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“There were no major changes in the structure of the Latvian legal services market in 2019,” says Lauris Liepa, the Managing Partner of Cobalt in Latvia. “As before, three firms – Cobalt, Sorainen, and Ellex – have dominated both the transactions and the corporate advisory market. While some lawyers have changed firms, there have been no major moves regarding teams or senior lawyers. One of the reasons might be a relatively good situation in the legal services market, with growth in all practice areas.”

Why would anyone knowingly become a law firm marketing specialist – a role that is demanding, complicated, challenging, and stressful? To explore this mystery, we went to the source. Accordingly, this time around we asked the law firm marketing specialists of CEE to complete the following question: “I went into Law Firm Marketing/BD as a career because ____________.“

Central and Eastern Europe has attracted significant interest from South African investors in the last decade, in a wide range of sectors, including healthcare, retail, FMCG and real estate.  

Legal liability for climate change is an emerging risk for lenders in South Africa – a risk that is by no means limited to projects in the fossil fuel industry.

Over the past few years we have seen a sustained interest by South African companies in investing in Central and Eastern Europe. I travel to the region regularly and am often asked to explain why this is so. In particular, what are the drivers of capital outflow and what opportunities does this present for CEE-based businesses?

Ronnie Apteker is a South-African born entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker. He founded the first Internet Service Provider in South Africa, which is now part of the world’s largest TelCo, Japans’s NTT. He has made Kyiv his second home, and is currently busy with a documentary film project about the IT landscape in Ukraine. We asked him to share his thoughts about Kyiv – many of which, it turns out, apply elsewhere in CEE as well.

“There were no major changes in the structure of the Latvian legal services market in 2019,” says Lauris Liepa, the Managing Partner of Cobalt in Latvia. “As before, three firms – Cobalt, Sorainen, and Ellex – have dominated both the transactions and the corporate advisory market. While some lawyers have changed firms, there have been no major moves regarding teams or senior lawyers. One of the reasons might be a relatively good situation in the legal services market, with growth in all practice areas.”

"Every day I am afraid to open the news, to find out that yet another judge or prosecutor is being connected with certain criminal activity,” says Katarina Mihalikova, Partner at Majernik & Mihalikova in Bratislava. "On the other hand,” she adds, “it might mean that the cleansing process has finally started. We always suspected these things, but it seems we now have some proof. In the end, it turns out we were right!”

“The Estonian general election took place in March this year, and we are finally able to see the results,” says Martin Simovart, Partner at Cobalt in Estonia. “Politics in Estonia is now quite a mess. The new government is a populist coalition – this means that the situation is unstable and a polarized sentiment has been created.”

"Albania right now has a loaded political and economic situation,” says A.R.S. Legal & Financial Services Manager and Attorney at Law Elisabeta Nezaj, "considering the earthquake that hits on November 26th." That 6.4-magnitude earthquake that hit northwestern Albania was felt mainly in Durres and Tirana and as far away as Taranto and Belgrade, ultimately killing 51 people in the country — making it the world’s deadliest earthquake in 2019 — and causing massive damage to homes and infrastructure. According to her, "all government bodies are focused on providing help for the people who suffered from this event, and we are taking support from other governments to reconstruct the buildings that were damaged.”

“There haven’t been significant changes on the Romanian legal market,” says Alexandra Rimbu, Partner at MPR Partners⎮Maravela, Popescu & Roman in Bucharest. “Recent changes were rather small and had no overarching impact on the legal market – the structure remains unchanged.”

“There are no major movements between firms, or any new firms popping up," says Petar Mitrovic, Partner at Karanovic & Partners in Belgrade, about the Serbian legal market. “There have been some movements, some partners leaving their law offices and moving to the private sector, but nothing worth writing home about."

Hill Dickinson Senior Associate Anthony Paizes is a solicitor admitted to practice in England and Wales, Greece, South Africa and the Cayman Islands. He practices in the areas of shipping and asset finance, corporate finance, private equity, banking, debt finance, and corporate and commercial law. He speaks English, Greek, and Afrikaans fluently. We reached out to him – in English – to learn more about his path from Africa to Athens.

Edward Baring’s career comes closer to spanning the four corners of the globe than most. An Englishman, Baring completed his studies in the United Kingdom before moving to Moscow as a finance lawyer with Allen & Overy in the early years of this century. In 2016, Baring – having, in the interim, joined the partnership at Herbert Smith Freehills – relocated to South Africa to become managing partner of the firm’s Johannesburg office. He spoke to us about his unusual career. 

South African Liesel Beukes is a dual-qualified lawyer and Content Marketing Manager at Schoenherr in Vienna, where she manages the firm’s highly-regarded annual RoadMap publication and assists lawyers across the firm’s 14 offices with marketing, business development, and press relations.

Frances Gerrard, a member of CMS’s Corporate and M&A team in Prague, is a long way from her home in Australia. We spoke to her about the path that brought her to the Czech capital.

The Deal: Earlier this year, CEE Legal Matters reported that Clifford Chance Prague had advised CTP, an industrial developer in the CEE region, on a EUR 1.9 billion underwriting package agreement with Erste Group Bank AG; Ceska Sporitelna a.s.; Societe Generale S.A. and Komercni Banka a.s.; and UniCredit S.p.A. and UniCredit Bank Czech Republic and Slovakia a.s. White & Case advised the lenders on the agreement, which covered CTP’s Czech industrial portfolio consisting of over 200 buildings and covering 2.7 million square meters of industrial space.

Hungary’s Danubia Patent and Law Office traces its roots back almost three quarters of a century. Danubia Partners Eszter Szakacs and Zsofia Klauber explain how the firm has managed to stay on top of the market for so long, through significant periods of technological, political, legal, and historical transformation in the country and culture around it.

If one is an example, two is a coincidence, and three is a trend, the three major law firm mergers in Ukraine this past summer demand closer scrutiny.

On July 9, 2018, the CEE Legal Matters website reported the merger of the Avellum and A.G.A. Partners law firms in Ukraine. A month later, the website reported on a second merger, this time between Asters and EPAP, the Ukrainian office of Russia’s Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners. And in September the website reported on yet another merger, between Integrites and Pravochyn. To explore these significant changes in the market, on October 26, 2018, CEE Legal Matters sat down with a collection of prominent Ukrainian lawyers — including several from firms directly involved in the summer’s mergers — at the Kyiv office of DLA Piper.

Chinese investors and developers are expanding their footprints in Europe, focusing often on green technology and opportunities in the solar, hi-tech, and automation industries, as well as highly-publicized infrastructure development tenders. Over the years, the amount of Chinese investment has increased, as has the number of Chinese professionals settling in CEE to facilitate Europe-China relations and bridge differences in culture, expectations, and styles. In September, 2018, CEE Legal Matters sat down at the Dentons office in Budapest with three Chinese lawyers to learn about their experiences working on the ground in CEE.

Start-Ups represent a unique subset of clients for major law firms, as they are often unable to pay the fees those firms generally require, but – particularly in the tech sector – hold out the potential of significant profitability down the road. Intrigued by the unique challenges and opportunities for law firms offering their services to these cash-poor but potential-high clients, we invited partners from four prominent law firms in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to share their strategies and experiences with Start-ups with us in the offices of Kocian Solc Balastik in Prague. KSB Partner Christian Blatchford moderated the conversation. 

The Hungarian real estate and housing market is experiencing golden days. Although the market took a serious hit during the financial crisis in 2008, today enormous sums are again being invested in office buildings, shopping malls, hotels, residential areas, and retail. In order to map the underlying reasons behind the market’s boom, and to better understand how the country is dealing with the high demand for development lands and properties, CEE Legal Matters sat down with six Hungarian lawyers specialized in Real Estate & Construction and a Legal Counsel from Prologis, a Real Estate & Supply Chain Logistics company. 

On January 30, 2018, a select group of prominent Serbian lawyers gathered at the Prica & Partners law firm in Belgrade for a CEE Legal Matters Round Table to discuss the current economic conditions in Serbia and the country’s legal services sector.

On Thursday, April 19, 2018, CEE Legal Matters hosted a round table discussion at the Dentons office in Budapest with leading real estate experts in the market.

From GC Nightmares to Partner Nightmares

In our previous article, we addressed the frustration of general counsel regarding external lawyers pushing against their caps, and we provided some tips for how to defuse this tension. (See Evelaw. GC Nightmares: Assaults on the Cap).

Every year legal marketing professionals try to define the key trends and predictions for the upcoming year – so do we. Most tools and solutions have been around for some time, we just have to adjust them according to our experience and global trends. 

Why can’t you sleep?

When we ask general counsel the question “What keeps you up at night about law firms”, many gnash their teeth about a problem with fee caps. In particular, they express their frustration with law firms requesting cap waivers based on the belief that the matter’s scope has been exceeded.

Until 2009 legal marketing was overregulated in Hungary. Since then lawyer ads are basically allowed, but they have to comply with the Hungarian Bar Association’s guidelines. 

For the last couple of years the issue of attracting foreign investments into Ukraine has loomed large. However, attracting such investment is hardly possible without creating the proper investment climate and implementing necessary reforms. One necessary step is transforming Ukrainian corporate law.