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Andrew Jánszky joined Shearman & Sterling fresh out of Fordham Law School in 1976, and he’s been with the firm ever since. The bankruptcy, capital markets and M&A attorney was born and raised in Brazil, but didn’t do any work in the region until the early ’90s, when Brazilian markets started opening to foreign investors. Jánszky’s practice became increasingly focused on the area — and his frequent flier miles started building up when he began flying from New York to Sao Paulo about 35 times a year. “American Airlines probably named a few planes after me,” he says. “If they haven’t, they should have.” In 2004, Shearman & Sterling decided that its growing number of Brazilian clients would be better served if their attorneys were a 15-minute cab ride away rather than a 10-hour flight, and opened house in Sao Paulo. At age 52, Jánszky moved his family and his practice back to his childhood home, where he serves as co-managing partner of the Shearman Sao Paulo office, along with Richard Aldrich Jr.


When you first moved, did you experience cultural differences between the U.S. and Brazil? The thing with Brazilians is they like America very much — American goods, American pop music. They look, dress and sound like us. (I don’t know which “us” I am; I have this nationality confusion.) They look like Americans on the surface. But when you start living, working and interacting with them, you see they actually have their own way of thinking, their own logic and their own way of doing things that’s very different from the American way. Here you might think, “Hey, this is just another part of the Americas.” That’s a mistake. There was any number of things I had to adjust to. It wasn’t like living in New York. What was the biggest adjustment? I had to adjust to the fact that Brazilians don’t like to say “no.” We joke that the Brazilians use the word “complicated” rather than “no.” It’s a bit of an issue, but we can get around it. Americans are more direct, they’ll say “no way.” Living here, if you ask someone for something like a glass of water, and they say “it’s complicated,” that could mean they don’t have water, or they’re closed. That’s permeated the culture. In part it’s emblematic of a nice tradition — people want to please, not disappoint. New Yorkers seem to revel in disappointing. It was a very nice change of pace, but sometimes it leads to confusion or misunderstandings. You’re thinking, “It’s complicated, but I’ll take care of it.” They mean, “No, it won’t happen.” How are the legal systems different? The Anglo-Saxon legal system is very pragmatic, precedent-oriented and fact-specific. It comes from a long, multi-century history of applying principles to fact. The civil law system is much more precept-and doctrine- and theory-oriented. The training is, as a consequence, quite different in civil law countries. We’re trained to be very analytical in dissecting the facts in the U.S. We look for small things and narrow issues. Brazilian law tends to be more sweeping and generalized with more doctrines rather than this-or-that particular case. It leads to significant differences in thinking and problem-solving. Not worse, not better — quite different. Is there any competition with local firms? No, we do very different things. They’re surgeons and we’re interns. Clients who need surgery go to surgeons; clients with a stomachache come to us. We do capital markets work, M&A, and private equity. We’re not allowed to practice Brazilian law by regulation — nor do we want to — so we brought our American law expertise here to better serve our clients and get more business, and it’s worked. Has there been an increase in M&A work in Brazil since you’ve been there? Yes, there has been. That tends to be the case when capital markets work goes down. Because equity capital markets aren’t providing as much for companies as they once were, people are looking to sell companies privately. How are your offices different from local Brazilian firms? Sao Paulo offices of Brazilian law firms are becoming bigger and bigger. Many offices have hundreds of lawyers. They feel very much like New York law firms — institutionalized bureaucracies with rules and procedures. We’re a little outpost; we do things in a more relaxed fashion. We make it up as we go. Is the Shearman Sao Paulo office environment different from New York? I think being a much smaller office — 12 of us here, as opposed to hundreds of us in New York — leads to a very different environment. We tend to be necessarily closer. There’s no picking and choosing of colleagues. We’re stuck here together. You can’t walk away from someone and say, “He’s a jerk.” That leads to an atmosphere where people try not to be jerky. It’s like an acting troupe. We’ve been together a long time; we’re used to each other. What is the after-work culture like? An interesting thing is that we don’t socialize all that much outside the office. I consider it an entirely good thing. We’re not a little clump of isolated people thrown together who have to be friends. People have developed lives here. I think it’s a good thing we all have our own lives and our own friends. Does Shearman offer perks for working abroad? There are different rules for different places, depending on the cost of living. The associates here are all paid on a U.S. basis — they’re paid the same salaries as they would have if they were living in New York. We charge our clients the same, and we pay the same. We don’t make any allowances for the fact that we’re down here. But there’s recognition of the fact that life is different and more expensive in Sao Paulo than New York, and you get an adjustment depending on where you live. In Sao Paulo, the dollar has declined very significantly in four years — it’s literally lost half its value — so that’s being taken care of. Can you think of a work incident that happened in Sao Paulo that you wouldn’t have seen in the states? Our building is smoke-free — you know how maniacal people are about that in the United States. There was an attorney on the other side of a huge deal we were working on, and she absolutely, completely and totally refused to abide by that. I told her, “Look, if you insist, you’re gong to have to stay in this small, windowless office.” She was a pretty senior person and was rather irritated about that. She became even more irritated because she has claustrophobia and the door of the windowless office got stuck. She started banging on the door, screaming and yelling. Her faithful sidekick was going to kick the door down. We had just moved into the office three or four months before, and we had beautiful doors, so I started looking very quickly for the key. But he, in fact, kicked the door down. Then she claimed she was joking and didn’t have claustrophobia. This became the talk of the town. The cool thing is she later became a client, and a very dear client.

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