In “The Corner Office” we ask Managing Partners at law firms across Central and Eastern Europe about their backgrounds, strategies, and responsibilities. With summer having just passed, the question this time: What is your one favorite yearly activity to disconnect?
I have been learning French for six years now. Every day I realize that, at the age of 50, my mind does not work the same way as 30 years ago (when I started to study a new language the last time) but I am still hanging on. On the other hand, this is a thrill to discover a new world: France with its immense literature, colorful culture, and adventurous history. Each year I devote one week of my life to attend the hyper-intensive course of one of the French language schools and, at the same time, enjoy the niceties of student life. I usually live with a host family together with other students and take a bike to get to school every morning. A bit different than a lawyer’s life … Mais je l’adore!
– Pal Jalsovszky, Managing Partner, Jalsovszky Law Firm
Indeed, I have an annual favorable activity to disconnect, and it is reading. It has almost turned into a ritual: the selection of books starts early autumn, the anticipation grows through October and November, and so does the number of books. I typically read between three and seven books from the middle of December to the beginning of January. These are usually a mixture of (1) general fiction in English: my 2020/21 favorite in this category was Troubled Blood by JK Rowling-Robert Galbraith; (2) legal fiction in English: my 2020/21 pick was A Time for Mercy – not the greatest John Grisham novel; (3) Bulgarian fiction in Bulgarian: my 2020/21 favorite was Theodora Dimova’s The Ones, Who Were Hit; and (4) biographies in Bulgarian and English: my 2020/21 favorite was Angel Kuyumdjiski – A Life of Peaks and Falls.
Since managing activities (no matter the profession and there is no secret there) is quite demanding and resource-consuming, a replenishing recharge is more than welcome. Whilst I enjoy and feel better after listening to some jazz, bowling, or horseback riding sessions, there is one place that fills my batteries back up flawlessly and that is our very own Danube Delta. Just being in this paradise (either in a small motorboat roaming the canals, fishing at the break of dawn, admiring the unique flora and fauna) makes me feel deeply relaxed, content, and thankful. Of course, I enjoy visiting new places and countries, but my “place-to-disconnect” was, is, and will be the Danube Delta and all related activities therein.
Hiking is like medicine for my soul! It may seem like a piece of cake, being surrounded by nature, calmness with every step you take, taking deep breaths, enjoying the path. But it actually heals. Even if your backpacking experience does not exist at all, it is always an adventure to just go out there and do it. I have been hiking since youth, my favorite destinations being the Durmitor and Prokletije mountains, with breath-taking views and everything up close and real – no filters, just nature. Hiking makes me stronger and happier. Balancing on uneven surfaces, navigating around rocks, chill mountain streams, and fallen trees really engages my core. It may take hours or days. The closer I get to the mountaintop, the more I think of the real reasons for why I am doing it. The healing part starts with the challenge and the conquering – not of nature, but of myself. Reaching the top. It is the part when physical limits are overcome and when I get such a clear sense of accomplishment that cannot be easily compared. Until the next long, vigorous walk.
– Nikola Jankovic, Senior Partner, JPM Jankovic Popovic Mitic
I must admit that I haven’t developed well the ability to rest and disconnect. I truly envy my peers who can do that well. In the dynamic world that we’re living in, unfortunately, I stay connected all the time and don’t even bother to set up the “out of office responder” while on vacations, since I’d respond anyway, which sometimes makes my family furious. That doesn’t mean I don’t like traveling. On the contrary, the Covid lockdown was extremely difficult for me, cause my trips were suspended for many months. I’ve recently realized that what I need most to recharge my batteries is the sun, in the perfect world accompanied by good cuisine and wine. Rather than disappearing for a few weeks once a year, I enjoy regular few days’ trips every second or third month. As a father of two small kids, that requires a lot of logistical work. Whereas in the summer we usually spend some time on the Mediterranean coast, my favorite destinations in colder months are the Canary Islands and Italy.
– Michal Pawlowski, Country Managing Partner (Poland), DWF
I believe that you need to recharge much more frequently than just once a year. Of course, at least one longer vacation each year is absolutely necessary in order to recharge. My annual vacation is always something different – this year I was hiking in the Transylvanian mountains. But there is always one program item on my agenda every year: swimming across lake Balaton! A lot of people find it boring to swim for 2 or 3 hours, which an average person takes for swimming 5.2 kilometers. But for me, an absolute amateur swimmer, this is going almost up to my limits of physical performance. Runners usually say that they can switch off their brain during running, but for me this works only with either long-distance swimming or dancing. For the latter, you need a party – and those are usually best if not planned in advance.
When running a law firm, unfortunately, one cannot switch off for a week or two. So, the trick is to take a day, or even a couple of hours, during a week or a month and charge your battery. This need not be a trip to a foreign country, nor a glamorous dinner or a party. Sometimes the best charger is a walk with your dog in a forest. Without your phone.
– Martin Simovart, Partner, Member of the Board, Cobalt Estonia
My activity is the trip that I take separately with each of my two children (twins). I count this as one activity because it is the same activity replicated for each child. They choose the destination (within reason!), plan flights, hotel, itinerary, and we spend three to four pretty intense days together, disconnected from the rest of the world.
– Perry Zizzi, Managing Partner, Dentons Romania
I like motorboating Latvian lakes and rivers. It gives the opportunity to discover secluded spots and look at well-known places from a different perspective. Speed, wind, and other forces of nature.
I am an enthusiastic traveler, with a deep love for hiking, skiing, and discovering remote corners of the world. Mountains give me the opportunity to experience peace of mind and an energy boost for those hectic periods in the office. Moreover, all such experiences help me look at day-to-day life and challenges from a different perspective. So far, I have climbed several high mountains such as Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, Aconcagua, Rwenzori, and Elbrus. I have also reached the 7,546-meter summit of Muztagh Ata, having been one of the first Romanians to reach the peak on skis. Besides many of the Carpathian peaks, I have also made it to the Toubkal Peak in the Atlas Mountains, Mytikas Peak on Mount Olympus in Greece, Musala Peak in Bulgaria, and, more recently, to the top of Mount Ararat in Turkey. If you ask me what the most memorable moments from my trips have been, I would choose the images of icebergs approaching the shore in Greenland, a fantastic sunset on the edge of the volcanic crater Ngorongoro in Tanzania, the Gulf of Rio de Janeiro by helicopter, and Everest at sunrise from the Rongbuk monastery in Tibet.
– Horea Popescu, Managing Partner, CMS Romania