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Manuela de la Helguera interviews Juan Pablo Hugues
Manuela de la Helguera
Four-C Experts, Mexico City
Juan Pablo Hugues
Foley Hoag, Washington DC
How did you discover your passion for public international law (PIL)?
To some extent, international law has driven my life. I grew up in a small town in Mexico that experienced the economic benefits and social inequalities of the foreign investment brought by the (then) newly signed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This sparked in me a natural interest for social, economic and international affairs. This interest led me to law school. And, at law school in Mexico City, PIL was a perfect match to my interest: it was an international arena, within the practice of the law, with important social and economic implications. And thus, my passion for PIL began. Specifically, I got involved with the Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. The first time I pleaded before the Moot International Court of Justice at that competition, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my career. Hence, since early on, PIL has driven my life.
Can you share your favourite case that you have worked on and why?
That’s a very complicated question, but I think the Guyana v Venezuela case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) (ongoing). This is for many reasons. First, it was my first real case before the ICJ. Second, the case has great (potential) implications for both countries. Third, it is, at its core, an issue of international arbitration, within a pure PIL dispute. This is truly fascinating. Finally, it also presents great challenges given the hostility taken by Venezuela towards the Court’s jurisdiction and the path the case took to arrive at The Hague.
Many people think that success is for the lucky ones, but good luck is a mix of opportunity and preparation. How have you prepared along your life to embrace the opportunities life has given you?
I truly believe that each person is the master of their own destiny. And, to the extent that if you know what you want your destiny to be, and if you actively wish for it and fight relentlessly to construct it, it will eventually come to you. In my case, following these three basic principles has led me exactly to where I wanted to be, and I feel incredibly grateful and honoured for that.
You are a Mexican lawyer practicing international law in the United States. What have been the main challenges to make a career in a foreign jurisdiction and how have you overcome them?
The major challenges have been those that have nothing to do with the actual practice of the law in another jurisdiction. This is the language, the culture, friends, weather and being away from home. Doing what you truly love with someone you love by your side is key to overcoming these struggles.
Who has inspired and motivated you to follow your career path and how?
This is also a very complicated question. Many people have been a source of motivation and/or inspiration throughout my life and my career as an attorney; more specifically law school professors, Jessup Moot Court coaches and teammates, work supervisors, my family and, most importantly, my mother. I can say also that the greatest motivation and/or inspiration has come from people I have come to know personally.
Networking is one of the most important skills for success. Business leaders even say that your network is your net worth. Since you were in law school you have connected with numerous people and invested in building strong relationships. What difference has this made in your professional life?
Networking has been an incredible and unexpected gift from practicing law; international law, particularly. I didn’t actively look or seek to network. It simply came naturally with the practice of international law. And I found it fascinating to meet other people who share the same passion, and to be able to collaborate and grow together. In this vein, the IBA has been a major encounter for me. It has allowed me to continue and foster this networking with many people, in areas and practices of law I never thought possible.
Lawyers experience great stress levels and have a high risk of burnout. How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle and take care of your wellbeing?
I love this question. To some extent, this has always come naturally to me. I had the fortune of growing up in a family that believes greatly in, and practiced heavily, sports. So, I integrated that in my lifestyle since very early on. And I’ve realised that practicing sports everyday keeps me focused and sane. So, I think that’s it. I run every morning and do some strength workouts every night. Almost no matter what. Also, I’ve recently incorporated more mindfulness activities in my life which have proved to have interesting results in my professional performance and my overall wellbeing as well.
What are your three rules to thrive?
Patience, patience and patience. My mother taught me this, by the way (with respect to question 5 above).
What’s next in your career?
I’d love to continue making an impact in world justice and peace, through the practice of law. Specifically, I’m hoping to continue doing this with my current team. I have the enormous fortune to practice with the most active and brilliant minds in international law.