by michael heron
Pedro Rebelo de Sousa (pictured) is arguably one of the most recognisable and well-known lawyers in the Portuguese market. A career that saw him leave Europe in the 1970s to work as a VP at Citibank and Citicorp Investment Bank in New York City, he returned to Portugal to establish his law firm thirty years ago. As well as unveiling SRS’s new brand and image, we reflect on its history, legacy and what the future holds for the firm. This interview covered the firm’s journey during the last three decades and can reveal there is a succession plan for a new managing partner to take up the reins next year.
In the 1970s and 1980s you worked in banking both in Brazil and the US, what motivated you to come back to Portugal?
A combination of factors. These include Portugal entering the EU and having to reprivatise a substantial part of its economy that was nationalised in 1975, and the personal desire to bring my two children to Europe. Following an international career, it was an amazing challenge to be invited to lead the first 100% reprivatisation of a traditional and large Portuguese commercial bank as CEO (at the age of 35) in my own country. Having the opportunity to gather my family which was spread in Brazil and New York was also attractive.
When SRS was founded in 1992, it became part of Grupo Legal Português (European Economic Interest Grouping) with Garrigues, Simmons & Simmons and Pinheiro Neto. What advantages did this give the firm, having an international mindset from day one?
The international connections helped not only from a client generation standpoint but from an organisational and cultural perspective. It helped very much to shape our international mindset, as well as provide an operative structure based on specialisation matrix practice groups vs sectors groups.
In 2001 the firm went one step further and fully integrated with Simons & Simmons, becoming the first international firm in Portugal? This preceded an eight-year period before SRS became independent again. How would you sum up this time, both good and bad?
It was a great experience. I was on the Simmons & Simmons Board for two terms, as well as on the Partnership Assessment Committee and the Remuneration Assessment Committee. I was also Chair of the Diversity Committee. Additionally, and further increasing our international exposure, our Partner Octávio Castelo Paulo was global head of the Simmons & Simmons TMT sector. Further, most of our professionals were trained in and/or seconded to Simmons & Simmons offices or major clients in the City of London.
We were also at the cutting edge of the most innovative transactions and structures being implemented in the Portuguese market.