Carlos from Colombia, lawyer
Carlos Andrés Sánchez Garcia
From: Bogotá, Colombia
Studied: MBA at Durham University (2010-11)
Now: Project leader, Head of Telecommunications and junior partner at Colombian law firm Durán & Osorio Abogados, based in London
What would you say has been the most satisfying aspect of your career so far?
I’m legally advising the Colombian Government and IFC (World Bank) on the biggest road programme in the country’s history. This is a $25 billion dollar (around £15 billion) programme developed under the public-private partnership model.
Advising on projects with a high impact on the population of my own country is really rewarding. Just imagine the huge effect a programme like this will have in a country like Colombia. It will not only give a boost to its growth, but also to employment. It will certainly improve the living conditions of the population by reducing travelling costs. Some of these roads will turn poor and isolated areas of the country into new developing zones.
I was recently mentioned by Chambers & Partners, the British ranking of the most prestigious law firms and lawyers around the world, as one of the best Colombian lawyers advising on projects. La República, the financial newspaper of Colombia, also mentioned me as one of the ten best young lawyers of the country. It is great to be recognised for all my hard work.
What are your main strengths and how have these led you to where you are today?
Probably my main strength is having an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving.
Projects (like life) have many sides to them. There are engineering, financing, operating and environmental issues that one must understand before giving any legal advice.
Having an open mind to address problems from different disciplines and the ability to effectively communicate with experts in those fields can make a lawyer really valuable. Of course, that would not be possible without a strong academic background... like the one I gained from my MBA in the UK.
'From every corner of the world': Carlos with friends he made in the UK (Picture: Carlos Sánchez Garcia)
What are your fondest memories of your time in the UK?
My time in Durham was perhaps one of the best years of my life. For more than a year I lived in a small and wonderful city, where tradition was combined with a clear view of the future. I met people from every corner of the world and some of them are still really good friends.
The fact that I could study my MBA at the same time as my wife – and also with our little girl of 18 months – made things even more interesting. After 10 years of marriage, I discovered my wife was also a great classmate and realised we could be a good study team.
My daughter started to discover her world in such an amazing environment. Multiculturalism, tolerance, respect and diversity are the kind of things I wanted my daughter to experience from the very beginning and I found all of them in the UK.
'Amazing environment': Carlos with his daughter and wife
Do you feel that your degree and connections have helped your career?
Absolutely. In fact I’m currently advising companies where Durham alumni hold key positions.
What is the most exciting thing you have done since graduating?
I was recently involved in the organisation of 'Colombia Day at the Law Society' along with the British and Colombian Chamber of Commerce when, for the first time, Colombian law firms came to London to speak about the Colombian legal market, new projects in the pipeline, and opportunities.
The event was well attended by partners of the most relevant firms of UK and Colombia, and it finished with the signature of a MOU (memorandum of understanding) between the Law Society of England and Wales and the Colombian Chamber of Law Firms.
I gave a speech at the event, as well as organising it. I felt I was actually helping to strengthen relations between the two countries.
If you were to offer some advice to students, what would it be?
Postgraduate studies – and particularly MBAs – are not only about academic knowledge. You will have the opportunity to start a journey of self-discovery and discovery of your own strengths and capabilities, pushing yourself beyond limits you hadn't considered before.
You will also have the privilege of having classmates from many different nationalities and backgrounds, making your classroom a small version of the UN. The simplest discussion will give you a panorama of different points of view, culture and customs. If you keep your mind open, you will enjoy the cross-culture shock therapy!
On top of that, my lecturers were world-class professionals, passionate about teaching and researching.
In that context I will strongly recommend any student to drink lots of coffee with friends (tea, wine or beer is also acceptable), and try to learn from each other.
Leave some time to be on your own too, and discover how this country can help you in your own journey – and make the most out of every lecture.
What about your plans for the future?
The most important plan right now is to open a branch of Durán & Osorio in London. That would make us the second Latin American law firm with a branch in London. Not an easy challenge at all.
Fond memories: Carlos is still in touch with many of his friends from Durham (Picture: Carlos Sánchez Garcia)
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