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Inspiring Women In Law - An interview with Nadia Chaves Zúñiga: from immigration to compliance, how to cover different branches of law and the lessons learned

Marina Vanni,  May 23, 2024

Latin Counsel spoke with Nadia Chaves Zúñiga, Senior Manager at EY Law in Costa Rica, about how technology is affecting compliance processes and the legal challenges that persist for migrants in her country. Chaves Zúñiga, a versatile lawyer who posseses marketing skills and is in charge of several client acquisition projects for her firm, also provided tips for empowering women in the legal field.

Latin Counsel: As a specialist in organizational transformation, what problems do your clients frequently raise with you and how do you solve them?

Nadia Chaves Zúñiga:
Organizational transformation processes are complex and can present multiple challenges for both leaders and employees of a company. Our clients mainly present us with problems and difficulties related to resistance to change, communication failures, lack of alignment and clear definition of objectives and limited resources.

Therefore, in order to solve or mitigate impacts, I usually recommend effective communication, clearly explaining the reason for the change, the expected benefits and eventually how it will affect employees. It is also very important to have the participation and involvement of employees, so as to increase their acceptance and reduce resistance. In turn, as the transformation process progresses, it is important to provide training and resources to help employees adapt to the new systems and processes.

To achieve this, it is essential to have an aligned leadership so that all leaders and managers understand and communicate consistently both the vision of the transformational process and its objectives.

LC: What progress have you noticed in the area of immigration law and what challenges remain?
We have recently made significant progress in Costa Rica in the area of immigration. Our migration legal framework seeks to protect the rights of migrants and therefore we have adopted policies related to the regularization of migrants in an irregular situation, integration of refugees, education and health services -regardless of migration status-; and international cooperation.

In addition, efforts have been made to improve migration management through technological advances, including online appointment systems; the use of the "Tramite YA!" online procedures platform, which allows users to carry out various procedures, such as residency applications, work permits and case status inquiries; an electronic pre-check system to expedite the process of entering the country; digitalization of files; and training and updating of personnel. All this has contributed to facilitating and expediting the immigration process.

The challenges that remain include the lack of budget to hire personnel, improve physical facilities and continue with the automation of processes, including the implementation of artificial intelligence systems to reduce processing and analysis times by officials. In turn, the control and enforcement of immigration regulations is practically null and void, and the deadlines for the resolution of the law are also not met.

At the same time, the increase in the migrant population puts pressure on public services -such as health and education-, which requires additional planning and resources; a feeling of xenophobia and discrimination towards migrants persists among a large part of the population; and cases of informal labor and labor exploitation continue to be documented.
LC: Could you tell us about a relevant case related to immigration law that you have worked on?

From my point of view, every immigration case is relevant because it involves unique circumstances involving personal, family, economic, social and political situations.

However, I was recently in charge of the relocation of foreign personnel to open a Costa Rican branch of a consolidated transnational company and this involved a significant deployment of management and comprehensive advice.  Indeed, this type of assignment involves different challenges related to the coordination between areas and parties involved, organization between the relocation process and immigration procedures, and making sure to comply with a strict work schedule to cover different fronts.

The general process of the new company and the specific process of each employee and their families concluded with great success and my team was rated in practically all cases with perfect scores in the service evaluation surveys we sent to our clients, which filled us with pride and satisfaction.

LC: In your opinion, how is technology affecting compliance processes?
Technology has had a significant impact on compliance processes in organizations.

Some of the ways in which technology affects and transforms these processes include task automation, whereby repetitive and manual tasks such as data collection, transaction monitoring and reporting can be automated; data analytics through information analysis tools and big data that enable the processing of large volumes of information to identify patterns, trends and potential compliance risks; artificial intelligence and machine learning, as they can help identify suspicious transactions in the field of money laundering prevention and fraud detection; and blockchain and smart contracts, as these technologies offer new ways to ensure transparency and traceability of transactions, which can be particularly useful in sectors such as banking, insurance and supply chain.

Ultimately, technology facilitates the implementation of risk management systems that integrate data from various sources to provide a complete view of an organization’s risk profile and enable more informed decision making.

LC: What are the keys to attracting new clients in a firm?
Attracting new clients to a law firm requires a combination of marketing strategies, relationship development and high-quality service delivery. From my experience, the keys to attracting new clients include clearly identifying the target market, building or ratifying a strong brand, online presence, advertising and social media, and networking and relationship building. In turn, it will be necessary to provide exceptional customer service, which allows for long-term customer retention and can lead to referrals to third parties.

To achieve the above it is essential that the legal team is trained and updated with the latest trends and legal changes to provide current and high quality advice. Similarly, making use of technology is a pillar to achieve efficiency in internal processes and client experience. Finally, it is crucial to be able to adapt and be flexible according to market situations and client needs, which force us to adjust our client acquisition strategies.

I end by adding that customer acquisition is an ongoing process that requires patience, consistency and a focus on building long-term relationships based on trust and service excellence.

LC: What are you passionate about doing in your spare time?

I love to enjoy nature in the company of my family. Going to the beach, to a river, to a mountain recharge me with positive energy and remind me how beautiful the world we have is and how important it is to take care of it, both for our benefit and that of our children.
LC: What advice would you give to women who want to grow in the legal world?

Career growth in the legal world can present unique challenges for women, but there are also many opportunities to advance and succeed.

The advice I could give to women in this profession is to work hard and try even harder than others because our road is uphill and so we must not let our guard down. It is important, therefore, to strengthen our skills, exploit our areas of strength, build a network of contacts, develop our personal brand, work on our emotional intelligence and soft skills and promote our own work and achievements.

I would end by saying that we must be proactive in our professional development and not wait for opportunities to knock on our door, but rather, we must have a fine-tuned vision that allows us to take on new challenges and responsibilities that can boost our career.

Learn more about Nadia Chaves Zúñiga


Interview: Marina Vanni

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