We continue our monthly feature, “Upfront & Personal”, a column created by Rose Ors that brings “the person behind the title” to the forefront in interviews with some of the most influential members of the legal community.
Jorge Fernández González is General Counsel, Latin America & Global Channel Services at 3M Company, and he spoke recently with Ms. Ors, the CEO and Founder of ClientSmart, about the significant moments in his career, the value of learning other languages, and what his perfect day would be like.
Rose Ors: What has been the most significant moment in your career?
Jorge Fernández: I’ve been with 3M for more than 15 years and during this time I’ve had a number of significant career opportunities. But without a doubt, the chance to come to the United States and take on my current role has been the most significant. It’s so unique. Here I am, a European guy in Minnesota, helping my clients — many born and raised in the Midwest — do business in Latin America. It presented such an interesting business challenge and an equally interesting personal journey that I had to say “yes.” It’s been extremely rewarding on both fronts.
Rose Ors: What have been some of the things that have surprised you in this new role?
Jorge Fernández: I was initially concerned about supervising a significant number of lawyers in multiple countries — Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, etc. Never having managed a remote team, I thought it would be a big challenge. I was used to having most of my team in physical proximity to me. I could walk around and talk to each of them. So, from that scenario, to the polar opposite, was more than a little worrisome going in. Luckily, I have a fantastic team and my concerns quickly disappeared. Remote supervision become my new normal.
Rose Ors: What do you want to learn how to do better?
Jorge Fernández: I enjoy learning new languages and continuously strive to improve my language skills. I studied Chinese. I probably will never be fluent in Chinese, but over the years I learned that studying languages gives you a new level of understanding of the people and their culture.
I’ve found that one of the wonderful benefits of learning a new language is that my view of the world expands and becomes more inclusive. Being multilingual has enriched my life and made me a better person.
Rose Ors: What languages do you speak?
Jorge Fernández: My native tongue is Spanish. I can also communicate in English, French and Portuguese. Having lived in Europe most of my life made it easy to learn French; and due to my current position, I have an opportunity to practice Portuguese. Of course, now that I live in the United States, I get to practice my English every day.
Rose Ors: What does a perfect day look like to you?
Jorge Fernández: I have a passion for understanding the root cause of business issues and providing our clients creative solutions to those challenges. A perfect business day is when my clients acknowledge we delivered on that.
One toolset that allows me and my team to offer practical solutions and balanced risk assessments is metrics and data analytics. These tools help us have a bird’s eye view of the legal necessities of our clients. They give us the ability to ask ourselves meaningful questions such as: What areas of practice demand more attention and why? Are we allocating time and resources to the most critical issues? Is there room for the legal team to be more productive?
You only get accurate answers to those questions if you have strong metrics and analytics. With that robust foundation we have confidence that we can help our clients make good decisions. It’s a powerful way for me and my team to add value to our company.
Rose Ors: What I understand you saying is that you start with the question of “why”.
Jorge Fernández: Exactly. The question of why my clients have a business issue is not always readily apparent. It’s only when you put together metrics, analytics, look at the dashboard, understand history and trends, and then the answer to why becomes more evident. There could be multiple solutions for a legal issue, but when you analyze it in the context of multiple metrics, the answer may be different.
Lawyers are usually more comfortable analyzing case law, rather than numbers and graphics. But today you need to do both to manage risks properly and give the best advice to your clients.
Rose Ors: In another life what person, living or dead, would you be thrilled to have over for dinner?
Jorge Fernández: I really like that question because in thinking of who I would invite, I became excited and emotional when I realized that it would be my son. I thought about how magnificent it would be for me to talk to my son when he turned 80. I don’t know, just dreaming of having my 80-year-old son in front of me was a profound feeling.
Rose Ors: What would you ask your son?
Jorge Fernández: I would ask him about how he lived his life — the adventures he had, the good he did. I would ask him if he had a happy life. I would also ask him if he thought I was a good father.
Rose Ors: I, too, have a son and listening to you has me misty-eyed. How old is your son?
Jorge Fernández: He is three years old.
Rose Ors: Now for the final question: What advice would you give to a newly appointed general counsel?
Jorge Fernández: To have fun. I mean the work is going to be difficult and demanding. There will be many hard moments. But, if you are passionate about what you do, then be grateful for that passion and enjoy it. This outlook will greatly benefit you and those you lead.
This interview has been edited and condensed by Rose Ors.