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The Corner Office: Workforce Ebb and Flow

The Corner Office: Workforce Ebb and Flow

Issue 10.3
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In The Corner Office, we ask Managing Partners at law firms across Central and Eastern Europe about their backgrounds, strategies, and responsibilities. Keeping in mind last year’s complexities and the uncertainties ahead, this time we asked: Has your team shrunk or increased in the last 12 months and what are your expectations for 2023?

Mykola Stetsenko, Managing Partner, Avellum: Our team at Avellum remained pretty much the same in terms of our size last year. Some of our people left Ukraine because of the war and, consequently, some of them decided to pursue their careers abroad. However, we also continued with our annual internship program and took aboard an additional ten Associates in the summer of 2022, most of whom stayed with us. We also saw some changes in the business support team, but size-wise we remained almost the same. In 2023 we intend to grow our team further both with new interns, as well as some limited lateral hires.

Andrej Leontiev, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing: According to the ranking of The Slovak Spectator, in 2022 we were the second-largest international law firm in Slovakia in terms of the headcount of legal professionals. Although we dealt with several cases of natural employee fluctuation, the average figure within the last 12 months increased, though insignificantly. Speaking about improving the capacities of our team, we do not focus on the size anymore but rather emphasize the continuous specialization of the individual team members. Therefore, we expect some lateral hires and promotions in the coming months, not due to fluctuation but mainly because of expanding and deepening our specific practice area or industry competence.

Oleksiy Feliv, Managing Partner, Integrites: After 12 months of full-scale war, Integrites retains around 95% of the pre-war number of staff. We are committed to keeping the team in its current structure – unlike many peer firms, we refused personnel cuts or unpaid leaves. Almost 25% of junior to senior lawyers became secondees, and most of them combine secondment and employment with the firm. Moreover, we hired people dismissed by other firms at the early stage of the war and are in discussions with several teams to hire from the market. As for my expectations for 2023, they largely relate to the developments in the war against Russia. Victory and ceasefire will make Ukraine the key investment target on the continent, resuming interest in transactions, and bringing on many construction and infrastructure projects. Hence, lawyers will have a lot of work. Integrites will remain open for business and stick to its core corporate values – our team the most important of them.

Horea Popescu, Managing Partner, CMS: Our team has increased by over 20% in the last 12 months. It was a period of accelerated growth due to excellent market circumstances, increased demand for specialized legal services, and a particular boom in transactional services, particularly in the renewable energy space but also beyond that. For 2023, I am cautiously optimistic. We expect that the market while remaining positive, would become less buoyant. As such, my goal is to ensure the smooth integration of the new hires into the team and to add a more limited number of additional fee earners. Of course, opportunistic hires can never be excluded in case of interesting candidates filling in potential gaps in our team. In these uncertain times, I remain excited about the possibilities ahead and see our business continue to expand to match the ambitious growth plans our clients have.

Katarina Kresal, Managing Partner, Senica & Partners: From 2019 on, it has been a very challenging time for our law firm – in a positive way. As the legal profession is globalizing, we decided to strengthen our position by joining Andersen Global, developing seamless professional services and providing best-in-class tax and legal services worldwide. In 2022, we launched Andersen, Ltd., a subsidiary of Senica & Partners, to round up our one-stop-shop strategy, offering our clients a wide range of other advisory services, such as tax and financial due diligence, IBR, transactional support, financial forensics, valuations, accounting, ESG, cybersecurity, etc. All these changes generated the growth of our business and our team. We expect this trend to continue in 2023, as we will develop and add advisory services and extend Andersen, Ltd.’s activities into Western Balkans countries, starting with Serbia.

Kinga Hetenyi, Office Managing Partner, Schoenherr: The Schoenherr Hungary team has grown in the last 12 months due to a high degree of client loyalty and the acquisition of many new clients and projects. Thanks to our HR marketing activities directed at students, we have received an exceptionally high number of applications from extremely talented young lawyers and have also made several lateral hires. Many of the law students return after graduating and apply for permanent associate positions at our office. Recently, we have even managed to attract young talent who speak both English and German. We have also had female colleagues giving birth and returning after just a few months or several years of maternity leave to either full-time or part-time positions. And the number of partners also keeps growing, with the recent appointment of Laszlo Kruepl as a new Local Partner. This all means that our office is on an upward trend that shows no signs of stopping.

Milos Olik, Partner, Rowan Legal: In 2022, we have seen an increase in the number of legal professionals. We have expanded our team in all areas of seniority – we have managed to attract several very promising junior colleagues, and we are also proud to have been joined by prominent legal personalities. These include Jan Frey, one of the greatest M&A experts in the Czech Republic, and Romana Szutanyi, an expert in Employment Law. 

Ion Nestor, Co-Managing Partner, Nestor Nestor Diculescu Kingston Petersen: The number of lawyers in the NNDKP team has not changed substantially in the last 12 months. Our practice teams have remained stable, with many senior lawyers with solid and relevant experience, thus capable to manage projects of major complexity without the need to increase our size. In 2022, we put flexibility and mobility at the forefront once again, adapting to the new trends and realities, and keeping the hybrid way of working. For 2023, we will focus on enhancing our capabilities by recruiting young talent, both in consultancy and in litigation, in line with the growing number of projects and requests received from our clients. We will continue to seek to attract young professionals sharing the same standards with us, who will benefit from the talent and experience of our senior lawyers, aiming at strengthening our practice teams and maintaining the high quality of the legal assistance provided by our firm to its clients.

Akos Fehervary, Managing Partner, Baker McKenzie: While an economic downturn is predicted for 2023, we do not expect changes in the number or composition of our legal team this year, similarly to the last 12 months when no major shift happened. Our team has always been the core of our efforts to provide the highest quality of service to our clients, and we believe in long-term strategies. The global challenges of recent years saw clients needing advice regarding unprecedented complex issues – advice that can be delivered by law firms with highly skilled legal experts. Similarly, under the current circumstances, we expect increased demand from our clients to address new types of challenges related to turbulent markets. Consequently, we keep investing in developing our teams to ensure the best service to clients and a desirable career path for our colleagues.

Arkadiusz Krasnodebski, Poland Managing Partner, Dentons: In 2022, we maintained steady, organic growth. Our Warsaw team has not undergone any major structurizations – both the hiring and attrition rates remained at regular levels. We fulfilled the promise we made to our people that not a single person would lose their job because of the pandemic. We are continuing our strategy to invest in and upskill our team, which is both highly trained and well versed in terms of legal practice. Of course, we decided to announce some major additions, such as Christian Schnell (Energy) and, recently, Jaroslaw Witek (Defense) – these transfers of partners and their teams reflect the dynamics of business needs and challenges we are facing as a major CEE economy, especially in the wake of Russian aggression on Ukraine.

Tarik Guleryuz, Partner, Guleryuz & Partners: Over the past 12 months, our firm has experienced a period of both challenges and opportunities. We witnessed a significant increase in business volume, accompanied by the integration of several new personnel, including a Partner with genuine expertise in the Transportation & Employment Law fields. Despite our confidence that this upward trend will continue in 2023, the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in June will be a decisive factor for the remainder of the year and the years to come. In the past two years, the Turkish government has implemented an “unorthodox” economic policy that has resulted in elevated inflation and currency depreciation. Likewise, foreign investors have either suspended or postponed their investments due to concerns regarding uncertainty. We believe that, regardless of the elections’ outcome, the business climate will improve once they conclude, with a sense of stability alleviating those uncertainties.

Jaroslav Havel, Managing Partner, Havel & Partners: We have been growing continuously since the firm was founded in 2001. With 320 lawyers and tax advisors, the Havel & Partners team outnumbers other law firms in the Czech Republic according to the number of lawyers and advisors by more than three times. Our advantage is especially the comprehensive nature of our services – we have top experts for all branches of law and business. We also provide advice in other related areas – economics, crisis management, communications, and security, which gives us a major competitive advantage.

Victor Constantinescu, Managing Partner, Kinstellar: Kinstellar’s Bucharest office has grown and continues to grow year-on-year, both in terms of revenue and headcount. This has been the case even with the pandemic, while 2022 was a particularly strong spot. With an excellent partner group and a talented attorney pool, we anticipate continued growth in 2023 across all practice areas. Despite the Ukraine invasion and headwinds internationally, Romania is well-placed geopolitically to benefit from massive investments in renewable energy, nearshoring, defense, agriculture, and infrastructure spending. We’re already seeing this, and strongly believe companies need a one-stop shop for legal advice across all areas. We are optimistic about what is to come in 2023.

Panagiotis Drakopoulos, Managing Partner, Drakopoulos: Our team increased significantly in the last year, with the addition of one partner, one senior associate, and two junior associates. We are planning to further expand our team in the immediate future by attracting at least two more senior/middle-level members. The increase in the volume of our firm’s workload over the last 12 months, along with a promising pipeline projected ahead, have prompted Drakopoulos to adopt a more aggressive stance in the legal services market, looking to pursue lateral hires of quality people, capable of adding to the team’s capacity and capabilities within a short period, thus securing our swift growth.

Ismail Esin, (former) Managing Partner, Esin Attorney Partnership: Esin Attorney Partnership has celebrated its 25th Anniversary back in 2022 and we had a 10% growth in terms of headcount last year. I believe, given the local and global developments, 2022 can be considered a pivotal point in history; characterized by economic, geopolitical, and environmental climate change crises. We are now back in the office – from fighting off what was hopefully the final phase of the pandemic – to a full-blown conflict. Things escalated quickly, and the Turkish market also felt the aftermath. From where I stand, there is no doubt that 2023 will be another year of tests: from the upcoming elections in May to the recent devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and the social-economic interlinked implications for all of us in the market accordingly. However, I’m hopeful we will come out strong, continue building trust within and across our communities to address the multitude of challenges that demand we work together, and keep doing each day what we do best: advising our clients.

Timur Bondaryev, Managing Partner, Arzinger: Our team has shrunk dramatically under the impact of war – at the end of the day, we had to downsize by approximately 50%. We realized that the war would have a huge impact on the economy of the country and, most probably, from a short- and mid-term perspective, Ukraine would not need such a large law firm as Arzinger was before the war. This meant, for us, that we had to restructure our business, reinventing new, much smaller but very flexible shapes. We succeeded in this task. We managed to keep the expertise and know-how all across the board and kept an excellent team, which can handle very diverse and complicated projects and work 24/7, should this be required. As for 2023, we don’t expect significant hirings until the Ukrainian victory. As soon as the war is won, we will see huge demand for professional lawyers given the need to rebuild Ukraine and attract FDI. It is obvious, however, that we don’t know when exactly it will happen – even though we are confident that the Ukrainian victory and defeat of Russia is just a matter of time. 

This article was originally published in Issue 10.3 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here

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