LLM alumnus named vice general counsel for Nokia Mexico

Victor Manzano (LLM ’07) has an affinity for racing, whether it involves stock cars, Rally cars or some other type of sleek, well-tuned machine. His career in law offers an interesting parallel.

Manzano recently was named vice general counsel for Nokia Mexico and Labor Counsel for Latina America. Before that he was a senior associate at Gardere Arena y Asociados, S.C. in Mexico City, where he supported the previous General Counsel for Nokia on domestic and international operations.

It’s more than a new job he says. “This is much more like my old job but on steroids.”

Everything happens so fast that you have to switch to automatic mode to be able to deliver, and you do not have a huge team behind you to help. Likewise, you can rear-end some other cars and hit a couple of obstacles, and it is fine.

In racing terms, working in a law firm is comparable to a Formula One race, which involves a super fast, ultra-expensive yet delicate machine charging toward the checkered flag on a pristine track.

“In the law firm, the work product is perfect, the documents are flawless and the ideas therein were approved by different layers of specialists,” he says.

His current role is more like a demolition derby, which, well, is pretty much the antithesis of the spectacle that is Formula One. The goal, though, remains the same.

“Everything happens so fast that you have to switch to automatic mode to be able to deliver, and you do not have a huge team behind you to help. Likewise, you can rear-end some other cars and hit a couple of obstacles, and it is fine.”

Manzano is now responsible for five local business departments — product care, marketing, human resources and labor affairs, open distribution and logistics — and two regional – in the Caribbean and South America — business departments, those being marketing and labor. Manzano also oversees the legal organization of the Reynosa (Mexico) manufacturing facilities, including more than 3,000 workers. He works in Mexico City; his boss, the general counsel for Latin America, is in Brazil.

“In the company, some things may call for further and deeper analysis, but it is not possible when you have the service provider ready to load several trucks with raw materials that need to be on site in less than 12 hours and the responsible party is sleeping on the other side of the world, and you have to make an executive decision.

“In the firm, you have time to think and colleagues to discuss it with. Here, you have your good judgment and business instinct — that’s it,” says Manzano, who at 17 took a job with a notary public — in civil law countries such as Mexico the position typically filled by a well trained attorney.

“My job with him was, basically, making copies of legal documents and walking around the city collecting information related to the operations he attested — birth certificates, letters of credit, copies of official identifications, etc.”

Manzano was born and raised in Mexico City; his mother an attorney, his father an engineer. He attended Instituto Tecnologico Autónomo de México/ ITAM, one of the country’s most prestigious law schools, from which he holds the equivalent of a J.D. in the U.S.

His ambition, coupled with the desire to be the consummate lawyer, brought him to the U.S. and to Wake Forest University.

“One of the reasons I decided to be part of an LLM in the U.S. was my frustration when, while working as an international attorney, sending a contract to a client in the U.S. would usually mean the frustration of getting most of it stricken out and receiving in exchange a document with completely unreasonable covenants – at least for me at that time.”

Now, Manzano says, he can even explain to a client why a certain law or code does not apply in Mexico and also offer analysis of how the legislation would be applied in similar situations.

“I learned tons of things I keep applying and sharing every day.”

Manzano will cherish his time at Wake Forest for many reasons – the beautiful campus and N.C. countryside; the nightlife and the barbecue; the lasting friendships and the cultural journeys; and the uncommon advice and guidance provided by professors such as Suzanne Reynolds, Susan Montaquila and Alan Palmiter, along with many others.

“I remember a visit to Professor Montaquila’s office when I was looking for a job and a little bit desperate because my work visa was likely not to arrive in time,” he says. “I didn’t receive any good job offers, I wasn’t so sure I was going to return to my law firm … She advised me to be patient, to do my best at all times, to let things flow and not to embrace something that may never happen. The only thing I have to say is that she was right.”

Recently married, Manzano spends much of his time commuting between Reynosa and Mexico City. He still finds time for the other loves of his life – music, running and, of course, racing.

What’s next? To hear him tell it, only God knows.

“The funny side of my personal story is that I never think, ‘I want to get here,’ and after that ‘I want to go there,’ and in the meantime ‘achieve x and y.’ I only go with the flow. The trick is to compete with yourself; the battleground comes along with the road you have taken. If you think you already know all that is to be known about law, I bet you are doing something really wrong. To be humble at all times and to know that out there is someone who knows more than you do – and I bet there is — is enough to keep this game amusing forever.”

– By John Trump