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For many in this world the legal profession is nothing but an appealing vocation. One has to work hard for several years to get a law degree/admission only then to obtain a lavish lifestyle and earn big bucks.  

Pro bono is a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good,” and, in the lawyering context, it refers to legal services provided free of charge, generally to indigent clients or charities or other public interest institutions unable to afford standard legal fees. The practice, which in its current form was developed first in Western legal markets, has seen a significant increase in recent years in CEE as well. Hungary is among the countries leading the way.

In The Corner Office we invite Managing Partners at law firms across the region to share information about their unique roles. The question this time around: What is your favorite question when interviewing a job applicant, and why?

Traveling the region on legal business I sense a lot of buzz surrounding law firms in CEE. Headline transactions are numerous and deal-pipelines appear to be well-fueled. With the tailwind of news about solid economic growth in the European Union there are good chances that this trend will last. The future for law firms in the region looks brighter than ever. But there are also challenges ahead of us as the legal industry, in CEE as everywhere else, is headed for some turbulent times. 

I received my law degree from the University of Virginia School of law, so you may not be surprised to learn that the interview I conducted with Polly Lawson, the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies at that law school produced a flood of memories in me. What may be more surprising is how many of them are CEE-related.

Times are tough for leading law firms in Belarus right now, struggling as they are against a faltering economy, a state-controlled market, and mixed regard for lawyers. Nonetheless, many of the country’s senior private practitioners insist they are optimistic. The future is, as always, right around the corner.

At 30 years old, the Belarusian legal market is still relatively young. The end of the 1980s and early 1990s was a time of new economic relations; the first non-state companies appeared and the first foreign investors entered the market. These new economic conditions required lawyers focused on economic law, and soon the first Belarusian private law firms and individual practitioners appeared. Some of them (including the Law Laboratory, which was founded in 1990 by me and my colleague Natalia Kozyrenko and which later transformed into Vlasova and Partners) remain the “top dogs” on the Belarusian market today.  

The number of trainings and other professional development events for law firm marketing experts is growing, keeping pace with the ever-growing demands of the role itself. Accordingly, the question we asked our law firm Marketing and BD and Communication experts around CEE for this issue is: What was the single best professional development event you’ve been to related to your law firm marketing role, and what made it so effective/valuable? 

Many of us have experienced such a scenario: It’s a beautiful summer. I’m on holiday in Austria. Even before the holiday began, it had become clear that I would have to interrupt it for a meeting in Berlin. When my wife asked me whether this would be the only interruption, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be away for more than one day. It turned out differently. After my return from Berlin, I had to leave our holiday home for another two days. The following week, in which I’d anticipated no business travel, I ended up spending only half a day of it with my family. I had to cancel common (and long-planned) visits of friends, two beautiful (and of course also already paid for) concerts in Salzburg, and I was either travelling for business or on the phone that whole week. 

The ancient Romans called the hottest, most humid days of summer “dog days” because they associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius – named the “Dog Star” because it was the brightest star in the Canis Major (Large Dog) constellation. Indeed, Sirius is so bright that the Romans believed it radiated extra heat toward Earth, adding to the Sun’s heat to generate those oppressive, sweltering summer days we know so well.

The commercial legal markets of Central & Eastern Europe didn’t appear automatically. They didn’t develop in a vacuum. They were formed, shaped, and led, by lawyers – visionary, hard-working, commercially-minded, and client-focused individuals pulling the development of CEE’s legal markets along behind them as they labored relentlessly for their clients, their careers, their futures. 

Martin Simovart, Partner and Head of Global Relations at Cobalt in Estonia, is fairly confident about the state of affairs in his country at the moment. “For the first half of the year we saw what we actually predicted — about a five percent rise in GDP — and I hope it’s going to continue. The momentum is there, and I don’t see any indicators that it’s going to slow down. And the overall feeling is fairly positive.”

Slaughter and May and Wolf Theiss were the two Chairman Sponsors of the 2017 General Counsel Summit in Warsaw, and the individuals from both firms who actually chaired the proceedings – Jonathan Marks, Partner at Slaughter and May on Day 1 and Ron Given, Partner at Wolf Theiss on Day 2 – were kind enough to speak with us about their involvement at the event.

The first two special issues of the CEE Legal Matters magazine this year – the annual Looking Back/Looking Forward issue in January and the CEE Corporate Counsel Handbook in April – were familiar to our readers. This one, however, dedicated to the 2017 CEE GC Summit and the CEE Legal Matters Market Makers Awards, is new.

Building upon the successes of the three past regional GC Summits in Budapest, Istanbul, and Warsaw, CEE Legal Matters is excited to be hosting the Hungary GC Summit – our first ever country-specific GC event. We sat down with the Chairman of the conference, Miklos Orban, Partner at Orban & Perlaki, to get his thoughts about the upcoming event. More information about the event itself can be found on the event website, here

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