SOFIA MARTOS – LA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?

I am an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where I work in our Latin America, capital markets and sovereign debt management practices. Prior to law school, I completed a Ph.D. in Latin American History, and prior to that I studied International Relations and Spanish in college. I was on track to become a history professor when I realized that by building upon my studies through law, I could expand my skills and create a wider range of future opportunities. I am very glad I took the leap—today my work not only engages my interests in international relations, economics and law, but it allows me to actively participate in events that have the potential to shape history.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?

The stakes are often quite high in my work, so my biggest challenge is finding the right balance between confidence and diligence. I have to trust my instincts and my efforts in order to move through tasks and deliver assurance. At the same time, I have to be certain that I have analyzed every question thoroughly and that I have produced my very best work product. My colleagues and my clients depend on me to be assertive, efficient and exhaustive. At times, these simultaneous and somewhat contradictory demands can be stressful, but experience helps me find my equilibrium.

What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement as a lawyer has been working as the lead associate at Cleary for Government of Belize’s debt restructuring in 2013 and the Government of Grenada’s restructuring in 2015. Having witnessed firsthand how a sovereign debt challenges wreaked havoc on the day-to-day lives of my own family members in Argentina, being able to address these issues also holds personal significance. As the only associate on each of the Belize and Grenada restructuring teams, I had a pivotal role throughout the process. I worked closely with representatives of each government and reviewed recent developments and precedent in the region to prepare the offering documentation that would be given to bondholders to solicit votes for the exchange offer. I helped develop strategies for negotiations with committees of creditors. Once the exchange offers launched, I was responsible for organizing the successful close of the exchanges. Working on the Belize and Grenada restructurings was not only fascinating, it was empowering—it made me see how I could use my unique background and skills to positively and directly impact the financial system of a country.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?

I really admire multifaceted individuals that exhibit both curiosity and creativity in their work and interests. These kinds of dynamic leaders and thinkers are able to draw on a range of ideas to solve problems and inspire others. For example, one of my mentors at Cleary is truly a leader in his field, and a lot of his success is due to his intellectual curiosity and love of history and literature. When he writes an article or gives a lecture on a topic many people would deliver in dry legalese, he instead delivers a surprising or humorous analogy that makes people not only understand the issue perfectly, but also remember it vividly in the future. As leaders, these types of people are dynamic, try new roles, and bring fresh approaches to the tasks at hand. And as someone who loves learning, I enjoy seeing people turn inquisitiveness into an asset for their careers and their community.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I would like to remain engaged in international transactions, particularly sovereign debt management, because this work offers a fascinating combination of law and international politics. I look forward to taking on greater leadership roles as I continue to gain experience in an area of law that I really enjoy.

What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?

Don’t be afraid to take risks. Sometimes focusing too much on getting things perfect or obtaining a particular goal can lead us to shy away from uncommon paths or new skills, and can make failure feel particularly debilitating. In contrast, when you focus on learning and growth, you see change, novel experiences and even failure as an opportunity to improve. Professor Carol Dweck writes about this “growth mindset” and how it fosters performance over time. I think it also leads to a richer life.

Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?

I have been fortunate to have had many mentors over the years, and I think it is important to continue to build numerous mentor relationships. My mentors have helped me see a wider range of perspectives and opportunities throughout my education and career. As the oldest child of immigrants, mentors helped open doors to me that I barely knew existed. Today, my mentors inspire me to continue to strive.

I also value opportunities to serve as a mentor, be that as a volunteer or in my day-to-day work. One of the reasons I liked teaching so much in the past is that I love building relationships with students to guide them through important milestones, relationships that remain to this day. In the law firm context, I aim to create a team dynamic with junior associates and paralegals, so teaching and mentoring are essential. Three of my former paralegals have gone on to law school and have been hired back at my firm, and it makes me happy to see them achieve their goals.