Linda Szegvari is the Chief Legal Counsel of MET Hungary, an energy trading company that was established in 2007. The company is a subsidiary of the MET Group, which is present in 28 markets.
CEELM: When and why did you decide to become a lawyer?
L.SZ.: Everything started in high school, as I was hesitating between arts and legal studies. It was a tough decision as I really enjoyed painting. At the end, the deciding factor was simple: I enjoyed working with people and I really thought that working as a legal counsel would allow me to meet interesting people from completely different backgrounds and expertise.
CEELM: How has the Hungarian market changed since you’ve started practicing law?
L.SZ.: I started my career in 2005, when I started working for a local lawyer in my home town of Vac during my studies. After I graduated in 2007, I moved to a well-established firm in Budapest with international clients to improve my skills. During these years I also finished a specialization in tax law that widened my skills into niche areas. This ever-growing hunger for new and interesting aspects of the legal system both in Hungary and the EU led me to energy law. I started working at MET just after my bar exams, and I’m still there, heading the Hungarian team and responsible for the Croatian, Serbian, and Ukrainian operations.
One of the main changes that I have witnessed is the concentration of critical knowledge and people into large law firms. When I started working it was more accepted that small firms with only a couple of people could be responsible for very large customers and M&A activities. The greater acceptance of the Hungarian market in the EU system has transformed this scene and most large businesses are now represented by partners at well-established firms.
CEELM: What kind of legal and personal skills are most valuable, in your opinion, in order to efficiently represent a company like MET Hungary?
L.SZ.: I truly believe that consistency and analytical thinking are the two most important skills in my daily work, with a touch of precision that is the foundation of any legal work. I believe in teamwork, which allows different personalities to complement each other and execute any work far more efficiently than a single person could. To sum up, I think that consistent hard work will result in success.
However, it is always important to mention that all my success within MET comes from fruitful cooperation with the other branches of MET, and I still feel lucky that I was able to learn all the various aspects of the energy business from really talented experts. The willingness to learn and a collaborative manner are also two important skills that everybody should have when working in the legal business.
CEELM: What do you consider your biggest success as a lawyer in terms of particular projects or challenges?
L.SZ.: It is always hard to consider something the "biggest," as I’m always looking for new challenges. This is what pushes me forward. I was very excited when I was able to handle my first property sales contract, as well as just a month ago, when we signed an acquisition transaction worth many millions of euros.
CEELM: What does your average working day look like?
L.SZ.: Since I head the legal activities in our Hungarian company, my daily routine has significantly changed from the days when I was working as a legal counsel. I have to attend far more manager activities —including meetings with other branches — address resource allocation and management, while also keeping track of our expenses and relations with external legal advisors. At the end of the day, I’m still executing real legal advisory work and I work closely with my team to handle all tasks on time.
CEELM: What do you do to relax?
L.SZ.: It depends both on my mood and the weather. In winter time, when it’s snowing, I always try to be outside and do some hiking or ice skating. I am also more into painting in winter time when everything is grey outside and the only colors I see are the ones that I put on the canvas. As the weather gets warmer, I’m run and swim more, but in general there is nothing better than a long bicycle ride next to the Danube
CEELM: It is not always so easy to be a woman in a leading position like yours. Have you faced any challenges in your career as a result? Like what?
L.SZ.: Well, I also had to go through all the typical situations women faces in leading positions, especially as in the energy sector the male/female ratio is low. I see that women have to work harder and prove more to be recognized in a management position. This is a big disadvantage we have to compensate for. However, I see that in a company's life it is essential to have women in leading positions as they approach complex problems in a more empathetic and gentle way. The lack of representation of women in positions of leadership is broadly acknowledged in the business world in our region, and I believe we have to change this by setting and finding successful role models.
CEELM: What is your favorite thing to do in Budapest? Why?
L.SZ.: As a local patriot of Budapest it is hard to pick only one thing, but a walk on the Pest side of the Danube with an astonishing view on the Buda side and the castle always brings some warmth to my soul. Not to mention the many new eateries, patisseries, and "ruin bars" you will bump into on your way.