Built for Success: Atty. Mark Gorriceta on Using His Legal Expertise to Help Businesses Grow

Bringing together his legal expertise and passion for giving back, Atty. Mark Gorriceta shares how aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs can build businesses that are legally and ethically moral.

Driven, purposeful, and a seasoned lawyer in his own right, Atty. Mark S. Gorriceta is a name that is tied to many awards, having been recognized as one of Asia’s Top 15 TMT Lawyers (the only Filipino lawyer included in this prestigious list), as well as the Philippines’ Top 100 Lawyers from 2020 to 2022 by the Asia Business Law Journal, among others.

Beyond his many awards, however, he is foremost known as the Managing Partner who leads the Corporate, Banking, Finance, Technology Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) Groups at Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra—a prestigious law firm in the Philippines, which currently has offices in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

And while his expertise as a lawyer has allowed him to touch base with many business figures in the industry, he is widely regarded for his proficiency in corporate structuring, tax advisory, banking and finance, capital markets, and equity financing, as well as adeptly navigating intricate cross-border commercial transactions.

This, paired with nearly two decades of experience in private practice, has equipped him with the much-needed skills and knowledge to teach at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Graduate School of Business and help businesses in the Philippines—whether start-up or conglomerate in nature—which he talks about in full detail in this exclusive interview with The Business Manual.

A game-changer in the legal industry, Atty. Mark Gorriceta’s strong work ethic, passion for helping businesses, and sharp business acumen have earned him international recognition and just as many awards to his name.

Where it All Began: The Legal Journey

Being a lawyer takes perseverance and grit, as it requires years of studying, intense memorization, and a clear understanding of the law and how it’s applied. For Atty. Gorriceta, however, this was a passion he wanted to pursue since day one.

“My career journey as a corporate lawyer has been a dynamic and enriching experience,” the attorney begins. “The inspiration to study law stemmed from my fascination with the intricate legal frameworks that govern business operations.”

“The opportunity to work closely with companies, navigate regulatory landscapes, and help clients achieve their strategic objectives sparked my passion for corporate law [and] the ability to provide legal counsel on corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance has been deeply rewarding,” he adds.

This led him to build the law firm Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra together with his partners: fellow Attys. Lucas Niccolo Cauton, Francis Africa, and Vincent Paul Saavedra. “The collective vision of my partners and me to create a law firm stemmed from our shared commitment to providing comprehensive and client-centered legal services.”

Atty. Gorriceta recounts the company’s formative growth, which started out, in his words, “by pooling our expertise, resources, and networks, and gradually building our firm with a focus on integrity, excellence, and meeting our client’s needs.”

And just like a well-oiled machine, each man had an important role to play. “The dynamic between my partners (now 12 partners) and me is characterized by a collaborative approach. Each partner brings a unique set of skills and expertise to the firm. We distribute responsibilities based on individual strengths, ensuring efficient management of cases and projects, client relationships, and firm operations.”

Having a progressive mindset, Atty. Mark Gorriceta believes in fostering a collaborative approach in the workforce. Gone are the days of strict hierarchies and politics—everyone deserves to speak and be heard.

Setting the Standards for Law in the Philippines

From its inception in 2015 to today, the law firm has grown from 5 to nearly 50 lawyers to date and has amassed an impressive clientele of conglomerates and industry figures—thus making it the go-to for entrepreneurs and business owners. But with the many law firms in the Philippines, and just as many attorneys looking to make a name for themselves, how does Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra stand out from the rest?

“What sets our law firm apart is our commitment to personalized attention and tailored legal and innovative solutions,” Atty. Gorriceta says simply. “We prioritize building strong client relationships, understanding their specific needs, and delivering customized strategies. Our collective experience, diverse backgrounds, and extensive legal knowledge allow us to offer comprehensive services that address complex legal challenges effectively.”

Being just as detail-oriented and meticulous himself, Atty. Gorriceta echoes this in the law firm’s daily practices—which he encourages business owners and entrepreneurs to do the same for themselves. “We also ensure quality services by upholding rigorous standards in our work processes. We emphasize thorough legal research, attention to detail, regular internal reviews, and continuous professional development.”

“Regular feedback mechanisms, client satisfaction surveys, and monitoring key performance indicators help us identify areas for improvement and maintain a high level of service excellence,” he continues.

What’s more, given the ever-changing legal landscape of the country, it is important for the law firm to remain updated in order to stay relevant. “To stay competitive, we continuously monitor legal trends, invest in technology and infrastructure, and adapt to evolving client needs,” Atty. Gorriceta explains. “We actively participate in professional associations, engage in thought leadership, and foster strategic partnerships. By staying ahead of industry developments, we position ourselves as a trusted and innovative legal service provider.”

And this has served them well since Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra is not only one of the country’s top law firms but it is internationally recognized and multi-awarded, too!

Helping Businesses Help Themselves

Having witnessed the growth and many changes in the business landscape, Atty. Gorriceta has a clear picture of what the industry is like and what he can do to help. In fact, he notes a very distinct pain point that he believes he can dedicate his efforts.

“The biggest struggle that start-ups in the Philippines face nowadays is navigating complex regulatory frameworks and compliance requirements,” he laments. “The legal industry can play a crucial role by providing accessible and tailored legal guidance, simplifying legal processes, and advocating for regulatory reforms that support start-up innovation and growth.”

But on the upside, he also notes the untapped potential of start-ups in the Philippines, given that there are 700 start-ups in 2021 alone—from just 237 in 2017—with most of them in the FinTech and e-commerce sector.

“The growth of start-ups in the Philippines is promising, with a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem emerging,” he declares. “The combination of government support, access to capital, and a talented pool of individuals has contributed to the rise of innovative start-ups in various industries.”

How so? “I have actively supported the growth of the start-up community in the Philippines. This includes providing legal guidance, assisting with regulatory compliance, and offering strategic advice tailored to the unique needs of start-up companies,” the attorney notes. “I am currently involved in ongoing projects and advocacies aimed at fostering an enabling environment for start-ups, such as collaborating with incubators and accelerators to provide legal workshops and mentorship.”

This doesn’t mean however that Atty. Gorriceta has solely focused on start-ups, as the lawyer regularly does work for some of the country’s biggest conglomerates and firms of all sizes. “My work as a corporate lawyer has involved assisting established firms with growth and expansion, typically through mergers and acquisitions,” he points out.

“I have guided several companies through complex cross-border mergers, ensuring compliance with different jurisdictions through our partner firms and aiding in negotiations, which eventually led to substantial business growth.”

Although Atty. Mark Gorriceta dedicates his time to large companies, he too has a passion for helping start-up businesses—exemplified by the legal advice he gives them and the efforts he endeavors in building them up for success.

Atty. Mark Gorriceta on What Constitutes Success

Building up a good relationship with the client is a guaranteed must in running the law firm, let alone any business, and for Atty. Gorriceta, this means establishing a strong foundation of trust between the company and the client. “The best lesson I’ve learned from my years of experience as a legal practitioner and managing partner is the importance of building strong relationships with clients. Trust, open communication, and providing exceptional service are key to fostering long-term partnerships and success,” he opines.

“The success of our law firm is measured by various factors, including client satisfaction, successful case/project outcomes, client referrals, and industry recognition,” the attorney explains. “We also consider financial growth, team cohesion, and contributions to the legal community as important indicators of our firm’s success.”

Likewise, the overall impact of the law firm on its clients is just as important. “Our law firm’s greatest achievement lies in the positive impact we have made on our clients’ lives and businesses. Successfully representing clients in complex legal matters, achieving favorable settlements, and advocating for justice in our cases or transactions are among our notable accomplishments.”

In fact, he himself has been the recipient of many awards. Notable awards, according to the attorney, include being recognized as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Philippines by Asia Business Law Journal for three consecutive years: 2020, 2021, and 2022.

“This Annual A-List, identifying the top 100 lawyers in the Philippines, relies on thousands of in-house counsels in the Philippines and around the world, international law firms, and a wide range of Philippine and global companies, and financial institutions among others,” he says proudly. “Also, receiving the Managing Partner of the Year Award for 2020 by the Asian Legal Business (ALB) Philippine Law Awards was really nice.”

While the awards are integral in building up Atty. Gorriceta’s credentials in the legal community and even to his clients, he believes that there’s more to that. “For me, it symbolizes that the industry recognizes that it is possible for a relatively ‘young’ lawyer with just almost 20 of experience to be part of this elite group—especially considering that we are thriving in an industry known for putting a premium on ‘institutional’ law firms and legacy lawyers that have been in existence for many decades.”

But more than just being a game changer, his motivations span reach a higher level. “My greatest achievement, however, lies in positively impacting the lives of those I’ve represented and mentored,” he declares.

Wise Words of Advice

With nearly 20 years of experience in his belt, a thriving law firm, and a strong team that keeps the company running like a well-oiled machine, Atty. Gorriceta is a man wise beyond his years. Bearing lessons that he has learned and discovered for himself throughout his career journey, he shares them with aspiring lawyers, business owners, and entrepreneurs.

For Lawyers and Aspiring Lawyers

Being a lawyer is not for the faint-hearted, which is why according to Atty. Gorriceta, the building blocks for what makes a good lawyer include: “Maintaining a strong work ethic, a commitment to continuous learning, and a genuine passion for the law. Upholding values such as integrity, perseverance, and empathy has been instrumental in navigating challenges and building meaningful relationships with clients and colleagues.”

“Lawyers should possess qualities such as strong analytical skills, effective communication, attention to detail, and the ability to think critically,” the attorney adds. “Additionally, ethical conduct, professionalism, empathy, and adaptability are crucial in establishing trust with clients and navigating the complex legal landscape.”

This is why, for aspiring lawyers, he only has this to say: “I advise cultivating a strong foundation of legal knowledge through rigorous study and practical experience. Never stop learning, seek mentorship, and actively engage in professional development opportunities. Current lawyers should prioritize maintaining ethical standards, continually hone their skills, and actively contribute to the legal community.”

For Business Owners and Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Given how competitive the business landscape is, it can be difficult for people to start a business of their own. For one thing, there are just so many products and services available that it’s hard to pioneer something new—unless it was based on an existing product or service or something improved on. This is why Atty. Gorriceta stresses the importance of constant learning and building a strong network.

“For start-up owners, entrepreneurs, and aspiring business owners, surround themselves with a supportive network of mentors, advisors, and fellow entrepreneurs,” he says firmly. “Continuously learn and adapt, embrace calculated risks, and stay focused on delivering value to customers. Seek legal guidance to proactively address legal matters and protect the business’s interests.”

As for non-negotiables in starting a business and surviving in the competitive playing field, these include: “A clear business strategy, a solid understanding of their target market, adaptability to changing circumstances, and a commitment to excellence in their products or services. Additionally, maintaining sound financial management and having a strong team is essential for sustainable growth.”

“Before starting their business, a start-up owner needs to address various legal aspects,” he ends. “This includes entity formation, securing intellectual property rights, drafting contracts and agreements, and ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Seeking legal counsel early on can help navigate these complexities and set a strong foundation for the business.”

Profit, product development, marketing, and sales may be in the minds of every businessperson, but Atty. Mark Gorriceta emphasizes that seeking legal counsel early on can set a strong foundation for the business and help them navigate the complexities of government rules and systems.