Law firms in the Algarve are more than prepared to welcome those who want to start their lives in Portugal and this is the case of AG International in Almancil, a firm that works with more than 80 percent foreign clients.
The story of the company began in 1997 when Cláudia de Sousa Antunes opened her first law office and then, in 2009, Gustavo Lopes Guerreiro joined the team. In the meantime, they moved their office from Faro to Almancil. “We enjoy bringing happiness to our clients, it’s very rewarding for us to see happy people when they get their nationality or even when buying a house and I think that’s what unconsciously made me chose this path”, said Cláudia de Sousa Antunes, senior lawyer at AG International.
The pandemic brought challenges, but it also brought solutions. “During the pandemic we created a digital helpdesk to respond to Covid-19 and to promote efficient communication. If the client has a question, they can go to our website, can contact our operator directly and then report the situation and forward it to the lawyer versed in that area”, said Gustavo Lopes Guerreiro, senior lawyer and former IT entrepreneur. The helpdesk is a place where people can also upload documents and use a variety of other tools, including making digital payments and receiving the corresponding invoices.
The main goal is: “Always to try to avoid wasting time and to try to be as direct as possible” And this is what can make all the difference because “this helps us now in the pandemic because travel is reduced, it then also helps to reduce the response time that the lawyer can give to the client, using technology and keeping total privacy, complying with all ethical rules and the DGS rules as well”, he explained. So, communication through sophisticated IT systems makes justice easy and without bureaucracy. The same happened when Portugal implemented the courts IT system called Citius.
AG digital help desk consists mainly in a chat application with extra tools. They believe that chats are 10 times more efficient than emails. “Chats work 10 times faster than emails and these tools are available to everyone”. Conveyancing, Corporate Law & Investment and Litigation. “I started my career with litigation and what I really like is private law, even contract law, administration and especially tax law”, and at the moment Claúdia works a lot with conveyancing. “I like the relationship between me and the client, from the beginning, when we sign the power of attorney, until the end, which is usually the acquisition of the property. I really enjoy the whole process”.
The real estate area of the firm is very extensive, which means that AG International lawyers have to be ready to deal with a different range of situations. “For example, for those who come to live and work in Portugal must comply to lots of legal obligations, like getting their tax number, the golden visa, or the normal residence. This then opens up many things that we have to do for clients, it’s not enough to just get residence, it takes a lot effort, for the client to actually arrive and have everything done in Portugal, it’s not just the real estate business. These people need a representative, because it’s hard to do everything alone”, they told The Portugal News. Starting a new life in Portugal is a decision that brings responsibilities, including tax ones, which leads many people to consider legal support. In fact, it is hard to follow all the rules that come into force every year.
And now that the UK has left the European Union, there are new obligations that everyone should pay attention to. “For example, if the clients are from the UK and are not tax resident in Portugal, they must have a tax representative in Portugal”, the lawyer said. Often getting things done alone can be hard. “For the Portuguese it’s difficult, but for a foreigner who comes here it is worse. Then, with the pandemic the problems have increased because everything has been closed”, said Cláudia, who added that by paying for a legal service, people can “go to a law office and simply arrange a power of attorney to purchase, lease, do whatever they want, it’s all done by the firm”.
There is a world of paperwork that everyone should be aware of but can be done by a lawyer if a client chooses, such as for “those who the status of non-habitual resident is granted, you have to be careful because every year you have to file IRS, otherwise you’re going to be fined”, said Cláudia. “This is what we call preventive law, rather than coercive law”. Gustavo more than anyone else agrees with this, after a career as an IT entrepreneur, he decided to go to law school to become a lawyer. In 2008 he joined Claudia and together they created this partnership. Gustavo Lopes Guerreiro practices Corporate Law & Investment. ”I prefer to help my client to create structure, avoiding any mistakes, instead of trying to reduce the losses after the mistake. I advise companies, from the legal to commercial structure, passing over tax advice”, he told The Portugal News.
Since he joined Claúdia in the law firm, Gustavo has always tried to use his know how to improve their legal practise, from creating software to improving productivity to make procedures easier for the client. “Our code of ethics says that we must use all of our resources for the benefit of the client and as I have experience in managing, I merged the two activities”. “I use informatics tools and applications that I developed to bring the client and the lawyer closer, to break the traditionalism that I consider to be an obstacle to communication”, said Gustavo.
In addition to the office in the Algarve, AG International has partners in Porto and in Cascais, as well as representations in London, Dublin, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Stockholm, São Paulo, Moscow, Tokyo and Seoul.
For further information visit the AG International website at: https://www.aginternational.eu/
Published on The Portugal News on the 11th June 2021