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In February of this year CEE Legal Matters reported that Partner Octavian Popescu had left Musat & Asociatii to set up his own firm: Popescu & Asociatii. CEELM sat down with Popescu to learn more about his new firm and his plans for the future.

"You know that there are quite a lot of things happening in Ukraine now,” says Vadim Medvedev, Partner at Avellum in Kyiv, who begins by talking about the recent election in April of Volodymyr Zelensky to the Ukrainian Presidency. “Everyone is looking forward to the inauguration to see what changes in policies may follow, Medvedev says, while pointing out that, although Zelensky has asked for May 19, the specific date has not been scheduled yet. He explains that outgoing President Petro Poroshenko was considered to be a “'business-as-usual' candidate,” but the business community is uncertain about Zelensky’s plans, “as there are a lot of gray areas and open issues with respect to his policies and programs — it’s simply unclear.”

While Romania awaits the EU parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2019 and the Presidential elections at the end of this year, Stratulat Albulescu’s Managing Partner Silviu Stratulat is not holding out much hope for significant changes in the country.

Vladimir Bojanovic, Managing Partner of Bojanovic & Partners in Belgrade, rejects the idea that legislative or regulatory updates are of critical importance in his country. "In Serbia it’s not legislative reform that would fuel the development on its own,” he says. “It’s closely connected with new investments that require modern legislation — so in a way recent investments (which are by and large the biggest in the recent history) are shaping and pushing forward modern legislation – the relation of these two is symbiotic.” And he reports that four sectors — Energy, Technology, Distressed Assets, and Corporate/M&A — are particularly active in Serbia at the moment.

Bulgaria, it seems, is in good shape. Fueled by a buoyant tech sector, the country’s economy is registering impressive growth, incomes are rising, and unemployment is down. Still, with corruption still a problem and the prospect of a global slowdown around the corner, few are willing to bet on the good times sticking around long. As always, in the Land of Roses, the thorns are not far away.

Unimpressed by Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, Stela Pavlova and Katerina Kaloyanova have, in recent years, left positions with high-powered international law firms in London to return to their native Bulgaria and join Schoenherr’s office in Sofia. Both insist the trade-offs were less dramatic than many assume … and both credit Schoenherr Bulgaria’s Managing Partner Alexandra Doytchinova with making them feel right at home. 

"You know that there are quite a lot of things happening in Ukraine now,” says Vadim Medvedev, Partner at Avellum in Kyiv, who begins by talking about the recent election in April of Volodymyr Zelensky to the Ukrainian Presidency. “Everyone is looking forward to the inauguration to see what changes in policies may follow, Medvedev says, while pointing out that, although Zelensky has asked for May 19, the specific date has not been scheduled yet. He explains that outgoing President Petro Poroshenko was considered to be a “'business-as-usual' candidate,” but the business community is uncertain about Zelensky’s plans, “as there are a lot of gray areas and open issues with respect to his policies and programs — it’s simply unclear.”

While Romania awaits the EU parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2019 and the Presidential elections at the end of this year, Stratulat Albulescu’s Managing Partner Silviu Stratulat is not holding out much hope for significant changes in the country.

Vladimir Bojanovic, Managing Partner of Bojanovic & Partners in Belgrade, rejects the idea that legislative or regulatory updates are of critical importance in his country. "In Serbia it’s not legislative reform that would fuel the development on its own,” he says. “It’s closely connected with new investments that require modern legislation — so in a way recent investments (which are by and large the biggest in the recent history) are shaping and pushing forward modern legislation – the relation of these two is symbiotic.” And he reports that four sectors — Energy, Technology, Distressed Assets, and Corporate/M&A — are particularly active in Serbia at the moment.

While current affairs seem to be stable in Montenegro, according to Tripkovic & Raicevic Founding Partner Pavle Tripkovic, the recent bankruptcies of Invest Bank of Montenegro and Atlas Bank have alarmed the local banking market.

“The talk about the entrance of two regional players – CMS and Schoenherr – onto the Macedonian market last year is still on everyone’s lips (among lawyers),” says Apostolska & Partners’ Founding Partner Emilija Apostolska-Temov in North Macedonia, who says that the presence of such law firms in the market will undoubtedly influence business, increasing both the quality of legal services and competition. “It also gives us a hint about investments coming in – such big law firms would not come without any plans,” she says. “They must know something that the rest of us will learn later. I think it will be a positive experience.”

“These are really exciting times in Croatia,” says Kallay & Partners Managing Partner Ivna Medic. On January 1, 2019, she says, the rule book of electronic communications in commercial court procedures was changed to provide the conditions for communicating in electronic form. Medic explains that the regulation represents something completely new for the Croatian legal system. “For the very first time we have the opportunity to communicate with courts electronically, and most definitely this will speed up court proceedings and reduce costs for the proceedings,” she says.

In February of this year CEE Legal Matters reported that Partner Octavian Popescu had left Musat & Asociatii to set up his own firm: Popescu & Asociatii. CEELM sat down with Popescu to learn more about his new firm and his plans for the future.

Joe Clinton is a Partner at Allen & Overy in Istanbul, where he advises sponsors, borrowers, and lenders on a range of transactions, including project development and financing as well as real estate, leveraged and structured financing transactions, and general lending, with particular emphasis in the Middle East and Eastern European energy and infrastructure sectors.

Hristina Burdasheva is the Chief Counsel Legal and Compliance of Mondelez International for South Central Europe and Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of Mondelez Bugaria Holding. She is based in Bulgaria.

On January 25, 2018, CEE Legal Matters reported on the split of Polish powerhouse Kochanski Zieba & Partners into two new firms: Zieba & Partners and Kochanski & Partners. CEELM sat down with Zieba & Partners founders Rafal Zieba, Adam Piwakowski, and Przemyslaw Kordel to learn more about the new firm’s plans for the future. 

Joerg Menzer is a German citizen based in Bucharest, where he coordinates Noerr’s CEE practice for international clients. He specializes in M&A transactions and concentrates on structuring major foreign investments and business expansion projects in CEE.

The Deal:  In July 2018, CEE Legal Matters reported that Reff & Associates had advised Dutch shipbuilding group Damen on its take-over of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd.’s participation in Romania’s Daewoo Mangalia shipyard. DSME was advised by CMS. The yard, which was renamed the Damen Shipyards Mangalia, is now operated as a joint venture with the Romanian Government, with Damen assuming operational control. We reached out to both firms for more information.

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.