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Guest Editorial: The Ever-Changing Legal Market

Guest Editorial: The Ever-Changing Legal Market

Austria
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Everybody talks about the speed at which life moves in our globalized world. And the Austrian legal market isn’t evolving more slowly – so keep up the pace!

With more than twenty years of experience in the legal market, there is one thing I can say for sure: the legal market is evolving incredibly fast, so much so that it is some-times hard to keep up. This is one of the biggest challenges in our daily business – but at the same time it is also what makes our profession unique in comparison to what the practice of law used to be 20 years back.

This is true in Austria as everywhere else. There has been considerable change in the market. The legal climate of, say, 2018 was vastly different from where it is now, and it will undoubtedly hold new surprises for us this year. To give you some examples, let’s take a look at some interesting developments from the past year.

Recent statistics show that the number of transactions on the Austrian m&a market decreased by 13.8% compared to 2018. This is especially significant when looking at high-volume deals. There was no significant high-end-inbound-transaction in 2019 on the Austrian m&a market. As there are not enough interesting targets, companies are holding back and waiting for an economic correction to come. As soon as that happens, there will be no time to waste!

While some business sectors are decreasing, others are facing increases in deal volume. Due to low interest rates, the real estate and construction business is booming. Actually, the real estate sector is currently the only one on the Austrian market performing so well as, in 2019, six billion euros were invested in the Austrian market in this sector, and every second real estate transaction had a quantum higher than 100 million euros. But still: the highs do not remain undisturbed. The high demands are not matched by supply and everybody is waiting for the new Austrian government to take further action regard-ing topics such as brokers’ commissions and changes in rental law. It remains to be seen what the impact of action in this regard could be to the Austrian real estate market. Chances are that the effect will be significant.

And then there are also global developments which impact the Austrian legal market. Barely a day passes without new climate change-related issues. It was only a matter of time until this topic would gain more popularity in the public sphere and, now that it has, new laws and regulations are being adopted in order to provide the necessary regulatory framework to address it. The legal community is currently waiting for new steps to be undertaken by the government. The governmental program of OVP/Greens foresees significant innovation in the sector for renewable energies and energy efficiency, and we are already on the starting blocks!

So what does all of this mean for our profession? I guess it is more important than ever to respond flexibly to market conditions, and to figure out ways of being aware of new developments and trends before your clients and competitors do. Or, to work with our competitors in developing strategies that empower all practitioners, as we are doing in the legal tech sphere. Staying on top of the latest political and economic developments is important and wasn’t always a part of the lawyering job – but in 2020 it is, more than ever, an important part of getting the job done! The days of sitting behind a big wooden desk and exclusively doing client work are so far behind us that younger generations might not even be aware of them. In addition to billable work, lawyers also have to stay on top of legal tech developments, be active on social media, be business developers and PR-all-rounders.

So what can you do to keep up in this rapidly changing world? I think that having a strong team is what keeps the machinery going – as with everything in life – and when these people share the same values and a common vision, that is even better. Then it becomes easier to open new avenues of legal advice and to keep developing innovative products. Exchanging ideas with colleagues from other firms and jurisdictions also pro-vides a better overall picture of the developments on the market. In the end, it is an easy task to keep up the pace with a portion of passion, curiosity, and an eye for the big picture.

By Michael Lagler, Managing Partner, Schoenherr

This Article was originally published in Issue 7.3 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.