One of the most important issues facing businesses in CEE is the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on litigation and arbitration. In-person court and arbitration hearings have become problematic, if not impossible, and the importance of certain boilerplate contract clauses has skyrocketed. Zsolt Okanyi, Global Head of Dispute Resolution at CMS, Malgorzata Surdek, Head of Dispute Resolution at CMS Poland, and Daniela Karollus Bruner, Head of Dispute Resolution at CMS Austria, evaluate the current situation.
The COVID-19 crisis that has afflicted Europe throughout this unusual year has necessitated significant changes to the way lawyers work and communicate with and serve their clients. To find out how these changes played out in Greece, we spoke with Yanos Gramatidis, Head of Government & Privatization, and Betty Smyrniou, Head of Labor and Social Benefits and Aviation at Bahas, Gramatidis & Partners.
In The Corner Office we ask Managing Partners across Central and Eastern Europe about their unique roles and responsibilities. The question this time: “What one ongoing pro bono initiative or project or charity/volunteering project that your firm is involved with has the most meaning for you personally, and why?”
In the first decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, an enormous number of international investors descended upon the countries of Central and Eastern Europe – initially, and particularly, Romania and the so-called “Visegrad Group” of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary – to take advantage of the privatizations occurring across the region and, in the early years, manifold new and giant deals related to the region’s rapid modernization and integration. Inevitably, many of the larger London-based international law firms opened up offices in the region to provide their clients with on-the-ground assistance.
On January 20, 2010, I stepped off a plane in Bucharest to start a secondment at Clifford Chance’s local office, which was supposed to last eighteen to twenty-four months. I was a young and eager lawyer, keen for new experiences and ready for the challenge of working in emerging markets. In the end, I left nearly three and a half years later, and I almost stayed on permanently in Bucharest. It was an amazing experience, and English law in CEE has had a massive impact on my life.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Western Balkans right during a period of accelerating economic activity and a promising economic outlook for 2020. The rapid spread of the virus forced the governments of the Western Balkans countries to introduce protective measures, lockdowns, and temporary business shutdowns. These restrictions had a devastating direct economic impact on a wide range of sectors – particularly the hospitality and transport industries – and the measures had many indirect side effects that significantly decreased economic activity.
Doing business remotely continues to gain in popularity, both allowing work to continue (often from home) when pandemic conditions require it and actually increasing many individuals’ overall productivity in certain industries. Despite its advantages, however, the data implications of remote working have recently become more complex.
Rare is the opportunity to participate in a wave of enthusiastic transformation – a breaking-away from old ways and a journey to uncharted regions. Duncan Weston, Executive Partner at CMS, has played a fundamental role in several different law firm and legal industry transformations. And he’s not done yet.
I have always been a fan of marketing and felt that there was something special about it, even back before I had any real practical experience with it. My career started at an international law firm – Hogan Lovells – where marketing was handled both centrally and locally. I became a fan of the field and learned to consider the brand as something potentially very valuable and helpful both in attracting new clients and employees and in retaining existing ones. It also showed me that marketing activities must be conducted systematically.
Are you still reading? Despite the title this is not a COVID-19 piece. Quite frankly we have had enough of that. We want life to go back to how it was – but it won’t. Something new is happening. People have been humbled by the effects of the C-word on their very existence. Everyone is suddenly more aware of the need to change – in Turkey, for example, we always kiss and hug upon meeting, and we are not used to the concept of social distancing at all. Now we stand a meter apart and elbow or fist bump – which still feels odd to me. We are aware and we are asking ourselves – “what needs to change? Was this our fault? What is biodiversity? What can we do?”