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“There haven’t been any large shifts in the legal landscape recently if we’re talking about legal offices, teams moving, exits, and so forth,” says Schoenherr Partner Miriam Simsa. “The general situation seems to be that established players have things pretty much in control and that there is not a lot of room for new entries. Yet it is fair to say that the spin-offs have been increasing their market share over the last few years.”

The legal profession in Slovakia will shortly celebrate 30 years of independence. And as the country itself is not much older than that, the profession-building and country-building have taken place side by side, going through ups and downs.

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.

In the 36 years since its launch in 1993 by Marek Prochazka as a Prague banking and finance boutique, PRK Partners has added offices in Bratislava and Ostrava and grown into one of the largest and most successful law firms in the Czech and Slovak Republics. That growth, the firm’s partners maintain, is a by-product of the firm’s traditions of flexibility, professionalism, and innovation, rather than the result of a predetermined plan.

No doubt we all agree that a good lawyer should not only have extensive legal knowledge and experience, but should also constantly monitor the market. In reviewing the state of the Czech legal market over the past six months, I would like to point out several issues I personally find interesting or important.

“There haven’t been any large shifts in the legal landscape recently if we’re talking about legal offices, teams moving, exits, and so forth,” says Schoenherr Partner Miriam Simsa. “The general situation seems to be that established players have things pretty much in control and that there is not a lot of room for new entries. Yet it is fair to say that the spin-offs have been increasing their market share over the last few years.”

“Well, the legal market is pretty much stable – all firms stay firmly in their places, not a lot of tectonic shift …. all is quiet on the Western front," smiles Robert Prelesnik, Senior Partner at Rojs, Peljhan, Prelesnik & Partners in Ljubljana. “Our economy has been rather stable too, even as we approach a period of slight stagnation – we are quite far away from a recession, which is a good thing in this day and age of Europe," says Prelesnik.

“It’s not that laws don’t exist – it’s the faith in the law, courts, and lawyers that is missing,” says Zoryana Sozanska-Matviychuk, Partner at Redcliffe Partners in Kiev. “What I hope we see from the new government is not any particular legislation; it is much better implementation. This will hopefully lead to more trust in the country’s legal system as a whole.”

“Our financial sector is the area that is developing the most rapidly,” says Aequo Partner Yulia Kyrpa of the situation in Ukraine, although she admits there are still challenges ahead.

“Things on the state level have been rather stagnant because the government on the state level has not been formed yet, but much buzz was created around the Federation of B&H Government’s proposed new Law on Contributions and new Income Tax Law,” says Mirna Milanovic-Lalic, Partner at the Mirna Milanovic-Lalic i Jasmina Suljovic Law Firm in Sarajevo.

“What we are seeing lately is a fragmentation of the legal market, as well as intensifying competition,” says Peter Petrov, Partner at Boyanov & Co. in Bulgaria. “While no major players have entered or exited the market, there have been moves between legal teams, as well as existing teams developing new expertise.”

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.

In February 2019 CEE Legal Matters reported that Integrites and K&L Gates had advised Norwegian utility-scale wind power developer NBT and Paris-based renewable energy independent power producer Total Eren on their entrance into a framework agreement with a syndicate of foreign lenders, including the EBRD and the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation, for the construction of the Syvash wind farm – one of the largest in Europe. Redcliffe Partners and Clifford Chance advised the lenders and J.P. Morgan Securities Plc as debt coordinator.

In September 2018 Schoenherr Partner Thomas Kulnigg advised crowd-investing company Conda AG on the digitalization of its shares, allowing the registered shares to be managed via blockchain technology. The project represented the first-ever digitalization of shares linked to digital tokens in an Austrian joint stock company. The tokens were digital units that were mined exclusively by Conda on a blockchain (dis-tributed ledger technology) protocol and then given to company shareholders. When a shareholder trans-fers a token to another person, the transfer is recorded in the blockchain and, on that basis, the transfer is also registered in Conda’s share ledger. The transfer of a token is thus the equivalent of a share transfer.

Virginia Murray is a partner in Watson Farley & Williams’ International Project & Structured Finance Group and is Head of the Greek law Corporate, Projects and Finance practice in the firm’s Athens office. She graduated from Cambridge in 1989 and moved to Greece and qualified as a Greek lawyer in 1998. She is fluent in Greek.

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.