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Expat on the Market: Matthias Strohmayer of Varul in Latvia


Matthias Strohmayer is an Austrian lawyer currently practicing as an Associate with Varul in Riga, Latvia, where he focuses on real estate, unfair competition, and intellectual property law. Before joining Varul he worked at the Hohne, in der Maur & Partner and Emberger law firms in Vienna as well as at the Austrian Supreme Court of Justice and the Court of Commercial Matters.


How did you get to your current role in Riga?

M.S.: Until September 2014, I worked as a lawyer in Austria, specializing in real estate, unfair competition, and intellectual property law. Around the time when I passed the bar exam in 2012, I decided that I want to go to Latvia. I started looking for a law firm where I could immediately be put to good use (even before knowing how to speak Latvian). I looked for an “international” firm. Varul, with offices in all the Baltic states and many international clients, was the best fit.


Did you have any previous connections or experience with Latvia? Why did you want to go there instead of, say, Poland, Germany, or Brazil?

M.S.: I spent a lot of time here before and I have Latvian acquaintances in Austria. I love the country and I see more potential here than elsewhere. Furthermore, Latvia is not too far away from my home country and it´s easy to keep in touch.


Was it always your goal to work abroad? 

M.S.: The possibilities of the Baltic markets have always been of great interest to me. I want to use my knowledge to foster business from abroad – to provide better solutions for existing demand.


Has being an expatriate been an asset or a disadvantage in your career so far?

M.S.: At Varul I focus on clients that need my foreign law/language skills. These skills as well as my foreign approach to domestic legal matters turned out to be of high value.


Does Varul make particular use of you as an expatriate, either in business development, or marketing, or anything else? Or are the expectations for you exactly the same as the firm’s non-expatriate associates?

M.S.: I have the best of both worlds: Since coming to Latvia I have spoken about Germany´s and Austria´s legal systems at various events. Next month I am going to attend the 2015 Public-Private-Partnership summit in Vienna as the official representative of the Latvian PPPA (“Public and Private Partnership Association”). These assignments were born out of my role as an expatriate. But when I am dealing with international cases at the Varul office, I often act in the same role as the firm’s non-expatriate associates.


There are obviously many differences between the Austrian and the Latvian legal markets. What idiosyncrasies or unique elements (challenges, opportunities, or anything else) involved with the practice of law in the Baltics stand out the most?

M.S.: One striking difference is that in Latvia, representation by a lawyer is not required in civil cases (except in front of the highest court), whereas in Austria representation by a sworn attorney-at-law is required almost universally. This might seem like a disadvantage of the Latvian market. In my opinion it is an opportunity to make the case for our added value. Another prominent difference in day-to-day life is that in Latvia, sworn attorneys-at-law are always required to provide a notarial certified power of attorney. In Austria, by contrast, sworn attorneys-at-law are not required to show such a document. A power-of-attorney can even be given orally. The sworn attorney-at-law then merely refers to it.


What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in the Baltics adds – both to a firm and to its clients? 

M.S.: Having connections to foreign countries is valuable in today’s globalized world. Expats furthermore add different (foreign) view-points and insight to existing cases and can establish additional trust.


Other than Latvia and Austria, which CEE country do you enjoy the most?

M.S.: It’s hard to rank them. But I definitely enjoyed sailing in Croatia last summer.


What one place in Riga should visitors make sure not to miss?

M.S.: We would love to give you a tour of our office anytime. Feel free to drop by.

This Article was originally published in Issue 2.3. of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.