Nicole Nehme is the promise of the economic dispute resolution in Chile
The day in which Michelle Bachelet and her ministers visited the CEP , the President met with several new faces. One of them was Ms. Nicole Nehme, the same lawyer who was invited the day before as a special guest to present a lecture regarding free competition and regulated markets in a “competition day” celebration.
In the years that Nicole Nehme has been around in the legal business- less than a decade- she has gained her place, not for knowing contacted people -in fact both her parents are retailers- but for her own merits, which have opened her doors even in the closest circles of power.
According to her closest people, brilliant is the least of the adjectives you may use to describe Nicole Nehme. At her 33 years she is a senior partner of one of the most important emergent law firm specialized in regulated markets and free competition matters, internationally recognized and already outlined as the great promise of economic dispute resolution in Chile.
Her merits to be on top are plentiful. Through her university studies she was always qualified as an outstanding student. She graduated as a lawyer from Universidad de Chile, after having passed her title thesis and degree exam with the best grade possible, 7. Her grades only confirmed the performance she showed during her career and that made her deserver of the Pedro Nicolás Montenegro award, granted to the best graduate of the promotion (with an average grade of 6,86). Therefore, as her classmates and teachers added, Nicole Nehme was not only the best of her generation, but in several decades.
Good friend, collaborator, concerned about others, responsible, hard working, tidy and methodical. ¿What can be wrong with her? Only her handwriting. “She has an infernal calligraphy, once I made the mistake of studying with one her notebooks and it was awful, I didn’t understand anything”, told one of her ex classmates.
Were her intellectual qualities, precisely, the ones that soon attracted the attention of her teachers. One of them, Jorge Streeter, became her mentor while she collaborated with him as a teacher assistant through her university years. Those who remember when she received the Montenegro Award, told that Streeter in his speech not only emphasized her merits as a student, but he was also grateful for the chance of sharing with someone “so intellectually challenging”.
It would be Streeter the one that took her to Claro y Cía law firm, where she worked side by side with José María Eyzaguirre Baeza, with whom she has until today, an excellent relationship. During her years in Claro & Cía. Nehme addressed the topics that she liked the most: free competition and regulated markets.
A few years later she achieved her professional independence. In year 2000, and after having acquired experience and knowledge by the hand of Streeter and Eyzaguirre, she decided to accept a proposal from her husband, the attorney Rodrigo Ferrada, of creating their own law firm, the one that today is known as FerradaNehme.
In January 2000 they started, “with no more capital than theirs credit lines and scanty savings” as Ferrada told. Their closest friends said that they started without a secretary and that “Nicole answered the phone with a pretended voice”. But the great perseverance of this couple, added to a big dose of intelligence and cleverness, created a legal firm with more than 50 employees and with clients that, according to their competitors, “don’t have anything to envy to the biggest law firms”.
Her analytical skills and extremely rigorous work has allowed her to take cases of great complexity, earning the trust and admiration of her clients. Some of which are: VTR, Innergy Holdings, Gasco, Gas Sur, Lipigas, Transbank, CGE, Praxair, Polpaico, Daewoo, Alsacia-Express, Corpbanca, D&S y Cigna, to name the most relevant. But she not only works in the private area, she also advises the public world. In fact, lately she has been seen in the Ministry of Public Works, in BancoEstado and advising Cenabast and Sernac. Also it is commented that she has been tempted to assume an important position in the current government of President Michelle Bachelet.
Nicole Nehme recognizes to be close to the current government; in fact she is a close friend of the current minister, Paulina Veloso, General Secretary of the Presidency. But she has known how to make this affinity compatible with her function in the private world, where she has multiple admirers. One of them is the current president of CPC , Hernán Somerville, who comments that Nicole “is an excellent professional, is one of the most qualified in topics of competition, besides the fact that she has an extremely pleasing personality, she is precise, concise, rigorous, and in her human treatment she is very charming “.
Another personality that also emphasizes Nehme’s figure is the president of the Metro of Santiago, Blas Tomic: “I know her for several years, when I worked in VTR as CEO. We commissioned her a specific job and immediately we realized that she was a professional out of any standards. Serious, worker, strategic, with a very deep knowledge of laws, and prudent “, these were only some of the adjectives that Tomic used to describe her.
But if her curriculum turns out to be interesting, more is her personal history. Daughter of Lebanese, Nicole was born in Santiago in July of 1973. With only eight months of life, she returned with her parents to Lebanon, where after a small period of time, they had to struggle with the dangers of the civil war that aroused.
This forced the Nehme-Zalaquett to move away from the conflict zone and establish themselves in a village called Rayfoun, while Nicole attended a French college in the suburbs of Beirut. At her young age, she learned Spanish, French and Arabic like her mother tongues, and she used to “devour” books even when she was on vacations.
In 1983 the Nehme Zalaquett decided to return to Chile, after seeing their lives at risk when the small supermarket that her parents owned was bombarded, episode that made them come back to the south of the world without hesitation.
Once in Chile, Nehme entered to the French Alliance, and later to the University of Chile. It was in these environments where she made her first friends in the country, one of them there is Rodrigo Castillo, former attorney of VTR and current general manager of Electrical Companies AG. But this woman not only has time for her work. Her family is her priority, this is why she did not hesitate to leave the law firm for more than 6 months to devote herself to the care of her twin children (León and Pascale), who were born premature.
The Future: London?
Those who know her said that Nicole Nehme has only one possible future: to become the best lawyer in the country in regulation and competition matters. Nevertheless, this woman – enemy of appearing- glimpses in her way other plans at least in the short term. Her closest friends comment that she analyzes the possibility of move to London, where a couple of months ago FerradaNehme opened a representative office. Anyway, she would only stay there for a couple of years, time that she will need to achieve a master degree in economy and to continue paving her way to the top.
In Chile she already has paved the way. She has managed to have an excellent relation with Leonidas Montes and with a part of the Matte family. As people nearby the CEP indicates, they are assessing to invite her to the closest circles of the organism, where she has already been close to Alex Galétovic and Lucas Sierra, who have been the detonators of the constant invitations that the CEP has done to Nehme to collaborate in the topics of interest of the entity.