José Vicente Zapata is an attorney in Holland & Knight's Bogotá office and has more than 30 years of experience in the natural resources sector. He focuses his practice on corporate, contractual and commercial matters, with a strong focus in spin-offs, mergers and acquisitions. Mr. Zapata co-chairs the firm's Venezuela Focus Team, a group of partners who assists clients with interests in the country.

Mr. Zapata has led regulatory matters for many years on the environment, energy and natural resources. He has experience with corporate compliance matters, including the definition of ethics programs, Sistema de Autocontrol y Gestión del Riesgo Integral de Lavado de Activos y Financiación del Terrorismo (SAGRILAFT) and knowledge management for effective regulatory compliance, as well as liability cases for contractual and non-contractual damages.

Mr. Zapata's clients include electric, oil, gas, mining, agrochemical and industrial companies, and he advises them on the structuring of foreign investment transactions, corporate reorganizations, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as well as matters of environmental liability and judicial proceedings such as class actions and international claims.

Throughout his career, Mr. Zapata has represented clients in many of the largest transactions made in Colombia to date in the energy, mining, oil and gas sectors, and assisted a range of companies in entering the energy market, obtaining mining and oil and gas concessions and structuring the contractual arrangements for such purposes. He negotiates share purchase and sale agreements, foreign direct investment management, asset purchase and sale agreements (including commercial establishments), joint operating agreements, farm-in and farm-outs, distribution, franchising and agency agreements, collaboration agreements, real estate regulatory mechanisms, structuring of real estate projects, authorizations and operating permits. More recently, Mr. Zapata is active in renewable energy projects and has led wind farm, solar ventures and energy storage solutions as well as hydrogen and geothermal regulatory assessments, including zoning analysis, management of protected and exclusion zones and areas, and analysis of legal options for land use definition. Mr. Zapata also participates in key financing and structuring of transactions in these sectors, with particular attention on environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements.

In addition, Mr. Zapata has significant experience in critical environmental liability cases and class action litigation in Colombia. Among them are complex cases where communities and companies discuss their corresponding rights, including prior consultation events, controlled substances and environmental authorizations, permits and licenses.

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 and has published multiple books and articles on matters of sustainable development, oil and gas, renewable energy, hydrocarbons, climate change and renewable energies. In addition, he has served on various boards of directors, headed numerous successful companies and 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

  • Negotiated and acquired the support for financing of two solar generation facilities for the satisfaction of renewable energy needs of the real sector
  • Negotiated the acquisition and installation of a solar farm in Valle del Cauca to meet the needs of private power purchase agreements (PPAs)
  • Mounting and start-up of a solar farm on Colombia's Atlantic coast to supply industrial operational energy needs
  • Represented GeoPark Limited as local counsel in Colombia on the issuance of its $425 million of 6.5 percent secured amortizing notes due 2024; concurrent with the issuance of the notes, GeoPark executed a cash tender offer for its 7.5 percent senior secured notes due 2020, to be funded with the proceeds from the notes offering; 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


  • Colombian Association of Engineers (ACIEM), Certificate, Development and Execution of Solar Projects (Trends, Operation and Maintenance)
  • 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
  • Association of International Energy Negotiators (AIEN), Board of Directors, 2022-Present
  • American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation
  • European Society of International Law
  • 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
  • Chambers Global – The World's Leading Lawyers for Business guide, Colombia: Energy & Natural Resources, 2014-2024
  • The Legal 500 Latin America, Leading Lawyer, Energy and Natural Resources, 2016-2024; Environment 2022, 2023; Litigation, 2022-2024
  • Chambers Latin America – Latin America's Leading Lawyers for Business guide, Colombia: Energy & Natural Resources: Environment, 2014-2024
  • The Best Lawyers in Colombia, Lawyer of the Year: Natural Resources Law, 2014; Lawyer of the Year: Energy Law, 2024; Corporate and M&A Law, 2012-2015, 2023, 2024; Environmental Law, 2009-2015, 2023, 2024; Natural Resources Law, 2009-2024; Energy Law, 2023, 2024
  • Latin American Corporate Counsel Association (LACCA) Approved Attorney, Energy, Colombia, 2015-2020, 2024
  • 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, 2023
  • Q1 2023 Legal Influencer, Infrastructure and Financial Services: Central and South America, Lexology
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2021
  • Q4 2021 Legal Influencer, Infrastructure: Central and South America, Lexology
  • Leaders League Colombia: M&A, 2016, 2018; Civil and Commercial Litigation, 2022; Arbitration, 2024
  • 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
  • Holland & Knight Public and Charitable Service All-Star Award, 2017
  • Who's Who Legal: Energy – The World's Leading Energy Lawyers, 2014, 2016; Energy - Colombia, 2024; 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