When preparing for my welcome speech the night before our annual client party at the end of September, I was reflecting on the current market climate and the past year. Our Prague office has had an excellent year both in terms of financial results and growth of the team. Just before summer we made up two new partners and we have recently added five new advocates to our team.
On May 18 and 19, 2015, separate press releases came across the wire, announcing that the Lithuanian and Latvian offices of two of the top pan-Baltic alliances – Raidla, Lejins & Norcous (RLN) and Lawin – had, in essence, dissolved, traded Estonian offices, and reorganized. The former Lithuanian and Latvian members of RLN and the former Estonian member of Lawin re-formed as Cobalt, while the former Lithuanian and Latvian offices of Lawin and the former Estonian office of RLN re-formed as Ellex.
At the close of the 19th century, American newspaper editor Horace Greeley exhorted his readership to abandon the teeming cities of America’s North East and to “Go West, young man and grow up with the country.” This exhortation was on my mind a hundred years later, when in 1995 three large suitcases and I left Manhattan for Tashkent. The Berlin Wall had fallen and as a 20th century American pioneer, I was going East to grow up with a lot of countries. To start, I was opening the Uzbek office of a global law firm.
The Latvian and Lithuanian offices of Raidla Lejins & Norcous (RLN) and the Estonian office of Lawin have left their firms to join forces in what they describe as "a vibrant new pan-Baltic alliance.” The result — “Cobalt” — also includes an office in Belarus. As a result, Irmantas Norkus, the Managing Partner of Cobalt’s Lithuanian office said yesterday, “RLN is dissolved as of today.”
The China Central and Eastern Europe Investment Co-Operation Fund, established by the China Export Import Bank in partnership with the Hungarian Export Import Bank and other institutional advisors from CEE, is off and running. And Judith Gliniecki, General Counsel at CEE Equity Partners Ltd., investment advisor for the Fund, is getting rave reviews for her work on its behalf. With Gliniecki’s help, the most significant source of Chinese investment in CEE is finding smooth sailing.
We took the opportunity of the presence in Prague this month of Eduardo Leite, Chairman of Baker & McKenzie's Executive Committee, and Gary Senior, the firm's Chair for EMEA, for Baker & McKenzie's EMEA Partners' Conference, to sit down with both of them. These conversations provided a rare opportunity to explore Baker & McKenzie's expectations and plans for CEE, the ways the firm handles the political and financial crises in the region, and the possibility of expansion into new CEE markets.
In mid-July it was reported that Partner Perry Zizzi would be leaving Badea Clifford Chance in Bucharest to return to Dentons, where he had worked (under the Salans brand) before leaving 7 years before. On August 4 the news broke that long-time Ukrainian expert Adam Mycyk had joined Dentons as well. Mycyk moved over from Chadbourne & Parke, as that firm winds down its operations in Kiev. We reached out to Zizzi and Mycyk to ask them about their decisions to join Dentons.
The European Court of Human Rights has found Russian opposition activist and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov’s arrest by Moscow police at a peaceful demonstration on New Year’s Eve, 2010, his three-day detention at the police station, and his conviction and subsequent 15-day prison sentence, constituted a violation of his human rights, and has awarded him EUR 26,000 in damages and an additional EUR 2,500 in costs.
Considering the current situation in Crimea, in particular circumstances influenced on doing business there, it is clear that there are more questions than answers despite legislative settlements undertaken from both the Ukrainian and Russian sides. At present only the optimists retain confidence in doing business in the territory of the Crimean peninsula in line with the usual civilized rules. Perhaps, for the Ukrainian side the incurring of damages and reservation of right of ownership and other rights of property are the most pressing issues. And the range of pitfalls grows all the time….