. It has contributed to the renewal of the structure, hiring more talent and creating new opportunities.
But from a personal point of view, it was a painful process, since we are talking about people who have worked with you for a long time …
Yes, it was a process that had personal costs. But I think that in this profession we must have the right values and not surrender ourselves to excessive states of soul because they cloud our judgment.
Given the increase in activity in Francophone Africa, do you expect the team to be increased?
We are always looking for new talent, even because the practice practiced in these markets is complex, since it requires a deep knowledge of legal and political realities. So we are always looking for new talents.
But do they do so through organic growth, by seeking young people from universities or by joining other firms?
Over the course of these three years, we have made the so-called lateral integrations and we have deepened the recruitment of young people to universities that have to correspond to a very specific profile of international work.
How would you describe this profile? Speaking French will necessarily be one of the criteria …
Speaking French is an essential condition and we even have recruited in France. But, typically, we look for interesting and interested young people. The idea is always that of someone who does not accommodate, someone very interested in the culture of the world as opposed to purely academic culture and people who are very focused on customer solutions.
The millenials these characteristics?
It has to be said that there is a marked difference between the curriculum of university teaching and the needs of organizations such as ours. But still, millenials are probably the most extraordinary talent store I've seen during my forty years of profession.
He was one of the protagonists of the emergence of business law in Portugal in the post-25th of April. How do you see the quality of young lawyers today compared to those of 30 or 40 years ago?
Millenials are definitely better. They are much better in a range of skills but are less prepared by schools for other skills. To millenials. it is easier for them to deal with information from a variety of sources and to synthesize and find the solution. However, they are less good at deepening the questions, at the intensity of the search for the deeper solution and therefore more solid – they tire more easily, which is understandable, because they have a digital language. They tire more easily in a more solid, deeper and more innovative investigation. And add another factor that is that sometimes the detail, that enhanced touch is not there. A lawyer is a detail professional.
Is it possible to combat this lack of preparation?
It is perfectly possible. What is required of organizations like ours is that they have structured training and knowledge programs. Incidentally, I hope to continue to be a protagonist in my firm in this effort.
How do you think the trust of firms such as Miranda will be projected in the future when the founding partner withdraws?
Turning to the theme of schools, we have good schools that make good lawyers. But where we have to make much progress is in organizational capital. That is, firms have to be managed by management professionals and not by lawyers.
That is, do lawyers have to be available to cede the management of firms to managers who are not even partners?
Absolutely, you have to. And the future of these organizations depends very much on this. Now, as far as succession is concerned, I think it's a bad thing if you do not have a succession plan. We established this plan several years ago and this plan has to be part of the firm's culture because no one is indispensable and everyone is important. Of course this requires a modicum of modesty, people need to understand that even though they have a lot of experience and a good client base, their time has already gone. We do not always have the same fairness of judgment, the same energy or the capacity for dialogue, which is very important for the success of this type of organization.
What areas will 'explode' in the future for law firms?
There are two types of responses. From a general point of view, all areas susceptible to computation and being captured by the new models of artificial intelligence, these areas are in danger of disappearing. Anything that is re-bound to an algorithm has disappeared. First the secretaries, then the paralegals and even the lawyers who do repetitive work, namely, the associates. But there will be a need for lawyers with other skills, for example with mathematical training because problems in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence are already emerging problems that even universities have not thought of before. There will not only be a reduction of space for lawyers, it will also increase in an even greater proportion. That said, strictly personal, if I were now 30, it would be a boutique dedicated solely to litigation. And I say this for a very simple reason: if I were 30, I would want to work in an area not dominated by the big market players and the auditors.
That is, areas where a small office can make a difference?
Yes, that is what is happening in the United States. By far the lawyers who make the most money there are the litigation lawyers and they go to court on a day-to-day basis. And in this context, one of the great penalties that I have is not to leave an institutional legacy in Miranda with a department of criminal and counter-administrative litigation that, although we do it, is not compatible with the size of the firm. And that's me.
What is the balance of your presence in the Portuguese market?
A third of our activity results from what we call the jurisdiction of Portugal. We have grown, thanks to a continuous effort of my partners in charge of the jurisdiction Portugal. In 2017, we grew more than 20%.
And in what areas have they grown? In taxation?
Taxation is an important area, but it is not the most important. We have grown up in labor law, in mergers and acquisitions, in energy law, and in other areas for which we have contracted partners and made such lateral integrations, but also lawyers with extensive experience, for example in the financial sector.
Are there other areas where they admit to making new integrations of smaller offices?
Absolutely. We are actively working towards this.
And in what specific areas?
Perhaps … I just mentioned an area in which we want to do more than what we are doing that is the area of litigation, namely, criminal litigation. But there are others and we are in discussions with a small office that will probably bring the fruits that we (intend).
In the area of litigation?
No, in wider areas.
Now that you have more free time, do you admit to going back to your 'passions' side to the law?
My program will be to continue working and responding as a founding member to all requests made to me by my firm and my partners, but at a much lower rate than I have had so far. What I'll do? My biggest dream is to go back to Portugal on a bicycle [nota: é ciclista amador], something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. Besides, every day, I want to read and write, I like to write about current affairs. And I have other projects, I'm going to record an album, which will give me great satisfaction, but also to my son and grandchildren. I have a project that will be called "Propública", which will be an aggregator platform for young lawyers, aiming to represent the public interest in situations where there was social harm. It will not be pro bono, probably. I believe in the concept of effective altruism and it is often preferable to hire someone who does better than we do and so I believe it will be a pretext to take paid young lawyers who want to defend public causes. For example, we recently had a fire in the Serra de Sintra and about ten years ago, my company represented the NGO, Save Sintra, on a pro bono basis. And it was through the representation of Miranda that it was possible not to allow the construction of Abano [urbanização inicialmente prevista com 120 moradias unifamiliares de que ainda foram construídas cerca de metade].
The subject of energy revenues, is one of the subjects that may interest the Public?
The issue of energy revenues may be interesting because it is a situation where law and justice seem to be far apart. This kind of situation interests us, as we would also be interested in the fact that the Portuguese taxpayers are paying the debts of banks that, in the meantime, have failed. Portuguese taxpayers have 15 billion euros to pay, probably. These are topics that will be the object of study and in which we will intervene, because we understand that this is our responsibility.
But is this a Miranda-only platform or do you want to extend to other offices?
No, and I would like to make it clear that this is a personal project, with its own headquarters and staff and that it will have nothing to do with Miranda. It will work as an association, although we have not yet decided whether to belong to a foundation. Since I announced the creation of the "Prop- urale," I was impressed by the number of lawyers, who numbered several dozen, who volunteered to participate and defend the public interest. But this is a private initiative.
Article published in issue No. 1958 of the Economic Newspaper, October 12, 2018