Member Spotlight: Helen Naves

By Christian Nolan

November 1, 2021

Member Spotlight: Helen Naves


By Christian Nolan

Naves, of HNaves Advogados, a São Paulo-based banking, finance, and capital markets boutique, is admitted to practice in New York and is a member of NYSBA’s International Section.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I became a lawyer because I have always enjoyed reading and writing and I knew that I could have a career in the international area. I spent my senior year in high school in the U.S. as an exchange student, and after that experience I decided to go to law school and learn more about the different types of legal systems in the world. I made plans to go back to the U.S., continue my studies in law and have a career in the international field.

You live and practice in Brazil but you are also admitted in New York. Why did you choose New York?

I chose New York because, in my experience as a banking and finance lawyer, most of the cross-border contracts are governed by New York law. I’ve learned that New York, as a major financial center, has developed laws and case law friendly to cross-border matters and international agreements. Also, much of the history in finance matters happened in New York and various rules and regulations in Brazil were developed based on the U.S. legal system. When I worked as in-house counsel for banks in Brazil, I had a close contact with law firms in New York and I felt that, having an education in New York, would give me the necessary skills to continue to work in the area.

How did you decide on your practice area?

My first work experience was as an intern student in a Brazilian bank doing international matters. As a very young law student, I had the opportunity to work with very complex finance and investment matters and cross-border transactions which gave me such a specific knowledge and experience that most of my friends from law school didn’t have. I believe that this experience gave me a practical incentive to work in this area. Also, having English as a second language was a key factor, which allowed me to do international work.

Why did you become so actively involved with NYSBA International Section’s Brazil chapter?

I lived in New York City in 2007 when I had my first work experience as a summer associate in a U.S. law firm. In 2008-2009 I did my LL.M. also in New York City, and after, I worked as international associate at another top U.S. law firm. I joined NYSBA during that time, but when I moved back to São Paulo in 2010, my friend, Rafael Villac, told me about the Brazil chapter. I joined the group and became more active because I wanted to stay connected to New York and meet new people who have had the same experience abroad as I did.

What is the best life lesson that you have learned?

The best lesson I’ve learned is definitely to prize and nourish friendships and professional contacts. Since my experience as a young exchange student, I’ve learned to keep in touch with friends and contacts throughout the years. Today, I am confident that part of my achievements as a lawyer comes from my relationships with friends and colleagues that I’ve met during the past 20 years. I have made precious friends and business contacts at NYSBA and it’s been such a pleasure to be part of the Brazil chapter. Clients choose better lawyers when they know and trust the person. Client-attorney fertile relationships are built over time and the element of trust and admiration is essential, in my opinion.

Lawyers should join the New York State Bar Association because . . .

NYSBA is such a diverse and friendly community open to lawyers from all over the world who want to be integrated and connected to their peers. It’s a place to learn about the law, which is constantly evolving and to share professional experiences. NYSBA is also an environment to feel welcomed and valued no matter where you come from and the type of law you practice.

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