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I was born in the USSR – a country that has not existed for almost 25 years. The legal system in Russia before the USSR had been in place since the 10th century. Russia after the USSR, it seems, began its path practically from scratch.

On September 24 the Belgrade Bar adopted a new bylaw, controversial both in its effect and in the manner by which it was adopted, limiting the voting and participation rights of lawyers at major commercial law firms in favor of criminal lawyers and solo practitioners. Leading commercial lawyers in Belgrade are, unsurprisingly, not happy.

In our new Marketing Marketing feature, introduced in this issue, we ask our law firm marketing and business development friends across CEE to share their experience and perspectives on their profession. The premier question is a simple one: If you had three more hours in the day at work, what one part of your job would you prioritize in that extra time?

It may perhaps be symbolic that I pen this rather reflective article for CEE Legal Matters now, considering that August 2016 marks twenty years to the month since I first stepped off the plane at Otopeni Airport in Bucharest, Romania, to serve as a liaison for the American Bar Association’s Central and Eastern European Legal Initiative (CEELI), having taken a one-year leave of absence from my litigation practice in Los Angeles.

 
Poland Doing Better than Most

According to Ron Given, Partner at Wolf Theiss, “the Polish market is doing better than most of the world where M&A is down.”

In The Corner Office, we invite Managing Partners at law firms from across the region to share information about the strategies they employ to keep their teams motivated, effective, and focused. For this issue, we asked them to reveal what sorts of firm retreats and activities they host and/or organize for their lawyers.

Over the last two decades the London-based legal press has grown into a sector which must have the combined revenue of a top 20 UK firm. It is a success that has proven difficult to replicate in continental Europe, particularly on a regional basis. 

Whereas the leading commercial law firms in Serbia report growth and opportunity, their counterparts in Croatia demonstrate an acceptance of the stop-and-start nature of that market. In an extended lunchtime conversation about with CEE Legal Matters, Divjak, Topic & Bahtijarevic Partner Damir Topic and Wolf Theiss Managing Partner Luka Tadic-Colic displayed a resigned sense of humor about the challenges they face in Croatia and a willingness to take things as they come.

Comprehensive Review in Bulgaria

Hristo Nihrizov, Partner at Dimitrov, Petrov & Co., reported that the Bulgarian TV and radio markets are dominated by three big, established operators in the country. There are some new international players (e.g., Bloomberg recently launched a new business-oriented channel with a local partner), but Nihrizov noted that these new channels usually face an uphill battle in carving out market share and generally focus instead on niche markets. Overall, though, he pointed to a growing number of channels in the country, “which is good for the consumers.”

"We simply don’t want to see a Bar that is owned by a handful of firms," was the explanation offered by Aleksandar Cvejic, Board Member and Secretary of the Board of the Belgrade Bar Association in support of the controversial draft bylaws submitted for a vote at the upcoming assembly of the Belgrade Bar on September 24, 2016.

Bit by bit the first wave of expatriate lawyers that helped CEE and CIS legal markets transition from the chaotic end of communism to the (more or less) functioning capitalist present subsides, as one by one those lawyers retire and withdraw. Now comes the announcement that Baker & McKenzie Partner Dan Matthews, who played a formative role in the firm’s Moscow, Baku, and Istanbul offices, will be retiring and returning to the United States on July 1, 2016.

We take the opportunity to review the career and contributions of Matthews, one of CEE’s undisputed Building Blocks

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