An in-depth look at Eugenija Sutkiene of TGS Baltic covering her career path, education, and top projects as a lawyer as well as a few insights about her as a manager at work and as a person outside the office.
- TGS Baltic, Senior Partner and Management Board Member, 2018-present
- TGS Baltic, pan-Baltic Board Chairperson, 2013-2017
- TGS Baltic, Founding Partner, 2003-present
- TGS Baltic (Sutkiene, Pilkauskas ir Partneriai at the time), Managing Partner, 2003-2018
- McDermott Will & Emery in the Baltics, Founding Partner, 1992-2002
- Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Lithuania, Head of Legal Department, in charge of Commercial Arbitration, 1989-1992
- Lithuanian State Wholesale Export Enterprise, Head of Legal Department, 1984-1989
- Out of office activity: Modern art, traveling, reading, growing flowers
- Quote: “If you want to stay in the same place, you must run very quickly” – based on a phrase from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books.
- Book: I love all of Romain Gary’s books. Lately, I’ve been captivated by Yuval Noah Harari’s work.
- Movie: Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time trilogy, with perfect actors and Ennio Morricone’s music.
- Vilnius University, LLM degree, 1986
Top 5 Projects:
- Representing the Coca-Cola Company in a JV with the Lithuanian state for building a bottling plant, between 1992 and 1995. The country’s first JV;
- Advising Lithuania’s government, as part of the UBS-CAIB consortium, on the privatization of Lithuanian Telecom. Then advising the company on the IPO and listing of its shares in London;
- Representing Svenska Petroleum in negotiations with Lithuania on a license for oil exploration and a JV (Genciu Nafta project). Representing Svenska in the subsequent dispute with the state;
- Advising the Maxima retail group, including the Euroapoteca pharmacies, on corporate/M&A, commercial agreements, real estate matters, and complex legal disputes, including a dispute between the owners – I took a course on deadlock management to resolve it;
- Advising Northway Biotech LT since 2013, through its start-up and growth phases, on building production facilities, dealing with EU aid and other project financing, land zoning, contractor relations, and business development, including CDMO agreements.
What would you say was the most challenging project you ever worked on and why?
Sutkiene: JV projects in China between 2008 and 2010. The challenge was due to China’s different legal system, negotiating culture, business culture, language barrier, etc. Despite that, it was an extremely interesting and educational period in my legal practice. After some long negotiations, the Chinese partner of my client (ranked fifth in Forbes China) asked whether he could “buy” me to help him handle his 39 international JVs. He was addressing that to my client – not to me – due to a cultural difference. After it was explained that I am not for sale, we had a nice dinner and a lot of fun. But it was quite a moment!
And what was your main takeaway from it?
Sutkiene: I learned how to work in impossible situations in 24/7 mode and enhanced my negotiation skills greatly.
What is one thing clients likely don’t know about you?
Sutkiene: My clients do not know that I have an education in visual arts, that I always wanted to be an artist, and never planned on becoming a lawyer. That was until the age of 24 when I crossed the threshold of the courtroom and decided to study the law. Now I believe this is the best profession one could have. It opened a whole world to me.
Name one mentor who played a big role in your career.
Sutkiene: Tom Jones – not the singer but the partner at McDermott Will & Emery, appointed as my mentor when I began. As until the collapse of the Soviet Union international law was non-existent here, I had entered an unknown world. Over a decade, he patiently led me through this jungle, teaching me the fundamentals, praising or criticizing as appropriate, and making a professional of me. He always believed in me and tried to help me maintain my self-confidence and humor, which are vital in difficult situations. I am extremely grateful to him for who I am.
Name one mentee you are particularly proud of.
Sutkiene: Marius Matonis, who joined the firm as a second-year student at Vilnius University. For a few months, he helped me with M&A projects as a legal secretary, but I soon realized how gifted he was. He quickly became a full lawyer and then a partner. A decade or so ago, he took over the M&A practice from me – and has succeeded in it. I sometimes joked that he might take over the entire firm from me as well. And that happened in 2018 when he became the Executive Partner. The firm is in good hands.
What is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself fresh out of law school?
Sutkiene: Lawyering requires good legal knowledge and logical thinking – but also patience, empathy, and the instincts of an explorer. If you lack those qualities or dislike working hard until you get the needed result, then this profession may not be for you. If you have doubts, try something else. Only those who love it succeed.
This article was originally published in Issue 9.12 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.