Marlene de Sousa Teixeira is Founding Partner of Teixeira & Guimarães, specializing in Banking and Finance and advising and representing both national and global companies. Marlene believes that today’s society needs focused, assertive and faster answers, and that the standard model of a full-service legal firm is becoming less attractive. Here she offers her insights into dispute resolution in Portugal and the challenges that her clients face.
Can you provide a brief overview of the dispute resolution process in Portugal?
The dispute resolution process in Portugal, from a technical point of view, has considerably evolved in the past. Being from a different nature when compared to common law countries, the process is based on Civil Law and its general and abstract legal standards apply to generality and abstraction of situations and where judge-made law has a different value than that of common law countries. This results in better legal certainty in regards to the different kind of economic players, since the kind of interpretation of the ruling is also determined legally.
In regards to less positive aspects, in Portugal, we are faced with frequent delay in the delivery of verdicts. However, this does not mean the decisions are more or less fair, or that the quality of the verdicts is not good enough.
How important can it be to resolve disputes as quickly as possible? What are the challenges you face as a lawyer tasked with understanding the technical nature of a business so that a speedy resolution can be found?
The resolution time of a dispute should always be a variable to be taken into account in all matters that relate to coming up with a solution. Understanding the technical nature of a business will not help you make a faster or slower decision. It is clear that if you understand the core of a business, you are going to be assertive and efficient, but the problem is not going to be settled faster because of your know-how. Yet, the know-how will provide you with several other advantages and will introduce you to more hypotheses.
Which types of disputes are you normally called upon to help resolve? How do you develop the best strategy for resolving a dispute?
Usually, I am called to intervene in cases of financial, banking and civil nature – that is my main area of expertise. In fact, T&G was the first law firm in Portugal to be certified by the new standard EN NP ISO 9001:2015 within credit litigation.
Regarding the strategy procedures, the best way to think about it is getting to know the interests in a dispute, because a good strategy doesn’t necessarily mean a winning strategy. In many circumstances, a good strategy means acting in a certain way, regardless of the verdict.
Are there any business sectors that are particularly prone to commercial disputes? What do you attribute this to?
In the past few years, Portugal has witnessed the development of our financial industry. A number of national courts are clogged with mortgage foreclosures and debt recovery lawsuits on unsecured credits. It is clear that a lot of these litigation proceedings were due to the economic situation.
Although this has improved in the past few recent months, it is easy to identify a pattern and easily predict that lawsuits related to foreclosures or debt recovery will definitely continue to be relevant.