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What was your route to the top? I was born and raised in Patagonia in the south of Argentina. After leaving high school, I moved to the capital city of Buenos Aires to study law. After graduating suma cum laude, I was certain that I wanted a career with international prospects, so I decided to spend a year in Germany and France with the aim of improving my language skills. On returning to Argentina, my French and German came in useful as I was hired as a finance lawyer by Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal, one of only a handful of local law firms with international clients. After working there for three years, I moved to France to pursue a master’s degree in business law. I graduated cum laude from the University of Pantheon-Sorbonne and obtained an internship at Freshfields’ Paris office to work with their already top-ranked international arbitration team. At that time, a newly-elected partner (correctly) predicted that Latin America would become the new leading region in terms of the number of investor-state disputes, particularly in Argentina, which had recently emerged from severe economic crisis. This newly-elected partner, now head of Freshfields’ arbitration team worldwide, believed that my legal training, together with my background and languages, would be a good fit for the firm’s ambitions in the region. I was given a lot of responsibility during my early years. Though it was oftentimes challenging being the only woman in the room, with time my confidence grew, as did my practice and credibility with international clients. This enabled me to start building a team that, like me, had an international outlook but also the local know-how to match it. By 2008, the Latin American arbitration practice had become one of the best in the world and one that Freshfields was looking to expand on the other side of the Atlantic. As a result, I was offered the opportunity to move to New York to continue developing the practice in the US. Within a few years, my colleagues and I had created an even more successful practice with a team dedicated exclusively to disputes in Latin America. In 2014, I was made partner. Four years later, I am proud to lead our US Arbitration Practice and co-lead the firm’s Latin American practice. Importantly, during this time, I have also committed myself to developing the practice of women in international arbitration both within and outside the firm. To this end, I mentor women in the field and I helped found and serve as steering committee member of the Equal Representation in Arbitration initiative, comprised of a group of professionals committed to improving the profile and representation of women in arbitration, particularly as members of tribunals themselves.

James Schroeder

 

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