Maria-Alicia Peralta

Legal Director,
Legal, Brazil

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Maria-Alicia Peralta

“I studied at a foreign school in Brazil and I’ve always enjoyed being with people from other parts of the world. It’s no wonder, then, that it was the international scope that first drew me here. Before joining, I’d actually been working as an intellectual property lawyer for several years with two different firms here in Rio de Janeiro. I wanted to get more international exposure, and I was offered this role.

“Going in-house was a big change for me, and a little daunting at first. I had to get to grips with every aspect of the tobacco business: how the product gets from farmers to consumers, and all the processes and controls in place. I also had to get used to the culture, which, as it turns out, is one of the things that keeps me here. The people are incredibly smart and sharp – never afraid to challenge you.

“But if you deliver results, you’ll progress very quickly. I told my manager that I wanted to do more than just intellectual property work, and soon I found myself handling anti-illicit trade cases. Then, together with my husband and child, I moved on secondment to London for a year as a Trademark and Marketing Counsel. This has been my only international posting so far, but it was an experience that was rich in many ways, especially because it helped me gain a true perspective of the company’s scope. 

“Stepping up to my current role was the biggest promotion of my life. Not only am I running all the legal affairs of Souza Cruz, I’ve also joined the management board in Brazil. When they first made me the offer, I was speechless. My expertise in intellectual property was obviously a valuable asset, as was my fluency in English and Spanish. But it was my flexibility and willingness to take on new challenges, I think, that really won the board over.

“Of course, being Head of Legal is a huge responsibility. From commercial and contract cases to personal indemnity and environmental litigation, our business faces a whole range of issues. There are 26 lawyers working for us within the in-house team alone. The work is complex, and very challenging. So, of course, it can get stressful. But, believe me, you will never be bored here. Ever.”