by Craig Levinson, Levity Partners LLC
Colombian Legal Partners (“CLP”) engaged my company to interview its lawyers and clients for its website. Over my 20 years in legal sales and marketing, I have interviewed many a law firm managing partner for the mandatory “About The Firm” web page. It’s one of the first interviews I do, because I find that the tone of a law firm is almost always a reflection of its leader’s vision and moral compass.
Far too often, however, I hear about management style, client stature, and record profits, when I really want to hear about a mission, a calling, and real purpose. In two decades, however, I must say that no one has ever answered my questions quite like Diana Pizano, the lead partner at CLP.
I asked Diana what it was about her job that gets her out of the bed each morning. She immediately responded by saying, “Lawyering. It’s in my DNA. It’s how I breathe, I think, I act. My day is not complete if I’m not providing legal advice that helps someone reach his or her goals.” And I could see that same level of purpose and drive in her associates, Sara García López and Laura Osorio Duque.
“Diana is what an advocate is supposed to be,” says Andrew Campion, a peer and client of CLP. “She’ll bend over backwards, sacrifice her spare time, and work into the wee hours if need be — simply because she can’t bear to break a promise to a client. She has this hard-wired need to assist people. She’s also an unflinching negotiator on behalf of her clients — particularly in immigration matters, real estate and business transactions, and procuring Colombian Visas.”
And while Ms. Pizano doesn’t shy away from litigation (the most expensive of all legal disciplines), she often knows that a prolonged legal battle is not in the best interest of either party — hence her popularity as a mediator. “Whoever said there are two sides to every story was genuinely mistaken,” says Ms. Pizano. “There are actually three (3) sides: there’s yours, there’s your opponent’s, and then there’s the truth. Bringing the parties together, listening intently to them, and asking a set of pointed questions that help them converge at some middle ground will often prevent an expensive, time-intensive, and exhaustive trial.”
What may be most unique is Diana’s pricing, which is fixed, fair, and consistent — it does not fluctuate for foreigners. “There is a term out there, of which I am not fond,” says Ms. Pizano, “known as the ‘gringo tax.’ It’s a professional purposely increasing his or her rates for foreigners not as familiar with Colombian laws, business practices, pricing, and the language.”
“It’s particularly despicable in the legal arena, in that it’s an attorney blatantly taking advantage of a client’s ignorance. In a profession bound by an ethical code, where’s the honor in overcharging foreigners – whose unfamiliarity with Colombian business generally makes them our most vulnerable clients?”
Treating clients ethically, I discovered, is the all-embracing bellwether that guides the professional decisions of Ms. Pizano, and her colleagues at CLP. And while legal ethics (e.g. client confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest) are predominant, I’m referring more to professional ethics — the notion that you value clients like they are members of your own family, while respecting each one’s individual personality, needs, and issues.
Satisfied clients seem to return to Colombia Legal, not just because of the firm’s stellar legal work, but because each client knows that his or her own self-interest – not the law firm’s — is paramount. That’s something one rarely sees in this world. It’s an example of excellent lawyering…
…and it’s, frankly, the only way CLP knows how to do business.