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Inspiring Women In Law - An Interview with Carolina Zang: How strategy, risk, smart finances and the human factor lead to great leadership in business

Sometimes, it’s not just about what’s written in statutes but about reading between the lines of human intentions and motivations

Marina Vanni,  May 13, 2024

Latin Counsel spoke with Carolina Zang, Partner at Zang, Bergel y Viñes Abogados (ZBV) and member of its Executive Committee, about her noteworthy projects in the financial arena and the ideal qualities of a good business leader. Zang, who is also a director of Pampa Energía (PAM), BrasilAgro Companhia Brasileira de Propiedades Agrícolas (AGRO3), Banco Hipotecario, Futures and Options (FyO) and Agrofy Argentina, shared her advice for women seeking to excel in the legal field.

Latin Counsel: How has your growth at ZBV been and what was your most valuable lesson there?

Carolina Zang: After three decades in the legal trenches, which include my role as Head of the Finance & Banking department and 12 years of Managing Partner, one lesson I’ve learned is that the law may be black and white in books, but in practice, it’s all the shades of gray and rainbow that keep us on our toes. And let me tell you, mastering those shades is an art form worth every wrinkle it adds! Experience has taught me that while legal expertise is crucial and a given since it’s what you learn in law school, the ability to navigate human dynamics is essential for success. Sometimes, it’s not just about what’s written in statutes but about reading between the lines of human intentions and motivations. After all, the human factor weighs in when it comes to internal teams being managed and when we interact with clients and deal with transactions. The human factor is important throughout, and the ability to adapt to different cultures and scenarios while using wit and intelligence to navigate complexities is what ultimately achieves favorable outcomes.
As part of the management of a firm, another witty lesson I’ve gleaned over the years is that managing my own business and clients’ businesses can be like a game of chess. It’s not always about making the most obvious move but anticipating strategies and thinking several steps ahead. And just like in chess, sometimes the most unexpected and creative moves lead to the most satisfying victories.

After years in the game, I’ve come to realize that suggesting safe, vanilla decisions is bland and uninspiring. The real spice of our profession lies in embracing the bold, the daring, the decisions that make the heart race faster. It’s about convincing the client that sometimes, to innovate and excel, we’ve got to ride the wave of risk. That’s where the magic happens, and that’s what separates the legendary from the one-trick ponies.

I’ve learned that humility and empathy are powerful tools in the legal profession. No matter how seasoned we are, there’s always something new to learn, and every client’s story deserves to be heard with compassion and understanding. Listening is crucial in understanding needs, concerns, and objectives, enabling lawyers to provide the most tailored and effective legal solutions. So, here’s to three decades of legal wisdom, where every deal has been a challenge and a powerful lesson, gifting the opportunity to grow.

LC: Could you tell us about some of the outstanding project(s) you have led for ZBV in the financial and markets arena?

CZ: I have been very fortunate because there have been many standout projects throughout my career. I started after my LLM at NYU as a foreign associate at Chadbourne & Parke in the late ’90s, working on many deals for other Latin American countries. Once I returned to Argentina, I worked on the IPO of a third of the Argentine issuers with presence in different industries and countries. I always say give honor where it’s due, and I must reference that clients accompany a country’s growth, and it is very gratifying to have been part of Argentina’s growth and to witness the boost in the economy and employability thanks to my clients commitment and partnership.

Being the wingman for clients who handpick and bank on us is an honor and a true adventure of challenges, ventures, and transformations. From the ’90s till now, I’ve been the digital savviness for my clients, guiding countless clients through the tumultuous digital transformation. It’s like riding a rollercoaster that never stops. Because in this ever-evolving tech jungle, one can’t afford to be outdated; I’m currently polishing my skills with a postgrad in law and artificial intelligence. I believe it’s all about embracing the tech tornado to stay relevant.

LC: As a director in leading companies such as Pampa Energía and Banco Hipotecario, what do you consider to be the most important aspects for good business management?

CZ: I’m extremely grateful to have been chosen as a director of public companies and to be part of prestigious boards. As director of blue chip companies, I can tell you that a stellar business management recipe includes a dash of vision (think big!), a drop of strategic savvy (always stay a step ahead), a generous sprinkle of leadership magic (inspire your colleagues and adversaries alike!) and of course, we can’t forget the financial flair, a knack for risk juggling, and huge talent for stakeholder tango. Always be no more than one step away from the next big thing. Never steer away from innovation and let’s not overlook ethics and pro bono—being responsible is not just good karma.

And, last but not least, the golden rule of team dynamics: surround yourself with a squad where everyone brings their A-game. Don’t shy away from hanging out with the brightest people. In the game of success, it’s not about being the smartest person in the room, but about having the smartest team in the building.

LC: What pro bono work and other social impact work have you done recently?

CZ: Legendary lawyers are those who have had a broader impact on society through their advocacy, activism, or contributions to society. It is crucial to embark on pro bono initiatives at all stages of your career. Because there’s karma, but because we need to make the world a better place.

Just recently I embarked on a project that hits home closely along with other people committed to the same truths. We established an apolitical and non-religious network, Judíos Argentinos Emprendedores, Ejecutivos y Empresarios (JAE3). We kicked off by putting together a guide to address anti semitism in the workplace. JAE3 was born out of current traumatic situations that the Jewish community have been suffering in different countries, and we found an opportunity to raise our voices and generate a Jewish professional community to raise awareness and provide antisemitism tools to fight against hate speech with empathy, inclusion and respect. The association’s objective is to build community and work on aspects related to Jewish identity in the professional world. It’s in its initial stage, but I am extremely proud to be a founding member of this network. I champion causes. It’s in my blood and DNA to stand up for what I believe in. That’s why after many, many years of dedication to pro bono, I am now the President of the Comisión Pro Bono in Argentina. An honor and a responsibility that I am heartily committed to.

LC: What do you enjoy on a personal level, beyond law?

CZ: I thrive on the exhilarating adventure of constantly learning, exploring new horizons through travel and also finding solace in the breathtaking beauty of Patagonia. I enjoy precious time with my grown kids. Ironically, the pandemic, with all its challenges, gifted me the invaluable opportunity to spend more time with them, for which I’m truly grateful. Spending time with family is essential for fostering deep connections. Being with my kids grounds me in such a positive way, reminding me of what truly matters in life.

LC: What advice would you give to professional women looking to make their way in the legal field?

CZ: To fellow women professionals embarking on the legal journey, let me share a few pearls of wisdom. Firstly, never underestimate the power of your voice. Speak up, speak out, and let your brilliance shine through, no matter what. Your unique perspective and insights are invaluable assets in the legal arena and at any business table. Your rarity is precious and worthy, don’t hide it, flaunt it to your advantage.

Secondly, build your tribe. Surround yourself with supportive mentors, allies, and fellow trailblazers who lift you up and cheer you on. Collaboration and camaraderie can work wonders in breaking barriers and forging new paths. And if you don’t have any nearby, search for them on social media. People tend to be much more accessible and willing to collaborate than we think. Don’t ever stay still; always reach out.

Next, embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. Every setback is a chance to learn, pivot, and emerge stronger than ever. Stay resilient, and don’t be afraid to take risks. I tend to liken myself to a diamond that has weathered the tests of time and emerged stronger and more radiant. Like a diamond’s facets reflecting light, my years of experience have honed my legal skills, allowing me to navigate complexities with precision and clarity. My recommendation: Just as a diamond is valued for its rarity, always bring a unique perspective and depth of knowledge to every transaction you handle and to every meeting you attend. handle. Despite the challenges faced over the years, remain resilient and steadfast in your commitment to upholding standards and advocating for your clients.
And remember, kindness and empathy are not weaknesses—they are your superpowers. Approach every interaction with grace, compassion, and a genuine desire to make a positive impact. A heart of gold can move mountains!

Lastly, and extremely important, never lose sight of your worth. You are capable, worthy, and deserving of success on your terms. Own your narrative, define your path, be of service and let your brilliance illuminate the legal landscape. To all the fierce women paving the way in the legal realm, I salute you. It’s tough but keep at it, and together, we’ll create a more inclusive legal industry.

Learn more about Carolina Zang at ZBV

Interview: Marina Vanni

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