José Vicente Zapata is an attorney in Holland & Knight's Bogotá office, with more than 30 years of experience in the natural resources sector. He focuses his practice on corporate and commercial matters with an emphasis on the environment, energy and natural resources, regulatory and contractual issues, as well as in corporate compliance and liability cases. Mr. Zapata co-chairs the firm's Venezuela Focus Team, a group of partners who assists clients with interests in the country.

Mr. Zapata represents electric, oil, gas, mining, agrochemical and industrial companies. In addition, he regularly advises clients in the structuring of foreign investment transactions, corporate reorganizations, and mergers and acquisitions as well as matters of environmental liability and judicial proceedings such as class action and international claims.

Throughout his career, Mr. Zapata has served on various boards of directors and has headed numerous successful companies. He has represented clients in many of the largest transactions made in Colombia to date in the energy, mining, oil and gas sectors, in addition to assisting a range of companies in entering the energy market, obtaining mining and oil and gas concessions and structuring the contractual arrangements for such purposes. More recently, Mr. Zapata has been very active in renewable energy projects, and has led both wind farm, solar ventures and large energy storage solutions, as well as hydrogen and geothermal regulatory assessments. Mr. Zapata has also participated actively in key financing and structuring of transactions in these sectors, with particular attention on environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements.

Mr. Zapata has participated in critical environmental liability cases and class action litigation in Colombia. Of particular importance is his participation in complex cases where communities and companies discuss their corresponding rights and in prior public consultations, and environmental permits and authorizations.

Mr. Zapata has acted as co-counsel in major international commercial and investor-state arbitrations, involving sensitive international judicial matters of Colombian interest under the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) rules. These matters focus in energy and natural resources concerning disputes across the oil and gas, electricity, infrastructure and mining sectors.

Beyond his law practice, Mr. Zapata is a regular speaker at conferences in Latin America; has published various books and articles on matters of sustainable development, oil and gas, and renewable energy; and has served as professor of corporate responsibility, environmental liability and sustainable development at Universidad Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Universidad de Los Andes and Universidad Externado de Colombia.

Representative Experience

  • Represented GeoPark Limited as local counsel in Colombia on the issuance of its $425 million of 6.500 percent secured amortizing notes due 2024. Concurrent with the issuance of the notes, GeoPark executed a cash tender offer for its 7.50 percent senior secured notes due 2020, to be funded with the proceeds from the notes offering. Holland & Knight also advised the issuer in aspects of Colombian law related to this transaction
  • Represented a wind farm client with multiple acquisitions and environmental and regulatory permitting
  • Provided assistance to one of the largest generation companies in Colombia in its thermoelectric and hydroelectric power plant projects from a regulatory and environmental perspective
  • Provided representation in defense of a hydro project, owned and operated by one of the biggest companies of Colombia
  • Provided legal counsel to the largest oil pipeline in Colombia, both in regulatory matters and strategic definition of projects
  • Represented one of the five largest oil pipelines in Colombia both in regulatory matters and strategic definition of applicable regulatory conditions
  • Provided legal counsel in regulatory matters to the largest thermal generator in Colombia, for operations and shareholders requirements
  • Reviewed contractual conditions for supply of fuels and operations to a thermal generator
  • Provided representation for regulatory oil and gas matters, including review of contracts, for multinational companies conducting business in Colombia

  • Acting as co-counsel in relation to Colombian law issues for a mining company in an International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) arbitration against the Republic of Colombia
  • Acting as co-counsel in an international arbitration conducted under International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) rules in high-stakes contract dispute involving Colombian law matters

  • Represented a major mining company in its regulatory assessment on the implications of bankruptcy and a financial reorganization for another mining company in compliance with financial and environmental operative commitments
  • Represented a downhole pumps supplier in its payment of claims under the bankruptcy and restructuring procedure against its debtor, an equipment manufacturer to the hydrocarbons industry
  • Represented a nonprofit organization that provides programs and care for homeless children in obtaining payment of claims within the bankruptcy and restructuring procedures of a project management firm that focused on environmental, civil and public works and services


  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research, International Environmental Law (E-Learning)
  • Yale School of Management, Executive Management Program for Lawyers
  • Bureau Veritas, ISO 14001 Lead Auditor, International Law
  • McGill University, LL.M., Sustainable Development and International Business Law
  • Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, J.D.
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • Colombia
  • American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Member
  • Association on International Petroleum Negotiators (AIPN), Member
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Member
  • European Society of International Law, Member
  • International Bar Association, Committee Section on Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law
  • Institute for Energy Law, Center for American and International Law, Member
  • Colegio de Abogados de Minas y Petroleos
  • American Society of International Law
  • Institute of Environmental Law, Secretary General
  • Gerson Lehrman Group
  • Asociación Iberoamericana de Derecho de la Energía, Member
Honors & Awards
  • Q4 2021 Legal Influencer, Infrastructure: Central and South America, Lexology
  • Latin American Corporate Counsel Association (LACCA) Approved Attorney, Energy, Colombia, 2015-2020
  • Best Lawyers in Colombia, 2019-2022
  • Chambers Global - The World's Leading Lawyers for Business guide, Colombia: Energy & Natural Resources, 2014-2021
  • IFLR1000, The Guide to the World's Leading Financial Law Firms, Leading Lawyer, Energy and Infrastructure, Project Development, Project Finance: Energy, Mining, 2018; Highly Regarded, Project Development, Project Finance, 2019, 2020
  • Leaders League, Colombia, M&A, 2016, 2018
  • Chambers Latin America - Latin America's Leading Lawyers for Business guide, Colombia: Energy & Natural Resources: Environment, 2014-2022
  • The Legal 500 Latin America, Energy & Natural Resources Colombia, 2014-2016, 2019; Dispute Resolution, 2016; Corporate / M & A Colombia, 2016, 2018, 2019; Corporate / M & A International, 2016; Litigation, 2019
  • The Legal 500 Latin America, Leading Lawyer, Energy and Natural Resources, 2016-2022; Environment 2022; Litigation 2022
  • The Best Lawyers in Colombia, Lawyer of the Year: Natural Resources Law, 2014; Corporate and M&A Law, 2012-2015; Environmental Law, 2009-2015; Natural Resources Law, 2009-2015 
  • Holland & Knight Public and Charitable Service All-Star Award, 2017
  • Who's Who Legal: Energy - The World´s Leading Energy Lawyers, 2014, 2016; Mining, 2014; Mining: Global Leader, 2020
  • La Nota Económica - 500 Líderes Empresariales de Colombia, April 2014
  • Principal's Dissertation Fellowship, McGill University, 1994-1995
  • Judge Greenshields Memorial Scholarship, McGill University, 1992, 1994
  • Max Binz Major Fellowship, McGill University, 1993
Spoken Languages
  • English
  • French
  • Spanish


Speaking Engagements