Tobiasz Adam Kowalczyk is a graduate of the Nicolas Copernicus University in Torun. He also studied European Law at the University of Miskolc in Hungary and in the European Academy of Diplomacy. Kowalczyk is actively working on the development of mediation and arbitration. As part of his pro bono activities, he is also the Head of Region in the National Chamber of Mediators and Arbitrators. At the same time, as an expert in the Center for Research and Analysis (Employers of Poland), he conducts research on the socio-economic effects of the actions of public authorities and social partners on socio-economic situation, in particular in the enterprise sector in Poland and Europe. He is serving as the Head of the Legal Department and Compliance Officer at Samsung Electronics Poland Manufacturing. He describes himself as a “target driven and goal-oriented lawyer, valued for commitment, openness, and loyalty to the employer.” He was recently selected from a group of top young lawyers in Poland for the prestigious “Rising Star” award.
CEELM: You spent over a year in Costa Rica. I suspect there is a story there.
T.A.K: Story of my life I would say. I went there as a volunteer to teach English and computer skills to children and youths who were at risk of social exclusion. It was an amazing experience, which provided a lot of personal and professional growth. While living in Costa Rica I applied for a job at the Polish Embassy, and I ended up as Executive Personal Assistant to the Ambassador and Deputy Head of Mission. In the Embassy I met my future wife, who had come there just for six weeks to do an internship. Talk about destiny! Actually, it was my wife who brought me to Poznan afterwards. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her.
CEELM: You have been working with Samsung ever since its early days in Poland. What were the main projects you were working on during the set-up phase of the company there?
T.A.K: In order to establish its presence on the white goods market in Europe, Samsung purchased a fully organized part of a local firm consisting of refrigerator and washing machine production plants. Following the transaction the company acquired fixed property, assembly lines, movable property, machines and production equipment, and intellectual property rights as well as employed staff. This transaction paved the way for conducting new investment, which was the subject matter of the application for EU funding. Hence, M&A, EU grant implementation, and post M&A disputes were some of the main projects I was initially tasked with.
At that time I was mainly in charge of compliance and managing institutions of state administration and local government, advising on legal topics, and other issues triggered by Samsung’s transaction.
CEELM: After five years with your company, what still gets you excited about going to work on a Monday morning?
T.A.K: Samsung’s philosophy is based on strong determination for growth, perpetual innovation, and good corporate citizenship. Our practices have proven successful – we are one of the fastest growing companies and an acknowledged leader in the digital convergence revolution. As one of the largest companies in the world, the possibilities here are truly endless. What is most appealing to me about working at Samsung is that I am not pegged into a specific function or department.
My success has been determined by my capabilities, not my job title. I get to use my capabilities to make contributions across a diverse spectrum of company departments. One day I may be implementing a government funding project, the next I may be monitoring the process of transfer of an organized part of an enterprise along with several hundred employees to an external entity, only to finish the week with key suppliers’ audits. To compete in the global market, Samsung focuses on attracting the best talent and offers a corporate culture in which every person can excel.
You just cannot get bored here!
CEELM: When you need to outsource work to external counsel, what are the main criteria you use in picking which firm you’ll work with?
T.A.K: I believe that choosing an external counsel is a serious decision that should be made based upon specific information about a firm’s reputation and qualifications. The best reasons to choose a particular firm are that firm’s reputation for achieving results, its experience, and its integrity. I also ask my peers in the legal industry for their feedback. When I have to deal with a major case I try to arrange to talk to a former client who has had a serious case handled by a firm about his or her experience. Legal guides can also be helpful tools due to their comprehensive and accurate description of the legal industry.
CEELM: Since you are based in Wronki near Poznan, do you tend to use local firms or ones in Warsaw more? Do you feel the two are equally sophisticated?
T.A.K: I would say that this depends on the issue at hand. Local firms can be more flexible in terms of remuneration and working hours, while firms from the capital would normally have more expertise in complex cases. The good thing about Poznan’s legal market is that most of the leading law firms have branches here.
CEELM: Since we mentioned the comparison between the two “markets,” do you feel the talent pool is strong enough in Poznan or do you tend to turn towards lawyers trained in Warsaw when making new hires for your team?
T.A.K: Poznan is a strong academic center, which holds a leading position in Poland. The Faculty of Law and Administration of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan is one of the largest law schools in Poland and has been consistently rated as one of the best. From my experience, students receive comprehensive education, and junior lawyers are equipped with the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to satisfy the needs of the business.
As a curious detail, I can tell you that when I was making the last hire for my team, a lot of lawyers from Wroclaw submitted their resumes. Nonetheless, I believe that securing talented people who are not afraid to fail and aim high is important regardless of where they come from.
CEELM: From a regulatory/legislation standpoint, what are the recent or upcoming challenges that you faced or will face, and how are you preparing for them?
T.A.K: Working in a fast paced yet detail-oriented environment with other highly skilled and dedicated professionals who strive to create the #1 home appliance factory in the world amid turbulent economic and industrial outlooks requires efforts to think outside the box. I have been confronted with numerous difficulties in the past. However, I have always overcome these successfully and moved forward thanks to preparation and quick adaptation to changes. New laws, regulations, and public expectations have pushed compliance even higher up the boardroom agenda.
Company executives expect me to make sure that effective, robust, and reliable compliance tools are in place. I always try to anticipate and respond effectively to any compliance and regulatory requirements and risks in order to support our performance objectives, sustain value, and protect our organizational brand. I constantly advise on the effect of any operational changes the management board is planning to make and suggest areas for improvement.
CEELM: On the lighter side, what is your favorite thing to do when you get out of the office on Friday afternoon?
T.A.K: The weekend is time for my family to spend time together. I tend to focus on recreational and social activities with family, like swimming with my older son or bicycling. We also like to eat out at restaurants. From time to time I like to escape to the golf course.
This Article was originally published in Issue 6 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.