I sat down with Virginia De La Cuadra Galera, an English speaking Spanish lawyer. She warmly welcomed me into her spacious office centrally located in central Valencia. We discussed her background, COVID and Brexit. She also passionately told me about her role in a women’s association. Despite the current situation, she had a very positive attitude and said “we have to realise the important things; our health, and the people close to us”.
Can you tell me about your background as a lawyer and where you learned English?
I had always studied French, but I didn’t use it really. I wanted to learn English so I went to England and I also had a few friends there. I couldn’t speak a word of English so I studied lots – 4 hours a day. I got a job at Sun Microsystems and I stayed there for a long time, nearly four years. There was no Google or internet when I arrived in England so I had to go around with my dictionary and notebook! Everyone was so kind to help me with learning English.
What is your regular type of client?
The average age has decreased! It used to be older people who wanted to retire here in Spain but with the new technologies and because now of COVID people are working from home. So, you can go to England or whatever then come back in a week. I think more and more people are coming and the average age has been reduced. It’s all sorts of professionals, usually self-employed people who work for themselves or they want to start a new business. Still the retired people want to come and reside here, but I will say it has become more and more professionals. So, mainly as well people wanting to come and rent places here and to buy property for themselves for holiday homes. But other people are thinking to become residents here and also start businesses.
How has Coronavirus affected you or the business?
At first I think everyone was in shock, we didn’t know if it would last two weeks, three weeks and then it was extended and so everything was paralysed. I was doing good stuff, closing things for clients that I already had. But for new clients, the percentage was very little. It was a good opportunity as well for people to be indoors and start with their ideas with coming to Spain. So, a lot of people started looking and asking questions and getting in touch and looking for a lawyer. My business is helping them to settle here in Spain. The first thing they do is buy a house, so buying properties or renting properties, the first step is to get in touch with me. So especially when now we’ve been locked down, people want to come to Spain for the sun and fresh air. So, the beginning was paralysed for a few weeks but then when we all realised that this will last a longer time, I still had clients, more than I expected, but not as many as there used to be, so the amount of work has been reduced. Fortunately for me, because I think the profile of client I have… not that they don’t care about the crisis, but it’s not affected them that much.
How has Brexit affected things for you?
Brexit I think is similar to COVID. It’s an uncertain situation that is not good for business in general. Many British people are coming here to become a Spanish resident and making their stay here legally. Then also what has happened is the system has become difficult to get residencies here. To get an appointment is difficult and they have changed the procedure. Usually you have to go to the police to get a NIE number, which is compulsory to buy a property here in Spain. You have to go to the tax office, all the paperwork is sent there, and it is the tax office who tells the police to call you to get an appointment. That’s why people need to grant me with Power of Attorney and that has been one of the things that has been very useful during COVID. So, it has been really strange in terms of business but this summer has been busy. Now we have more time at home and our priorities are changing.
Apart from difficulty with getting residency as you said, are there any other typical problems for expats?
For expats mostly it’s that they don’t know where to go for licenses and legal paperwork as sometimes it has be to at the town hall, or the central government in Madrid, so it makes things confusing. Something I would like to recommend as well for the British is to get the TIE card. It’s a card that is going to be the same format for everyone because some people have been here with a NIE number or a resident card so now it’s going to be uniform for everyone.
What is something you’re really proud of in your career?
I belong to one of the women’s association here in Valencia for the last 13 years. We weren’t many at the time, now we are over 300, nearly 350. It’s called EVAP. This federation belongs to BPW – International Federation of Business and Professional Women. I’m always trying to avoid discrimination against women, but not just in terms of violence against us, but with discrimination especially with salaries and especially to get better opportunities and positions in companies. I met somebody who recommended me to join when I came back from England and then I joined them and I’m so proud to be part of them.
For a while, I was the secretary of the association but now I am the representative of the association and the town hall. There is a ‘Consell de la Dona’, which is a body for the town hall to ask for references or a consultant body from the town hall. We’ve been asked about presenting reports or making proposals and for helping women in Valencia. What we want is to give visibility and to empower women. Mostly, it is visibility because we want to help normal women have their own businesses and to be represented as well. We have lots of committees such as the health committee and networking committee. One of our biggest days, if not the biggest day, is the equal payday. We do a lot activities for everyone to make them aware that it’s still a problem. We are a range of all types of women, even from different political parties but we have the same target: reduce discrimination between men and women.
Article by Priyanka Nagpal
Article Copyright 24/7 Valencia
Virginia De La Cuadra Galera/English Speaking Spanish Lawyer – Abogada
+(34) 680 438 775
G.V. Marqués del Turia, 20-6, 46005 Valencia, Spain