I was born and raised in the province of Cádiz in Andalucía, Spain. To me, Cádiz is undoubtedly the best city in Spain because of the weather, beaches and the easygoing and open attitude of its inhabitants. Until I was 17 years old, I was convinced that I would follow my father’s footsteps and become a doctor—but that quickly changed when I got dizzy simply looking at his medical books. So, given that I love conversation and debates, I decided to study law. Apart from work, I play both the guitar and piano, and enjoy sports like crossfit and football. Fun fact: I’ve been on a quiz show that took place in a taxi—I’m sure you can find the clip somewhere, but I’ll leave that up to you.
Discovering what success means to him
After a change of heart at 17 years old, José Luis began his law degree in Cádiz. This was right as the internet began to peak, and as a result, in the year 2000, he and a few friends decided to take time off their studies to start an IT company focused on designing websites and apps. After a year, he returned to his degree and was later awarded for his academic excellence.
Taking full advantage of his time at university, José Luis gathered a team to compete in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna alongside 200 universities worldwide. This competition was an amazing experience and further confirmed his goal to join a competitive law firm in his future. After graduation, José Luis sent his CV to the top ten law firms he found after an online search for the “best law firms in Spain.”
José Luis began his professional career in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a member of the Magic Circle which comprises the five most prestigious London-headquartered international law firms. At this firm, junior lawyers work in four different departments over six months. While there he practiced finance, tax, corporate and litigation, and ultimately decided to pursue a career as a litigation lawyer. This led him to join the litigations department at Garrigues, the largest firm in Spain.
In 2009, José Luis joined Allen & Overy—another Magic Circle firm—and has been there ever since. He has held various positions such as associate, senior associate and his current role as counsel. Learning from the professionals around him, he also has amplified his soft skills and has been able to serve as a mentor to junior lawyers.
IE University has been present throughout José Luis’ professional career. In 2003, he was selected to participate in IE Business School’s Proyecto Gestalent, a one-month scholarship project for top university students in their final year to learn about business. It was, as José Luis called it, an “express mini-MBA.” During this experience he was able to network and truly see how relevant IE University is as an institution. José Luis attended another IE University program that focused on International Arbitration, and this solidified that he wanted to teach law at an institution as prestigious and diverse as IE University.
In 2020, this dream became a reality for José Luis as he taught his first year at IE Law School. Although it was a difficult year for everyone, he felt incredibly satisfied with his own experience, the obvious improvement of his students’ legal skills and thinking, and the fact that many of his students want to pursue careers as lawyers. This year he taught Civil Law: Contracts, which is a core class not only for lawyers and executives, but also for litigation, tax law and anywhere a contract appears in our personal lives.
Outside of work and the classroom, José Luis enjoys going to the movies or watching TV shows at home—and has even published some critiques in magazines. Two years ago he filmed a holiday video with his colleagues at Allen & Overy which served as a highlight for him at the company, and we at IE University think he should pursue a career in acting. In 2012, he and a friend started learning Chinese and were featured in an ad for the language school. He also participated in a quiz show that aired on television where he got in a cab and was quizzed while heading to his destination.
Asked about the key to success, José Luis believes that this is different for each person based on what they consider to be success. When he started at his first law firm, he was asked by a senior partner if being promoted to partner was his long-term dream. When he answered that he wasn’t sure as it seemed to be a hard life, the partner told a story about a friend who lives in the Canary Islands and sails every day, and he often wonders who was really the successful one—it all depends on your individual definition of success.
He would, however, advise students to set achievable short-term goals towards their personal success, and to be patient and persistent throughout the process. Also, to always do your best, be kind and lead by example.
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