I started practicing law in the mid-1990s, during a turbulent period in Serbia’s recent history. Corporate law, however, really took off in 2001 when the country opened its doors, after a full decade of isolation. Even then, it was unlike other Eastern European countries – instead of a stampede by major global law firms opening local offices in the hope of landing big privatization deals, only a few regional outfits sauntered into town to test the waters of the newly accessible Serbian legal market.
While reading an article from the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of the Harvard Business Review, I had the distinct impression that someone had read my mind. The article dealt with a study conducted by Christine Exley and Judd Kessler on the subject of self-promotion among men and women, which the researchers believed to be an understudied behavior that could have important implications for labor market outcomes.
Romania lies on the historically and geographically significant crossroads between the East and the West and both its roads and its waterways provide important routes for commerce between continents. It is no wonder, then, that the transportation, logistics, and infrastructures sectors in Romania offer high potential for growth and profit. The prospect of harnessing this potential has attracted investors from around the world – and law firms positioned to help them succeed. Danilescu Hulub & Partners, founded by Partners Lucian Danilescu and Andreea Hulub in April, 2020, is one such firm.
Analyses of the practical and economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the legal profession are abundant, and not much new can be added. Similarly, considerations of the economy and business in general are also often covered with elaborate views of the current situation and familiar projections of often gloomy futures.
On December 15, 2020 CEELM gathered legal experts from across the region for its annual Year-in-Review Round Table conversation. In a wide-ranging discussion, participants shared opinions and perspectives on their markets, on strong (and less-strong) practices across the region, and the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on both, as well as on how technology is changing the legal industry, and what the industry will look like in 2021.
Within days of the coronavirus’s arrival in March, the Polish government was scrambling to react, with lockdowns, subsidies and stimulus, public health requirements, and other measures coming rapidly, on an ad hoc basis, with the need for speed making it difficult for Polish companies (and Poles in general) to keep up, and forming a patchwork of ideas rather than a comprehensive and coherent plan.
The legal market in Europe is ever-changing, but now, as we approach the turn of the year, there is no doubt we are at a pivotal moment. One could say that the tide has risen and the world of legal services as we know it is gone. While it would be easy to blame everything on the pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis has merely accelerated certain processes that have been swelling up and ready to burst for quite some time. The trends we have been observing have just gained momentum. It is essential that law firms accept the challenges and prudently navigate the dangers.
After many years of liberalization and globalization, recent years have shown a reversal of the European Union’s approach concerning foreign direct investment from third countries. As in much of the world, the EU has taken a more restrictive view than in the past, and this view is reflected on the legislative level with the FDI Screening Regulation.
The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is one of the most ambitious development projects since the turn of the century. Through thousands of individual projects implemented under the BRI umbrella, China intends to develop land and sea corridors to support economic trade and development, integrate various regions of the world, and facilitate policy coordination, connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial services, and the connection of people. The BRI was launched in 2013, and last year was revamped with a new set of objectives.
New technologies are all the rage, as law firms adapt to the telecommuting and digitalization realities that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic. Accordingly, we decided to ask our Law Firm Marketing experts from across the region a simple question: “What is the single most important/valuable piece of software you use?” As always, we asked respondents to focus on the question at hand, rather than – as we put it – using the question simply as an excuse to “tell us that their firms are awesome.” Not everyone was able to resist.
Since the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the peninsula in the Black Sea has been a minefield of conflicting international claims and interests, putting lawyers trying to work there, boxed in by the threat of sanctions from the West and counterveiling pressure from Moscow, in an untenable position.
Several important trends have appeared on the Russian legal market since 2014, the first year of EU/US sanctions and Russian countersanctions: 1) the growth in the market share of domestic law firms; 2) the in-sourcing of a large amount of legal work inside corporate legal departments; 3) the entrance of nonconventional players (such as banks and mobile operators) into the legal services market; and 4) the increased focus of lawyers on IT solutions and efficiency.
About a half year ago, I was sitting in a pitch meeting trying to impress a potential client to win an important mandate for a project that would take two years to close. The meeting was attended by top management of the company and by its founder. We discussed all the technical aspects, our past experience with similar projects, and how we worked as a team. We were hoping to come across as a unified team and show that we knew what we were doing. It was already the second round, so we focused on chemistry and relationship-building. At the end of the meeting we devoted a lot of time to discussing how important it is to be open and honest. I told the client that we would not just agree with them all the time – we would be honest with our fees upfront, we would tell them if we thought they were doing something wrong, we would treat them as friends and partners, we would tell them if we thought their instructions create more work than necessary, and, most importantly, we would always have smiles on our faces, even if we needed to tell them they are wrong.
In 2015, the word Cobalt took on a new meaning in the legal markets of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, when a new pan-Baltic law firm with that name opened its doors, immediately entrenched in the top tier of the region’s legal markets. That firm owes much of its success and reputation to the Managing Partner of its Lithuanian office and Chairman of the firm-wide Management Board, Irmantas Norkus.