An interview with Alice Radu, General Legal Counsel for Romania & Bulgaria at Bosch Group Romania about her background and best practices.
CEELM: Can you walk us through your career leading you up to your current role?
Alice: I was born and raised in Braila, a city in the eastern part of Romania, on the Danube river. My parents used to own a restaurant and a hotel near the river, and throughout my childhood I kept telling them I want to be a lawyer, not to continue their work taking care of the restaurant. Fortunately, they were supportive, and right after finishing high school, I went to Bucharest and started both the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Bucharest.
Those were the times when Romania was struggling to join the European Union, and at that particular moment I felt that simultaneously attending both these faculties would help me to a potential international career. I always aimed high, even in my childhood, and I had always been encouraged to do so by both my teachers and my parents. With this set-up in mind, in my second year of law, I googled for the best Romanian law firm – which turned out to be Tuca Zbarcea & Associates – and decided to send them my resume, explaining that my desire, in terms of career path, was to learn from the best. They somehow appreciated my approach and hired me as an assistant to one of the groups of lawyers. I then started to work with real lawyers, on real cases, and I soon understood that I was heading in the right direction.
I continued my Master’s studies in Business Law while passing the bar exam and becoming a full lawyer. In my early years after passing the bar exam, I worked as a lawyer for KPMG Romania and when I felt prepared I decided to start my own law firm, approaching mostly international clients (most of them active in the IT field or software development) investing in Eastern Europe. After five years working independently in my law firm, joining the Bosch group was the long-awaited opportunity to develop myself in an international environment, at a higher level, in a group of companies with a solid organizational culture, based on leadership, performance, and stability. Currently, I am working as General Legal Counsel for Romania and Bulgaria within Bosch for two years. I am part of Bosch legal team, with more than 300 lawyers worldwide.
If there is a pattern to describe all steps of my career, this pattern is represented by ambition, hard work, and aiming high.
CEELM: What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in Bulgaria’s legal market over your career?
Alice: As with other Eastern European countries, the legal market in Bulgaria is divided between local and international law firms, with an increasing number of boutique law firms. This is a normal evolution, considering not only the client-oriented approach and expertise in certain fields that boutiques law firms offer, but also the openness of foreign investors to choose what is locally best, despite international contracts with big law firms.
In Bulgaria, Bosch chose a mixed collaboration, with no intention to change the current functional set-up. I appreciate bigger projects are still suitable for international law firms, considering their wide understanding of industries, which are not limited by borders or economic cycles.
CEELM: Why did you decide to join Bosch?
Alice: I was promised to be challenged and the promise was kept. I was promised an international working environment with the real opportunity to develop as a leader within the group and again, the promise was kept. Everybody knows the Bosch Group promotes legality as a first principle. It is the most desired principle for an in-house lawyer. It means the promise to do things legally correct, in the long run, while taking full responsibility for all its actions. Bosch is not only a working environment; it is a model of living your life in balance, harmony, and with all needed technology around you.
I was recruited by managers that have been with the company for a far longer period than the existence of Company Law in the Eastern Europe; I discovered this is a well-grounded pattern within Bosch worldwide. It says about the company as much as its products: it is a company for life!
CEELM: Tell us about Bosch’s legal department. How big is your team, and how is it structured?
Alice: The legal services department in Bosch is a central department with more than 300 in-house lawyers worldwide. We are organized in expert teams, such as IP Law, M&A, and Corporate, and regional teams representing different countries where Bosch is doing business. I am part of the regional European team and I am responsible for the legal departments in Romania and Bulgaria.
We have a smart organizational structure and we can easily get in contact with each other. For example, if Bosch wishes to develop a new power tool product in several countries, we group regional lawyers from these countries together with expert lawyers in power tools and thus our clients receive the best advice possible from both a country law perspective and a field expert. This structure also helps us in many standardization processes, and not only do we feel we belong to a large international in-house legal team, but also the externalized legal services are less.
CEELM: What is your typical day at work like?
Alice: Fortunately for me, because I don’t like routine, I cannot define a typical day. Each new working day is a surprise. There are two main reasons for this: The first relates to the Bosch business, as it is extremely complex; the second I will associate to the regions I’m covering - Romania and Bulgaria. We have production activities in plants, we have software development and testing in our engineering centers, we have a service solutions division in Timisoara as well as selling products/services divisions in both Bulgaria and Romania. We produce, we sell, we offer services, and we innovate, each day, with roughly 8500 associates, in a region where legislation is changing overnight. Thus, I spend an important part of my day in contact with my clients, offering legal advice adapted to their needs or implementing group projects. In addition, as I am part of the management team I am involved daily in several decisional processes.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I used to travel a lot between Bosch locations – short and useful daily trips. Nowadays, regular Skype meetings have replaced these trips, but in general, our activities increased due to legislative changes generated by the COVID-19 and the need to safeguard our associates.
CEELM: Was it always your plan to go in-house?
Alice: My plan was always to go international, to work with people all over the world, and to stay connected to the business. In-house was the solution. It came naturally, as an evolution in my professional life. For me, it is more rewarding to see a business growing in one region than being part of an international law firm. I am not directly earning money for the company, but indirectly, I am saving a lot.
CEELM: What was your biggest single success or greatest achievement with Bosch in terms of particular projects or challenges?
Alice: As Legal Manager with a governance role, the success of the business is also a personal success. There is a specific project in Bulgaria that led the local Bosch organization to the next level: the set-up of the Bosch Engineering Center – the ECS – in Sofia. We opened it one year ago – and it started working immediately, with over 100 new Bosch engineers. The team of highly qualified professionals is now involved in the development of over 40 international projects related to technologies for the automotive industry, in areas such as driver assistance systems, automated driving, and electric mobility. The ECS in Sofia works closely with Bosch’s development teams in Germany, USA, Hungary, and Romania to provide the best solutions for the world’s leading car manufacturers.
For the legal services department, this project started as a challenge, well before its official opening. The negotiation of rent agreements, obtaining the necessary permits and authorizations, signing employment contracts with more than 100 professionals, appointing new managers, going through the know-how transfer phase, and implementing Bosch’s directives and guidelines, as well as signing all acquisition contracts for products and services – all these, together with advising on legal regulations relevant to the company’s business structure, resolving legal issues that arise in the course of running the business, etc. – made the inauguration of the ECS a very demanding project.
The ECS is a leading global provider of technology and services. One year after its opening, Bosch is among the honored companies with the Awards of the German Economy in Bulgaria 2019 for its growing business related to the new Bosch Engineering Center Sofia. The Center was named Tech Growth Business of the Year by Global Tech Summit Sofia and has also received the “Investment for Industrial Development” distinction at the Annual Gala event of the Automotive Cluster Bulgaria.
The legal services department is eager to be further challenged by the development projects initiated by ECS!
CEELM: What one person would you identify as being most important in mentoring you in your career?
Alice: My father. He passed away before I became a lawyer, but he motivated me for the next 100 years. He used to tell me: “If not you, then who?” He believed in me more than I was able to understand; I would like to be able to empower my kids in a similar way! Due to the education he offered me, I was able to develop my ambition and competitiveness; I kept pushing myself and I still do whatever I can to become a better version of myself, always successful. When I get tired, I remember his words. He taught me to trust myself, to act powerfully, and to sell my ideas.
CEELM: On the lighter side, what is your favorite book or movie about lawyers or lawyering?
Alice: I like many as they all have similar patterns: ambitious smart lawyers fighting for their clients and for their own success. Although I cannot nominate a favorite one, there is one which I will always remember: The Good Wife. It is an American legal and political drama television series. It focuses on Alicia Florrick, a lawyer who, after having spent the previous 13 years as a stay-at-home mother, returns to the workforce as a litigator to provide for her two children.
I saw this immediately after my first son was born and I somehow identified with Alicia’s fears in terms of being a good lawyer again, being able to return, and having a successful career with small kids at home. Fortunately, my real life is not a drama, as my family encouraged and helped me with the kids; thus, I was able not to interrupt my professional activity or to postpone important opportunities. Alicia is a fighter, a good lawyer, a good mother, and a good wife. Although a drama, in the end Alicia is the model of a successful woman.