Emilio Bugs – GFT
As Emilio Bugs began his legal career around 20 years ago, his father offered advice on what lawyers should and shouldn’t do. Long hair and pierced ears? Out of order!
But while his father may have known best from a conventional standpoint, the precocious son had other influences that turned out fine. The young Bugs had grown up listening to Metallica, which factored into his personal grooming habits and his career choice.
During his late teens, the heavy metal band sued Napster for copyright infringement. Rapper Dr. Dre joined in the litigation, and they forced the peer-to-peer sharing service to at least garner permission from the artists before making their music available.
That case having inspired Bugs’ interest in intellectual property and the law itself, he’s gone on to have a distinguished career as an attorney and, in November, celebrated his third anniversary on the GFT legal staff, the last nine months as its director for Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States.
A wild ride
All of which seemed to have Bugs humming “Ride the Lightning” when he spoke this past fall with Vanguard from the Brazilian office of the German-headquartered infotech service provider and software developer.
It’s not normal, he says, for a global company with bases in the U.S. and Europe to have a legal director outside the Northern Hemisphere, and he appreciates GFT’s progressive outlook that so befits its aggressive game plan. The company’s moving at lightning speed as it harnesses the strengths of the wired world for its industrial, financial and insurance clientele, paving an innovation roadmap through the cloud, artificial intelligence, mainframe modernization, Blockchain/DLT, Internet of Things or whatever’s next.
As the one who calls the legal shots from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Bugs recognized early that a company with high-tech, cutting-edge services couldn’t run its legal department with an old-school mentality that adhered to strict but out-of-date guidelines. Just as James Hetfield set Metallica’s aggressive, out-of-the-box tone during the early 1980s, Bugs would do the same for the GFT legal department.
“It’s something I’m very proud of,” he says. “When I arrived, legal was very traditionally oriented and inflexible. I changed that mindset so we could be a business partner with an open-door policy and as informal as possible, especially in our communication. Legal is another strategic department in a complex corporate environment and must be as close as possible to the company’s business.
“Luckily, I have a fantastic team that shares the same idea and vision. They helped make the legal team one of the most well-recognized and respected teams in the company,” he says.
The deals now seal faster with the legal department immersed from the beginning and Bugs familiarizing himself with a prospective client’s needs. Such proactiveness is essential, he says, because everywhere, clients are becoming more hardnosed about negotiations. The sheer complexity of these deals also makes it hard to manage expectations, but Bugs prides himself on getting all parties on common ground.
“By participating early in the process, we (legal) can answer questions quickly, have a better insight on the company’s offers and its related risks, as well as to manage clients’ expectations to close the deal,” he says. “Only after we have that knowledge can we effectively negotiate and create the contract.”
And while he’s got contractual templates, Bugs reminds us that each client is unique. The relevant financial institution risk might not be such an issue for an insurance firm or a fintech. Through his legal department acting as a business department and meeting with clients, it knows what’s needed and what GFT has to offer. Among the positive byproducts is better all-around relations.
“At the end of the day, we are all people,” Bugs says.
Still fairly new to his position, Bugs intends to make the most of it, consolidating his responsibilities in the United States and helping GFT expand its Latin American footprint. He’s more involved in strategic decisions, which is how he perceives the role of a well-rounded legal director.
“Though my experience is in intellectual property, I try to avoid being very specialized,” he says. “I want to be as experienced as possible in many areas of the law and remain friendly and informal. But that changes when chatting with a judge or governmental official.”
Those conversations are inevitable as GFT grows and makes greater use of AI and other tools for which the regulatory framework remains a work in progress. Any industry tends to grow faster than its referees, and it’s especially true in the tech world.
For Bugs, that includes keeping his employer compliant with the rules and regulations of multiple countries on this side of the Atlantic. But it’s all part of being a legal director, a role he achieved at a relatively young age and one he had been preparing for even while listening to heavy metal.
Those who looked beyond his hair and heavy metal passion saw a serious young man who earned his law degree in 2008 at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in Sao Paulo. He honed his skills at a couple of local firms for the next seven years, during which he earned a Master of Law from Queen Mary University of London and did a short stint as a Brazilian associate at a British firm, Taylor Wessing.
By 2015, Bugs was ready for his first in-house role, a five-and-a-half-year stretch at the Brazilian office of the German software multinational SAP. He then logged a few months as a self-employed IP, contracts and privacy consultant before joining GFT as a senior legal manager and data protection officer.
He ascended the ladder and now oversees a legal team of six people in Brazil and Mexico. This half-dozen comprises a department as essential to GFT’s growth as any of its counterparts. GFT boasts a Brazilian workforce of around 3,000, one of the nation’s top players here but with much room to grow in South and North America.
Bugs will keep growing his credentials while balancing his professional and personal lives. Life’s good in Sao Paulo, where he lives with his lawyer wife, Monique, his 6-year-old daughter, Ana Luiza, and their two dogs, Bowie and Leia. His hair’s shorter now, and the earring is not always in place anymore, but he retains a youthful enthusiasm for sports (with an “almost unhealthy passion” for his soccer team, Palmeiras, as he says), entertainment, board games, cinema, video games and, of course, Metallica, which is still going strong after more than 30 years and for whom Bugs may owe a moral debt.
“The whole Napster case got me interested in IP, as it showed me that the law career was not all about courtrooms, criminal or labor law, and there were hundreds of different opportunities to be explored, which was enlightening for a young and confused high school student,” he says. “So, I can say that Metallica inspired me personally and professionally…and Nothing Else Matters!”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2024 Edition here.
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