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It is good to have at least general idea of the answer to the question of where the added value of the legal department lies, otherwise you might become a very expensive administrator whose contribution to a company success is questionable. 

The rapid transformation (one could almost say the revolution) of the world of legal services is a fact and has been taking place for some time now. In fact, I believe it is now gaining its full momentum. This transformation affects both law firms and in-house legal departments. It started several years ago with cost-cutting, as clients expected more and more for less and less: in-house legal departments from external law firms, and internal clients from in-house lawyers. More changes followed. 

The legal department is one of the support functions in an organization which is, or at least should be, constantly evolving together with the organization it supports. It cannot be too static or too inconsistent in its approach and way of handling the organization’s legal matters. 

The method of providing legal services has changed a great deal over recent decades. This is true both globally and in CEE, which has been integrating rapidly into the global economy. In this process, local subsidiaries in the region have absorbed key trends and practices from their Western headquarters, business processes have upgraded and developed, and business itself has become more cross-bordered and technologically advanced.

Years ago, when a group of in-house lawyers entered the elevator of a bank, someone would mock, “Wow, what a bunch of handbrakes!” While this did not personally happen to me, I am well aware that internal legal counsels are often referred to as “problem factories” or “speedbumps” – the couriers of bad news, best to be avoided. I must admit, this scorn was not without reason. But, should this necessarily still be the case? In my view, not any longer.

In the 18 plus years I have been an in-house counsel I have had the opportunity to observe the evolution of that role. These days, in-house legal counsel do more than simply review contracts and provide legal counseling. We are no longer transactional clerks who merely approve what has already been done. General Counsels have evolved from being purely legal advisors to being strategic advisors. It is not enough now merely to provide guidance and business solutions on specific issues or resolve disputes that may arise. We must be forward looking business partners, seated at the table at which strategic decisions are made. 

The phenomenon of globalization has impacted almost every field of personal and business life of this generation – and the position of Head of Legal is no exception. In order to understand the evolution of this role compare what football or basketball looked like 30 years ago to what they look like now: Almost like different games. 

Martin Strnad has been the General Counsel of Y Soft – A Czech Software company headquartered in Brno, with offices in ten countries – since March 2016. He was previously an Attorney with Havel, Holasek & Partners and a Managing Associate with PwC Legal. Earlier still, he was a Clerk responsible for drafting bills of law and assisting in the preparation process with the Legislative Office of the Czech Ministry of Interior.

Vladimira Jicinska is the Head of Legal at AHOLD, responsible for the Czech market. She first joined the company in December 2012 after spending a little over two years in China working as the Head of Legal and Compliance of Home Credit China. Before that, she worked for AAA Auto holding for nine years, initially as an Acquisition Lawyer, and later as the Group Legal Manager of the company.

Based in Ankara, Bora Kaya is the Managing Legal Counsel at Gama Power Systems Engineering and Contracting, a company that he first joined in March 2015. Prior to that he was the Head of Legal at Ronesans Holding from October 2012 to December 2014. Earlier still, he worked for Eregli Iron and Steel Works Co. as the Assistant to the Head of Legal Department.

Dennis Avrouschenko is the recently appointed Head of Legal & Compliance, CIS & East Europe at DHL. Previously, he worked for Gazprombank, where he was a Business Support Head / Capital Markets. Earlier still, he was the Head of Legal & Compliance at ZAO Standard Bank, a Legal Adviser with Deutsche Bank, and the Head of Corporate and HR Department with RAO UES. Before moving in-house, he worked with Allen & Overy Legal Services in Moscow

Dana Ionescu is the Head of Legal at Adecco Romania, a company she has been with since October 2013. Previously, she worked as the Legal Affairs Coordinator and HR Business Partner for Rosegur from 2010 to 2013. Earlier still, she was a Senior Legal Consultant with Realitatea-Catavencu, a Legal Manager with the Dacris Group, a Legal Manager and HR Business Partner with Phoenica Grand Hotel, and a Legal Advisor with the Romanian Ministry of Transportation, in the External Financial Relations Directorate.

Milan Lomic is the General Counsel Adria & Balkan at L’Oreal, a company that he joined in October 2012. Prior to that he worked for Metro Cash & Carry as a Legal Advisor and Antitrust Officer. He has also worked as a Legal Advisor at Unicredit Bank Serbia and as an Assistant to the Judge at the Fifth Municipal Court in Belgrade.

Dino Aganovic is the Head of Legal and Compliance at HETA d.o.o. in Sarajevo (former Hypo Alpe-Adria-Leasing). During the Hypo days, he represented the bank in the General Assembly of Chamber of Commerce FBiH between August 2014 and January 2015 and as its Director of the Legal Team earlier. He still is a Member of a Supervisory Board of Hypo’s Fund Management Company. Before joining Hypo, Aganovic was the Head of Legal and HRM at Intermerkur Nova d.o.o. Sarajevo and Mersteel d.o.o. Sarajevo (Merkur).

Chief Legal Officers know how demanding their jobs are. They have to create and manage effective teams, retain and instruct external counsel, advise their employers on strategic decisions, and implement new technology, all while putting out 20 fires a day.

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