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“Slovakia’s new Government took office in March this year, exactly at the time COVID-19 hit,” says Peter Vrabel of the Legate law firm in Bratislava. “The Government consists of four parties – three of which are in the Parliament for the first time. Of course, the situation found them unprepared, so some mistakes naturally happened as a result of that. Overall, however, the response they had [to the Covid-19 outbreak] was quick and successful."

“In terms of national politics, when it comes to Latvia, the word of the day is ‘stability,'“ says Raimonds Slaidins, Senior Partner at Ellex Klavins in Riga. “The current coalition government has been in power for about one and a half years now, and other than the COVID-19 crisis this has been a good, stable period of time for us — there aren’t any indications that something might change in the near future regarding the national government.“

“The pandemic situation is overrun with both uncertainty and challenges, but also opportunities,” says Jola Gjuzi, Partner at Kalo & Associates in Tirana. “I believe that the situation is the same for the Albanian Government as is it for businesses in the country.”

“The current political situation in Montenegro could be described as turbulent,” begins Jelena Bogetic, Associate at BDK Advokati, as “the recent amendments to the country's Freedom of Religion act have spurred a lot of controversy and backlash from the public."

“Politics are always challenging, in both Belarus and around the world, especially given the current state of affairs,” says Ulyana Kavalionak, Partner at BNT Attorneys in Minsk. According to Kavalionak, “even though the situation was more or less the same as everywhere else, the response of the Belarusian Government was not. We never had quarantine, and people were free to choose for themselves how they were going to tackle the pandemic.”

“Overall, Estonia is doing great as a democracy, with a solid rule of law and dedication to the EU and international cooperation,” says Kaupo Lepasepp, Partner at Sorainen in Tallin. “To be fair, we have seen a slight turn towards conservatism, even though not a harsh one. One of the members of the ruling coalition is close to right-wing politics, so he is dictating a right-wing tone to the coalition as a whole.”

On March 11, 2020, CEE Legal Matters reported that Kinstellar had advised Austria’s European City Estates – a group of companies owned by the Austrian Humer Private Foundation – on its acquisition of the 22,000-square-meter Rosum office complex in Bratislava from Penta Real Estate, which was advised by Skubla & Partneri.

Daniel Bilak is the former Managing Partner at CMS Kyiv, Chairman of UkraineInvest, and new Senior Counsel at Kinstellar, on his diverse background and fascinating career.

An interview with Asli Basgoz of White & Case and Emre Ozsar of GKC Partners about their firms’ work on the CEE 2019 Deal of the Year for Turkey: Sisal’s successful bid to operate the Turkish State Lottery.

Evan Lazar is Co-Chairman, Global Real Estate, Global Vice Chair, and Chairman of the Europe Board for Dentons. We spoke to Lazar from his home office in Prague about how his firm has responded to the COVID-19 crisis and to gain his perspective on how the crisis has affected the real estate industry in CEE, and on what he expects the long-term consequences of the crisis to be, both on the economies of the region, and on the legal industry in particular.

Ivan Males, from Croatia, is Senior Associate with DLA Piper in Vienna. He is a Finance, Projects & Restructuring practitioner with a focus on financing transactions and the infrastructure sector. In addition, he has gained particular knowledge on corporate and M&A cross-border transactions, notably in CEE and SEE markets.

On September 20 2019, CEE Legal Matters reported that BLS had advised Pannonia Bio Zrt. – a company operating a biorefinery in Tolna County, Hungary, that is the largest ethanol plant in Europe – and that CMS Hungary had advised OTP Bank Plc. on Pannonia Bio’s issuance of the first Hungarian forint bond in line with the Central Bank of Hungary’s Bond Funding for Growth Scheme.

The Hungarian financial market finished 2019 in a strong position. Intrigued by what many have described as a “special” year, CEE Legal Matters sat down with several of the nation’s leading Banking/Finance lawyers at Lakatos, Koves & Partners’ offices in Budapest to learn more.

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.

Everyone knows that law firm pitches are terrible, and nobody is happy about it – not the lawyers, not the marketing/BD teams, and definitely not the clients.

The coronavirus has had a deep effect on legal services. Now we can start drawing conclusions on how deeply this sector has been affected during the last two months. 

If it seems that both – activity of online communities and the amount of legal content on social media has boomed lately, you are not wrong. LinkedIn reported that the number of articles from February untill March 23 grew by 2196% and 33% of these posts were related to coronavirus (Navigating Today’s Evolving World of Work, LinkedIn, 2020 March). Global research shows that the legal service industry was among TOP10 contributors to the topic and my research in Lithuania confirms that by indicating that the main cause for that was a significant increase in the production of content by law firms and lawyers. 

Crisis time is not a problem. It is an opportunity. Seemingly so solid structures start to shake, opening up new opportunities for those who want to see them. It can be particularly rewarding for those who are open to tune or revise their modus operandi, being opportunistic, attracting the best talent, acting more swiftly, and preparing for the future more efficiently than others.

When drafting an obligation in a contract, which of the following is the preferred format of your office?:

There’s little doubt that when it comes to marketing, few industries have been as active in the last month as the legal profession. And to my professional eye, most of this activity has been focused on the acquisition of new clients. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, a lot of these activities have not delivered their intended business results. I believe the reasons are fairly clear. That is why I have put together some strategic insights that will help law firms and individual practitioners to rethink their Covid-19 marketing strategy for attracting new clients. I hope the following suggestions will inspire new ideas and approaches:

On March 11, 2020, CEE Legal Matters reported that Kinstellar had advised Austria’s European City Estates – a group of companies owned by the Austrian Humer Private Foundation – on its acquisition of the 22,000-square-meter Rosum office complex in Bratislava from Penta Real Estate, which was advised by Skubla & Partneri.

“Slovakia’s new Government took office in March this year, exactly at the time COVID-19 hit,” says Peter Vrabel of the Legate law firm in Bratislava. “The Government consists of four parties – three of which are in the Parliament for the first time. Of course, the situation found them unprepared, so some mistakes naturally happened as a result of that. Overall, however, the response they had [to the Covid-19 outbreak] was quick and successful."

In March of 2019, relative unknown Zuzana Caputova won the Slovakian Presidential election, becoming the first woman and – at 45 – the youngest person ever to hold that office. With a background as an environmental lawyer and human rights activist, Caputova is largely viewed in Slovakia as a unifier, taking strong and reasonable approaches to even apparently intractable problems. Her success has inspired a degree of hope for the future from her former peers and colleagues in Slovakia’s legal community.

When I was asked some time age to write an editorial for CEE Legal Matters on the Slovak legal market I thought it would be a nice opportunity to review my last 20 years, approaching the end of another very successful financial year.

In 2009, deep in the throes of the global financial crisis, Mykola Stetsenko, a partner at Baker & McKenzie in Kyiv, stepped away from that secure position to start his own law firm. His ambitious move paid off, and now, eleven years later, the firm he launched – Avellum – is among the most successful and highly regarded in Ukraine.

Daniel Bilak is the former Managing Partner at CMS Kyiv, Chairman of UkraineInvest, and new Senior Counsel at Kinstellar, on his diverse background and fascinating career.