To me, the energy business is important in our daily lives. We see the impact every day in national security, when we fly, when we drive, when we turn our lights on … It is an indispensable part of our lives,” says Mayda Prego, senior counsel for Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company.
Prior to focusing on energy law, Prego—who was born and raised in Manhattan by a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother—worked in Miami as an attorney for New York-based firm, Hughes Hubbard and Reed, where she became experienced in complex civil and criminal litigation as well as international litigation and arbitration. “Before Chevron, I was a litigator,” Prego explains. “I joined Chevron’s in-house legal department because I wanted to expand my skills as an attorney by getting closer to the business and the business decision makers. Having the ability to work hand in hand with your business clients is one of the main differences from private practice. When I first joined Chevron, I continued to work on important litigation matters as I had in private practice, but then also expanded my practice into corporate, labor, and transactional matters for the countries within my portfolio, giving me the opportunity to stretch my legal skills in a whole new direction.”
Prego joined Chevron in 2007 in the Coral Gables, Florida-based office and worked on the downstream side of the business covering Latin America and Caribbean, handling a broad scope of matters for her international clients. In 2010, she joined the upstream side of the business in Houston handling transactional matters for Latin America and Africa. “We operate in a fast-paced, dynamic environment supporting our business clients with contracts, advice on local law with the assistance of outside counsel, transactions such as acquisitions and divestitures, new ventures, and compliance, just to name a few things,” says Prego, of the number-two oil company in the US. “When required, we travel the globe with our business clients to support them in meeting the company’s goals and objectives. We also spend time on internal corporate initiatives including training.”
Although she has extensive experience practicing international law, Prego embraces the role of eager student when it comes to navigating the energy side of her role. “One positive challenge [of my position with Chevron] is having the opportunity to learn as much as a lawyer can about the technical and scientific areas of the business,” Prego explains. “A typical day may include working side-by-side with technical and scientific experts in the petroleum business who are passionate about their work and take the time to explain those critical aspects of the business. For instance, I may receive a primer on a particular area of exploration, like drilling, which then provides me with the understanding I need to be able to support such an activity from a legal perspective. Those important technical and scientific lessons are invaluable to a liberal arts major like me to better understand the business, allowing me to provide the clients with the legal support they need.”
Prego—who is fluent in Spanish with intermediate skills in French, Italian, and Portuguese—says she also enjoys the travel that inevitably comes with working in international law. “Visiting the places where we do business allows me firsthand to appreciate the diversity of cultures and how that impacts how we do business in different countries,” Prego explains. “I have the opportunity to tap into my international experience and practice law from that perspective when working with different legal systems around the world.”
Prego’s Hispanic background and American legal training has been an advantage to working in Latin America. “I understand the cultural and legal-system differences,” says Prego, who is also the president of the Hispanic National Bar Foundation (HNBF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the Hispanic community through education and diversifying the legal profession. “I can support Chevron with my US-lawyer training, and I can work with colleagues in Latin America in Spanish, which makes a big difference.”
As fulfilling as her current role with Chevron is, Prego says her involvement with HNBF is equally invigorating. “The organization is important to me because I believe it is imperative to give back to the next generation of Hispanic students,” she says. “I am also tremendously proud to collaborate with my fellow board members who not only are distinguished members of the legal profession but also are passionate about only one agenda—to uplift Hispanic students.”
When asked about her goals for the future, the pragmatic Prego shakes her head at the notion of a five-year plan: “While I look prospectively, I focus on the present,” she explains. “I can plan for something in five years, but as our lives unfold, we encounter circumstances that could take us in a different direction. We should be flexible to embrace that change that may not have been part of our plan and be open to seize [unexpected] opportunities.”