Thinking out of the box, Divina Law rewrites the rules if need be
YOU almost cannot avoid bringing up the subject of Harvey Specter when you meet Nilo Divina, managing partner at the Divina Law.
Beyond the sartorial neatness, the Specter similarities are unmistakable: a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners single-mindedness immediately grabs you, accentuated by a crisp wit. Deeper still lie shared values. He says of the main character in Suits, a legal drama series on American television, “He once said, ‘Win a no-win situation by rewriting the rules.’ I think our [firm’s] motto of ‘dynamic lawyering’ is essentially that. We think out of the box, we rewrite the rules when we need to, as long as it is within the bounds of ethics and reason.”
Dynamic lawyering has certainly propelled Divina Law to the top-tier of law firms across the country. Divina Law’s dynamism is reflected in its globalized worldview: “I believe that exposure to cross-border transactions and best practices of law firms abroad are crucial,” Divina explains. “We cannot afford now to close our eyes to international developments or to limit our knowledge to local laws and regulations. We always have to keep up with legal trends, otherwise we will be left out.”
Divina Law, for instance, has an exchange program whereby it sends out lawyers to intern in law firms abroad while it also accepts interns from other law firms. Many of its lawyers have graduated from internationally known universities like Harvard. One of its lawyers, in fact, is currently reading LLM on International Arbitration at the Queen Mary College, in London. “Foreign trainings give our lawyers an edge when it comes to dealing with international clients,” Divina says.
A local affiliate of the LAW, or Lawyers Associated Worldwide, and Legalink, Divina Law is qualified to extend legal services to clients that are expanding their operations and relationships into new domestic and foreign markets. A global association of 100 independent law firms in more than 50 countries, the LAW provides access to over 4,000 lawyers worldwide. Legalink, on the other hand, is a non-exclusive, international legal network of over 60 independent business-oriented law firms, whose members are mostly from the world’s main commercial centers. Composed of more than 3,000 legal professionals, Legalink operates internationally, but delivers personally multi-jurisdictional legal services.
Divina does not want to stop at just having foreign affiliations, however. He says, “We want to be a regional firm, with offices in Shanghai or Beijing, Australia, HK—this is our dream, our vision.” His ambition for his firm is strategic, yet rooted in his confidence in Filipino lawyers as world-class. Last year, Divina took a big step forward, setting up shop in Singapore—an initiative which, though barely a year old, is already breaking even.
With the world economy becoming increasingly globalized, he says, businesses will require access to the best legal services worldwide. “International arbitration, for instance, is a field where our lawyers can actively participate,” Divina says. “While many jurisdictions use common law and ours is mostly civil law, we are able to adapt.”
‘Better than ever’
A dozen years ago, Divina Law was a five-lawyer operation, working out of a 220-square-meter office space. Today, it occupies the entire 8th floor of the Pacific Star Bldg., in Makati. “I am very proud to say that we are doing better than ever,” Divina shares, beaming. “Our lawyers and clientele continue to grow. Our office keeps expanding. I can say confidently that when it comes to legal scholarship, dexterity, diligence and creativity, our lawyers are among the best. When you meet a Divina Law lawyer, you can immediately sense that desire to be excellent always.”
The desire for excellence has also driven the practice to venture into related services, such as conducting seminars on the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) program and data privacy, which have attracted clients wanting to know more about these subjects. “It’s a crowded market, there are so many lawyers out there,” Divina says. “But there is always room for a law firm that’s dynamic, creative, and innovative. It may be overcrowded, but the right firm will always find its place.”
Divina may exude the fierce focus of the driven, but he also displays the equanimity of a man in touch with his soul and spirituality. In the middle of his expansive headquarters lies a chapel. He says no other law firm in the whole world—not just in the Philippines—has a chapel as part of its office. Appropriately so, for the Divina Law.