Taciana Lopes of CGA, LEX Africa’s Mozambique member, talks about oil & gas and work-life balance – May 2013
What are the drivers for the oil and gas industry in Mozambique?
Currently the most significant project for the oil & gas industry in Mozambique is the LNG Project in the Rovuma Basin, and the associated logistics and services projects that are intrinsically connected to such an undertaking. It is expected that the LNG undertaking alone will inject more than 20 billion USD into the economy.
What at the key challenges?
The creation of a cohesive, comprehensive and consistent legal framework that protects both the Mozambicans and the Mozambican Government as well as private Investors. But of course timing is also relevant in light of other competing gas projects in Australia, Qatar and Tanzania.
Is it essential for outside investors to have local Mozambican advice when entering the oil and gas fields?
Absolutely. The oil & gas industry in Mozambique is still developing and maturing. Although international experience plays a big role, local knowledge of the real world in our country, the national law, the local institutions and the institutional articulation is fundamentally important. It means we have a very important and responsible role to play.
On a personal note – you are not only a busy practitioner but a mum with a busy music-industry partner – how are you managing to cope?
Although my working days are long and challenging I always do my best to spend the most time I have available with my family. Frankly, I would like more time with my loved ones but in the hurly burly of practice and what is happening in our economy and how busy CGA is, this is not always feasible. As do all my partners, I just try to ‘keep cool’ and make them as happy as I can.
A friend who was trying to comfort me around work-life balance once told me a beautiful story about a busy father who couldn’t manage to see his children during the day: he used to leave for work very early in the morning and only return when the children were already sleeping. When he arrived home late at night he would always lie in bed with his children, tell them a story, and leave a bunny in their beds. This was so that when they opened their eyes in the morning they would immediately know that their father had been there cuddling them. When I arrive after the children are sleeping I think about this and try to give them a signal that I have been there, and that I will always be there. I also find my balance with my partner and his music – it is so comforting.
In regard to your work what are you truly passionate about?
I am passionate about consistently finding the best solutions for challenging projects and every day to work to improve the quality of our team’s work. We never rest on our laurels.
What do you feel you are best at?
Creating the best possible linkages between CGA and our clients and engagement with our clients.
Do you work with other lawyers in Africa (e.g. LEX Africa) and from around the world – how you find the experience? What is the key to making that work well?
At the moment our practice is working extensively with international law firms, including LEX Africa firms. I have found the experience hugely positive, not only from a professional but also from a personal point of view. The sharing of experiences and learning has been a pillar of our success as professionals, especially in a country where we are dealing with such complex projects and matters, in many cases for the first time. It is very exciting and uplifting.
What is the key to success for a partner practicing in Mozambique?
Trying to be fully dedicated and deeply involved with the new challenges that our country faces. This is an extremely important turning point for the Mozambique economy and I am keenly aware that our input plays an important role.
What are your passions and interests outside work?
When I was young I dreamed of being a singer and interestingly I ended up marrying a professional musician! I love my family, my friends, my music, my sunrise exercise, my books and magazines and last but not least our travels through the landscapes of Africa.
You had a fascinating background before law – what were you doing and why the change to law?
I was previously doing research in relation to the sociology of law in Mozambique. At the time I had the privilege of working with some of the best sociologists in this area, and was involved in most interesting research aimed at making the judiciary world function better for the people and citizens of Mozambique.
In Mozambique I worked at the Legal and Judicial Training Centre where we did a study on formal and informal justice, including alternative dispute mechanisms and access to justice. During my research I had the pleasurable and fortuitous experience of interviewing my future employer which challenged me to bring my experience of the field into a legal practice.
You have developed an enviable reputation and practice in the oil and gas area – what drove you to that? What team do you run? What do you find is the key to team success? Do you cross-over with other partners in your work?
I have always worked with public law and regulatory issues. I became aware that while our energy sector was booming, there were not enough people with expertise in the sector. When I joined the firm I proposed to the Partners of CGA that they create the Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Practice in order to focus on energy and oil & gas projects. Fortunately they agreed and also appointed to the practice two of the most talented young lawyers that I had the privilege to work with. So we got off to a good start!
We started with two projects and currently we are involved in arguably the most interesting and challenging projects in the country at present. It has been very exciting for me, my team and of course CGA. We feel confident it will also be a good outcome for the Mozambican economy.
The members of my team work very closely combining a good technical regulatory know-how with efficiency and practicality in resolving problems and challenges for clients. We look for the best options available. Where appropriate, we call on the other specialised practices of my firm, CGA.