After channeling billions of dollars of Brazilian project financing deals, Hogan Lovells finance partner Claudette Christian is helping her firm establish a Rio de Janeiro beachhead.

Christian has been handling Brazilian deals since she and legacy firm Hogan & Hartson won a beauty contest in 1997 to arrange energy giant Petrobras’ $2.7 billion Bolivia-Brazil Gas Pipeline Project.

Christian will head the Rio office, which the firm hopes will open during the fourth quarter of this year with four lawyers.

Many firms follow the financial markets to São Paulo, but “Rio as a city is where the infrastructure and growth is likely to attract a lot of equity and debt players in the next several years,” she said.

Hot Rio opportunities include more work for the Rio-headquartered Petrobras, the 2016 Summer Olympics and mining-related legal work.

Christian was working in Latin America “fairly early on in terms of international law firm penetration of that market,” said Benton Hammond, a Washington partner who helps lead the firm’s finance practice group. Without her, Hogan wouldn’t be opening a Rio outpost, Hammond said. “She has really opened the eyes of the firm to the potential of the Brazilian market,” he said.

Between Brazilian deals, Christian has devoted tremendous energy to firm management and championing diversity.

She was on Hogan & Hartson’s seven-member elected executive committee in the run-up to the 2010 merger with U.K.-based Lovells.

For two years following the merger, she served as co-chairwoman of the combined firm’s global board. She’s also the firm’s chief diversity officer, a role that she’ll retain in Rio.

Christian said the firm’s global client base and worldwide operations make diversity a key factor in its success.

“We must always ensure that we bring the best of our global talent. It is very important to me that we do so and offer opportunities for lawyers of all ethnicities, nationalities and gender orientations to be successful,” Christian said.