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In issue 8.3 of the CEE Legal Matters magazine, we spoke with Amberlo Co-Founder and CEO Aidas Kavaliauskas to learn more about the company’s cloud-based case management software built for legal professionals. With this issue’s focus on the Baltics and with the company being, at its roots, a Baltic one, we spoke with several law firms in the region that were early adopters of the solution, to learn about their experience using the platform and what advice they have in terms of selecting such a tool for a law firm.

In my career, I have lived through four crises. In 1991, when I started a legal business, there was a total economic collapse, with a shortage of the most basic essential goods – no furniture or computers, or even proper light bulbs for the office. Then there was the ‘Russian’ crisis of 2000, a crisis of foreign currency and the ruble. The one of 2008-2010 followed. And now we have the COVID-19 pandemic – perhaps not so much an economic crisis as one arising from a climate of uncertainty.

Poland and Ukraine – a distinct pairing some would say. The two European countries are close to one another – both geographically and historically – yet, while they share a lot of similarities, they remain quite distinct. Given the sheer size of these countries and economies, their relationship, and a growing amount of investor interest – going both ways – we took a deeper dive to explore what makes their relations tick. And what better way is there to understand the countries’ entangled relationship than to talk to someone with Marcin Wierzbicki’s profile? Born and raised in Poland, the Konieczny Wierzbicki Managing Partner has had the opportunity to spend quite some time in Ukraine and, as such, has a unique perspective on both countries and their respective markets.

Even though situated at the outskirts of the EU, Poland undoubtedly serves as one of the main pathways into the Union’s affluent west. The importance of its infrastructure is reflected in its prioritized investment position. Looking at investments made by the European Investment Bank alone, one could see that out of the EUR 79.8 billion invested in the country since 1990, about 47% went to infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the start-up scene in Croatia picked up speed with the Rimac Automobili – Bugatti deal. The burgeoning Croatian manufacturer, which focuses on constructing electric hypercars, struck a deal with global automotive giant Bugatti, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, to form a joint venture for the production of next-generation supercars.

This year marks Schoenherr Romania’s 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, CEE Legal Matters spoke with Schoenherr’s Romanian office Managing Partner Sebastian Gutiu as well as with Michael Lagler, the firm’s Managing Partner, and Partner Christoph Lindinger, who established the Romanian office and was the main driver behind Schoenherr’s expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.

“The pandemic has made everyone aware of the critical need to digitalize their business – irrespective of their industry,” explains CMS CEE Managing Director Dora Petranyi. “With the rise in digitalization, not just in business, but even in our daily lives, we also see an increased awareness of the importance, and impact, of the infrastructure that supports these digital trends.” And this increased awareness of the importance of the infrastructure being used is complemented by the pandemic drawing people’s attention to climate change as well, with Petranyi noting: “We all saw many maps of various regions of the world suddenly becoming cleaner and cleaner as the lockdowns were being implemented – it was only natural for it to emphasize the link between human activity and its impact on the environment.”

Georgetown University Law Center’s 2021 Report on the State of the Legal Market concluded that “2020 may in retrospect be seen as an important inflection point for the redesign of the delivery of legal services on a broader scale” and, despite the unprecedented disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, most firms were able to adjust and adapt to the challenges with notable success, which “is a tribute to the innovation and resiliency of law firms.”

CEE Legal Matters has been reporting on an increased number of deals in the Czech Republic’s logistics sector. We reached out to several Czech real estate lawyers to discuss both the drivers behind the spike in work in the sector and the challenges it faces in the country.

Thinking about my journey and experiences as an expat lawyer in the Czech Republic, I vividly recall one of the early client meetings I had fresh off the boat in the mid-1990s. A CEE client came to the office with a “suitcase” telephone … an old school plastic telephone with a rotary dial and a long antenna, encased in an MDF “custom telecommunications suitcase” which he proudly lugged onto the desk …  (He was also wearing one of those plum-colored shiny polyester suits so beloved by New Europe Entrepreneurs in the 90s). Note to incredulous young lawyers reading this: in those days there were no mobile phones (The horror!).

On March 24, 2021, CEE Legal Matters reported that Alrud had advised Sino-Russian joint venture AliExpress Russia on its investment in KazanExpress. We reached out to Alrud Partner and Head of Corporate/M&A Alexander Zharskiy for more information about the deal.

On February 24, 2021, CEE Legal Matters reported that Russia’s Intellectual Capital law firm had persuaded the Moscow Arbitrazh Court that a requirement that participants in a Rosatom tender for legal counsel be ranked in Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners was illegal and violated Russian competition law. CEELM spoke with several lawyers in the market to learn more about the matter.

In his recent Guest Editorial EY’s Georgy Kovalenko spoke of a rising trend of large companies building up their in-house legal functions to the point where they will not only compete with law firms in terms of catering to their internal clients but will also slowly branch out into offering their services to other companies. CEE Legal Matters spoke with Eugenia Volkoskaya, General Manager of Gazpromneft Expert Solutions – an enterprise that, while not there just yet, seems poised to do exactly what Kovalenko was foreseeing.

Halfway through the third quarter, 2021 is proving to be a good year for the Russian market, both in terms of M&A activity and a frothy IPO market. This uptick in part reflects unleashing the demand pent up over the COVID-19 recession (although Russia continues to struggle with the pandemic), as well as the upturn in global energy prices (given the oil & gas sector continues to lubricate the Russian economy).

 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?

On June 15, 2021, Hungary passed legislation that bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change. Dubbed by many as simply the “Anti-LGBTQ+ Law,” it has wide-ranging implications – even leaving social issues / social impact aside. CEE Legal Matters spoke with several Hungarian lawyers to discuss the law’s business implications and the impact it had on law firms’ work.

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