In “The Corner Office” we ask Managing Partners at law firms across Central and Eastern Europe about their backgrounds, strategies, and responsibilities. The question this time: “What did you most want to be when you were little?”
When I was little (between the age of 3-12) I wanted to be a musician – a singing guitar player (like Ed Sheeran nowadays). In the beginning, I pretended that I was playing the guitar, and I sang all the time. I knew all the LPs at home and in kindergarten by heart (including some Greek songs…). When we started school, I formed my first band and we performed during the breaks at school, taking over the teacher’s podium. Our songs varied from folk songs to the very modern hit pf the day - “Comment Ça Va” (by the Shorts). Later my grandfather taught me to play the guitar, and in high school I formed a real band (“Fire & Ice”) and we had just conquered the Bulgarian charts when I went to law school and most of the other band members went to the army. To this day music is a very essential part of me.
I remember myself as being a kid with loads of big dreams – from being an astronaut, to a professional athlete, to the president (yes, that as well…), but none of these was really a permanent aspiration. Whenever I saw a powerful female character, I was always inspired and wanted to follow her lead by being the best at something – although what that something was still needed to be figured out. I was reminded just the other day that I was rather opinionated and sometimes considered bossy. And when I see these traits in my daughter now, I am happy to tell her that I am very proud of her leadership and organizational skills.
– Eva Skufca, Co-Managing Partner, Schoenherr Slovenia
I remember the fascination and vivid dreams I had about becoming an aviator, and instead of playing with planes, being actually able to pilot one from one exotic destination to the next. Ah, and all those buttons, endless skies, fancy uniforms and (back in those days) cheering passengers when smooth landings were done. Just recently I had a chat with my friend and co-founding partner Alina about these childhood dreams and we were amused by recalling them. She, for instance, wanted to be an astronaut and roam the known and unknown universe, soon after having the princess and loving teacher dreams. Turns out, eventually, we both stayed literally down to Earth. And we do not regret it one bit –after all, we all daydream every once in a while, with our heads in the clouds (from either an airplane or a space ship, while wearing a tiara!)
Ever since I started going to elementary school I had a rough idea of what I wanted to be. I knew that I wanted to be involved in law in one way or another. My biggest influence was probably my father, who was a lawyer in communist Yugoslavia, but back then it was not enough to pursuade me to become one myself.
The definitive turning point for me was when we went to London in 1974 on a family trip for the first time. Little did I know that it would change my life. We were wandering along the shore of the Thames when we accidentally stumbled upon a lawyer’s conference. My curiosity led me to walk right through the door of the boat on which the summit was being held. Looking at all of them, wearing togas or expensive tuxedos, I had no doubts left in my mind about what I wanted to do. From that point on, I was fully commited to becoming the best lawyer I could possibly be.
– Sasa Vujacic, Managing Partner, Vujacic Law Offices
When I was very little, maybe from three to eight years old, I wanted to become a stewardess. I flew quite a lot with my parents because we lived in Algeria for five years, and we had to change flights between Budapest and Alger twice each time. We mostly flew with Swissair. The young and smiling stewardesses in their splendid uniforms made a big impression on me. In addition, I loved the sweet apple juice that I could drink on the flight and that was not available in communist Hungary (nor in Algeria) at that time at all. After that, I wanted to become a vet for several years because of my love for all kinds of animals (except snakes and insects – typical woman!). But then my parents explained that being a vet was not just about the broken leg of a sweet little dog or cat, but that a vet would sometimes also need to assist at the conception or birth of a calf. So I ultimately chose to become an international lawyer.
Actually, I was born into a family of lawyers. Both my grandfather and my father were lawyers. My father had his own single law firm in Vienna. When he told us stories about his work and clients, my brother Guenther (now a Partner with CMS Vienna) and I were thrilled. When I was a teenager, I thought that being a lawyer was really a very family-friendly job. We used to have breakfast together; my father, whose office was in the center of Vienna, came home for a common lunch every day (we lived in the outskirts of Vienna) and was back in time for a common dinner again. For me, this was totally normal and perhaps also a reason why I was absolutely convinced, since my early childhood, that I would some day become a lawyer. 30 years later, I know that what was normal for me, was simply a luxury of a great childhood, which I am unfortunately not able to offer to my family to the same extent.
– Erwin Hanslik, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing Czech Republic
As a little child, I wanted to become a prince, as I imagined from stories that came from childhood vinyl. So a prince – not a king or emperor. To this day, The Little Prince is one of my dearest novellas. After that, I wanted to be Maradona – I loved football and Maradona was the best, and to me there could be nothing more beautiful, more exciting than being in Maradona’s football boots. I only realized that I want to do Law in my final year in high school, as it became clear to me that I liked reading more than solving derivatives and integrals, and that I was much more attracted to social sciences. And so I entered the Faculty of Law in 1991. In 1995, after graduating, I had to choose between being a judge and becoming a lawyer. I chose to become a lawyer, not only because it is the freest and most liberal profession, but because I could do politics. Quite ironically, to this day, I haven’t joined any political party.
– Gabriel Zbarcea, Managing Partner, Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii
I wanted to be a petrol station officer. Every time we filled up our tank I realized that my dad was paying the station officer a huge amount of money. I thought that he must be wealthy enough then. Moreover, I enjoyed the smell of petrol stations very much. Which I still do. But these days you pay at the counters and in most cases by card … so probably my son will not believe any more that a petrol station officer is a rich man.
– Pal Jalsovszky, Owner, Jalsovszky Law Firm
As a child, I used to dream about becoming a fireman. Special excitement would overwhelm all of us, growing up together in the neighborhood, when we would hear the noise of fire trucks rushing by. The echo was everywhere and I was ever so curious of what really went on in the rush of the emergency, when the sirens would scream and the commotion would start. I wished I could join in, at any cost, to save somebody’s life or, home. At a time, it seemed like the most important thing in the world. Years later, I went to law school, not thinking that my chosen profession would ever mean that my mission was accomplished and my childhood dream came true. Nevertheless, over the course of my career, I have been challenged many times to “save” important pieces of someone’s life, be it business, family, commodity, or honor. In a way, I have gotten my opportunity to extinguish fires, of a slightly different kind, wearing a slightly different suit.
– Nikola Jankovic, Senior Partner, JPM Jankovic Popovic Mitic