Moritz grad, veteran, marathoner focuses work in Brazil
David Wilson ’10 let out a sigh when reminiscing about his time spent with a law firm in São Paulo, Brazil. Remembering not only the countless hours reading and preparing documents, but also the beaches and passion Brazilians had for the World Cup in 2010, he said, “I fell in love with the people and the culture.”
The Piketon, Ohio, native, a 2010 graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and a 2011 graduate of the Fisher College of Business, initially traveled to the country through Fisher’s Emerging Markets Field Study program.
The program, now named i4, provides students an opportunity to internationalize their degree by learning about and becoming experts in one particular emerging market. During the winter, students gain practical knowledge while working as consultants on small teams for mid-market and large, publicly traded companies; then, in the spring, they travel to the country and implement their projects.
Wilson’s team put together a business initiative concerning transportation for companies planning for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “They’re going to be ready for it, they’re going to be ready,” he said reassuringly of the companies preparing for the games.
Initially attending the program because of business interests, Wilson was quick to put his law degree to work while abroad.
He recalled a day the group was at the Ohio Department of Development’s office in Brazil. While enjoying a small cup of strong coffee in the back of a lecture room, he met a man who happened to work as an attorney for the law firm of Santos e Furriela Advogados, located in the same building.
“The next day I was walking into his firm with a suit on,” he said. “Everyone else was going to sightsee, and I’m hopping in a taxi to go interview with this law firm.”
He ended up hopping in a taxi to go to the firm for the rest of the summer.
Working in São Paulo as a legal associate for Santos e Furriela Advogados, Wilson actively participated in four deals, including helping a Midwest biotech company enter the Brazilian market. “The time I spent living and working in Brazil was invaluable – it’s so much more than jeitinho, or understanding how things work, or sometimes don’t work, on the ground; the real value is in simpatia – the deep, long-term personal relationships developed,” Wilson said.
“That summer alone cemented: ‘Wow this is really what I want to do,’” he said. “I’m not sure if it was foresight or luck, but I definitely ended up in the right place.”
Currently of counsel at Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter LPA in Columbus, Wilson specializes in international business law, specifically between the United States and Brazil. “That’s my niche,” he said. Now in the midst of preparing for a trade mission with The Council of Great Lakes Governors and planning a seminar about how to export Ohio to Brazil, he said those two matters may require him to revisit the country soon.
Of the firm, he added, “It’s a solid, collaborative environment. You have the freedom and support to pursue ideas. Also, I like teams; and when it comes to international law, we have the best. Personally, I do not know everything, but I’m only a few short steps away from an expert in every region of the world and only a quick phone call away from one of our alliance firms on the ground in nearly every country worldwide.”
In addition to being actively involved on the Latin American Regional Forum Committee for the International Bar Association, Wilson is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association’s International Law Committee, the Economic and Community Development Institute, and the Columbus Council on World Affairs.
“I’ve always had an interest in international business and international law. I don’t know if that’s from the military or not,” he said, referring to his eight years with the special operations command of the U.S. Army.
Wilson joined the military as an undergraduate at Ohio University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economic political theory in 2003. While in the service, he was deployed for nearly a year to Afghanistan and for a month to Africa.
Wilson, laughing, said amid earning his MBA and serving in the Army Reserves, he also was “helping teach new soldiers how to jump out of airplanes while I was in law school.” By the time his contract was up in his 2L year, Wilson had ranked to a special operations A-team, team sergeant.
He continues to juggle many tasks while at Kegler as well. He’s currently training to compete in his second Ironman triathalon since joining the firm. “It’s more than just hours of training and time; it’s about developing habits and routines, it’s about discipline and rituals, it’s learning about yourself, and the camaraderie of a team – I couldn’t do this alone,” he said of preparing for his August race in New York City. He has a goal to do Ironman Brazil within the next three years.
Wilson, a three-time Pelotonia participant, said he enjoys cycling tours and races. This summer, Wilson will travel to the mining town of Leadville, Colo., to race through the Colorado Rockies at altitudes of more than 13,000 feet. He hopes to qualify, this fall, for the Western States Trail 100, a 100-mile trail ultra-marathon.
In addition to those athletic pursuits, Wilson said he still keeps ties to Ohio State. He is participating in online Portuguese classes and also guest-lectures to students in Fisher’s i4 program on the legal aspects for doing business in Brazil.
“They called me up and I said, ‘Absolutely,’ ” Wilson said. Then, embracing a phrase made famous by another Ohio State alumnus, he added, “What did Les (Wexner) say … ‘But for Ohio State?’”
This article was written by Sarah Pfledderer.